Burnout: When you are stressed out
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Teresa Mulvena, CBT Cert, MA Counselling, MBACP (senior accredited)
3rd February, 2009
Are you suffering from burnout? Burnout is a state of extreme stress that occurs after an extended period of pressure.
“I used to be enthusiastic, to feel that I could make a difference, and that my contribution was worthwhile. I’m no longer sure what the point of it all is.”
Competing demands that feel impossible to achieve? Bitter and cynical? Exhausted and irritable? You could be heading towards burnout.
- Decreased energy and exhaustion. Procrastination and inability to concentrate on tasks.
- Decreased motivation, cynicism and bitterness
- Irritability, moodiness
- Over-reacting to minor inconveniences
- Feeling anxious, stressed, low
- Change in coping strategies: eg drinking or smoking more
- Decreased self-care: not taking time for exercise, not speaking about what is troubling you
- Physical health under stress: weight change, increased blood pressure, difficulty sleeping
- Mistrust of others’ motives, isolating self.
Teresa estimates that if you are suffering from four or more of the above, you may have burnout.
Top Tips to Help
Assess your work-life balance: Is there a balance between work, self-care activities like exercise, socialising and support? If you are someone who finds it hard to stop working, it might be helpful to think about whether it is sustainable without looking after yourself. Teresa suggests that a useful exercise is to imagine yourself at your 90th birthday. What would you like people to say about you and your life? That you worked hard? Getting your values and how you spend your time aligned can really help. Evaluate your workload: Is work consuming you? Think about taking a lunch break, not working in the weekend, and getting home earlier. If you find yourself reluctant to do this, maybe it would be helpful to think about why you are working so hard. Teresa explains that for some people it can be about seeking approval, not being able to say no, or avoiding conflict. If you are unsure about the motivation that drives you to work hard, a therapist can be helpful in helping you work this out. Delegate: If you have trouble delegating, it’s worth wondering about what the barriers are. For instance, do you think you are indispensable, do you think no-one else is capable, or do you feel overly responsible for other’s work? Maybe these are the real issues to be dealing with instead of continuing to do it all yourself. Get Support: Bottling things up only makes them worse. Someone else may be able to see options you haven’t thought about. Talk through your problems with friends or a therapist, but get some support.
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