5 signs of burnout and what you can do about it

There are ways to bring your 'A' game while looking after yourself, says author Royston Guest.

by Royston Guest
Last Updated: 21 Aug 2019

Your emotional wellbeing is not a luxury, it's the energy source powering your performance. When it's low, your performance is low, which can have both a short and long-term impact on you personally and the role you're paid to do. Your wellbeing is measurable beyond business performance: your lack of happiness can affect your health.

Burnout at work is real and may be more common than you think.

The UK Government's Health & Safety Executive (HSE) defines work-related stress, depression or anxiety as a harmful reaction people have to undue pressures and demands placed on them at work. In 2018, 15.4 million working days were lost due to this condition alone, with the main work factors cited by respondents being workload pressures, tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support.

Avoiding burnout in the workplace while consistently playing your 'A' Game and performing at your peak may sound like a contradiction, but it is possible if you take steps to look after yourself. So watch out for these five signs and take action before it's too late.

1. Behavioural changes impacting your wellbeing

You or family members have noticed behavioural changes including:

-- Poor sleep patterns

-- Loss of appetite

-- The dreaded 'Sunday night' feeling as the weekend comes to a close

-- Sickness

-- Persistent lateness

-- Disengagement

-- Unable to switch off

Downtime is fundamental to your wellbeing. Switch off all phones/tablets/gadgets when not in use. Don't become a slave to the flashing red light reminding you when you have messages.

2. You're questioning why you're doing what you're doing

So many people achieve high levels of professional success only to find when they get there that their relationships have fallen apart, or it's not something they want to be chasing any more. Somehow you feel you've ended up in a place that is now entirely wrong for you. Revisit what success means to you. Is this aligned to where you want to be?

3. You have a constant feeling of overwhelm 

Overwhelm can put you in a state of analysis paralysis where, despite your best intentions, you end up doing nothing, or you focus your time and energy on things you can do but shouldn't be doing.

This exemplifies the feelings as you don't feel you're making any progress. Question everything you do daily: "Is what I am doing right now worthy of my time?"

If not, why are you doing it? Learn to say "NO" to the unimportant things, and then you will have more time to say "YES" to the important things.

4. Your in-built warning system is telling you something isn't right

Each morning you're waking up with an itch, not a tingling of the skin, but something deep in your very being. You know something isn't quite right, but you can't quite put your finger on it.

There is a vast reservoir of untapped potential inside every one of us. Your professional self – your work – should contribute to unlocking your potential and creating the future you want. If it's doing the opposite, stop, take stock and consider the action you need to take.

5. You're struggling to manage the tensions between the different versions of you

Our lives have many facets; work, home, family, friends, colleagues, partners and perhaps children. And over the years commitments have crept in, almost unnoticed, to the point where there are probably multiple versions of you, all with differing demands and expectations.

The answer isn't to become universally excellent at all of them, but to understand which one requires the most attention at any given point. Remember, there may be many versions of you, but only one physical you.

Royston Guest is CEO of Pathways Global and author of Built to Grow and RISE: Start living the life you were meant to lead

Image credit: Rafael Guajardo/Pexels

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