Approaching burnout? Some tips to help you light a new fire
I work with many highly driven and passionate individuals. But even the most motivated people can reach their limits, becoming unfulfilled and exhausted. A career or relationship that was intended to last a lifetime can sometimes become unappealing and may even contribute to increasing levels of anxiety and low mood.
A life choice that was once a builder of confidence can, in an unexpected U-turn, demolish a person’s self-esteem.
Time for change?
At times like this, we will begin to seek change. We may look at other options or decide we need to take some time for ourselves. However, although we may desperately want an end to our unhappiness, we won’t always do anything about it. The decision may feel too difficult or scary and sometimes the alternative feels harder than what we are currently dealing with.
The thought of changing a career can be daunting. You may have to consider retraining, or a drop in salary, for instance. Similarly, the thought of ending an unhappy relationship can feel impossible. The fear of being alone, finding somewhere else to live or supporting yourself financially can feel like too much of a burden.
Making change happen can feel too much of an effort, even when it is exactly what we need. Although it may sound counterintuitive, I am going to suggest that the point at which you feel too defeated to make a change, is exactly the right time to make it.
A bit of physics
Let me talk to you about Newton’s first law - Inertia. It states that if a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain so unless it is acted upon by a force.
So, imagine that movement is your current role or relationship. It will remain the same, continuous and unchanging, so long as you do nothing new. For some, that may be a comforting thought, particularly if they are content with their status quo. However, for those who are experiencing that nagging feeling of discontent, it can feel quite the opposite.
Change can feel like the most difficult option. We assume that the road we are on, even if unpleasant, is the easiest one. It is familiar and seemingly well suited to our needs. However, what we may be less aware of are the additional pressures that following the wrong road can add.
The road most travelled
Take the feeling of being unappreciated. Imagine it as a smattering of potholes on your once smoothly tarmacked road to happiness. When we feel unappreciated, we navigate these potholes on a daily basis and are sometimes unlucky enough to hit them, causing unseen damage to our tyres or suspension.
What about boredom? Perhaps your job or partner has changed, and you no longer feel challenged or stimulated. Imagine that boredom as a steep incline. The road is still heading in the same direction and will ultimately lead to your chosen destination, but the effort of getting there will be greater. In these instances, the daily grind becomes unbearable and you may find yourself longing for the weekend or time alone.
Sometimes you may find that the nature of the job or relationship stays the same, but the demands and expectations increase. Suddenly you are expected to take on more than is fair or manageable. I am sure you are familiar with the unwelcome announcement “There are delays due to the sheer volume of traffic”. When we are overwhelmed with extra tasks or increased expectations, there is often no room on the road, so we end up grinding to a halt. There’s also the increased risk of reaching emotional burnout, where you’ll find yourself on the hard shoulder waiting for emergency assistance.
When looking at your reality through this lens, you realise that what you believed was the easiest option, is not easy at all. However, in order to change and overcome inertia, an additional force is required and this can feel impossible when you have nothing left in the tank.
Why counselling can help
This is when counselling can help. While you have been navigating the potholes, the steep inclines and building congestion, underneath the bonnet you have also been wrestling with feelings of sadness, humiliation, shame and anger. While you have ploughed on, determined to look on the bright side, convincing yourself that so many others are worse off than you are, these feelings have been weighing you down.
Counselling acts as a pit stop. A place where you can unload and come to terms with the difficult and painful feelings you have been experiencing which have often been internalised as negative self-talk and hopelessness. Your counsellor can help you find clarity at a time when it is hard to see past your struggles and with that clarity, comes the opportunity for self-compassion and growth.
It is possible to reach a point where you are free to dream again, where you can consider alternative routes, perhaps even new destinations. When you feel unburdened and appreciated once more, you will be surprised at how much easier the new route will be to travel, compared to the one you have been forced to take for so long.
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