Burnout is slowly becoming more widely recognised but is burnout real? While not yet recognised as a diagnosed illness, many of the symptoms are recognised as conditions that greatly impact our lives in a negative way.
A recent study published on Forbes explained that “Burnout is very real. And it has only been exacerbated by forced remote work, which is about to get even more difficult for parents who juggle full-time work from home with full-time monitoring of their children’s virtual education”.
Yet another way the last two years have impacted us in very substantial ways.
So whilst a good holiday can help with ensuring we stay well and rested, burnout runs much deeper than that.
It’s amazing what our body can put up with.
Even with an environment that promotes stress, lacking nutrition, poor quality sleep, very little movement and increasing inflammation, many of us are able to keep pushing through.
We may not feel our best, but we often have the ability to just keep going, no matter how tired, sore and unwell we feel.
Our body keeps going for us, until, as I often say to people. “Our body has had enough and sits us on our bum”.
It says, ok, you’re not listening, I’m taking charge.
Often at this stage, you may experience an illness large enough to stop you in your tracks.
- You may be too unwell to either go to work, or work effectively, unable to partake in activities with loved ones and too exhausted or unwell to enjoy any real quality of life.
- Your symptoms become larger and become the focus of your day.
- Your energy is spent dealing with pain, headaches, sadness, digestive upsets, low vigour and more.
If you want to know if burnout is real? Just ask the increasing number of people who’s lives are being and has been impacted by burnout and the many symptoms they experience.
The Burnout Narrative
Many of us have been taught that soldiering on is a good idea and to hustle means we are working hard and doing the right thing.
Even though the narrative is slowly changing the hustle culture is still alive and well, we are still being encouraged to soldier on.
Many years ago, there was even an ad for a cold remedy and the major premise was to keep going, even if feeling unwell.
I still hear and see people not experiencing optimal health and only being concerned with pushing through and the amount of work they have to do.
How does the constant hustle hurt us?
We have all experienced feeling a little run down and pushing through the day, knowing we need an early night and will feel better tomorrow.
At the beginning, this may be all your body needs.
As time goes on and we fail to listen, we start to encounter more symptoms, more often. (Remember our signs, signals and symptoms are how our body speaks with us).
Symptoms may range from feeling tired and drained, headaches, poor quality sleep, digestive disturbances, foggy head, feeling sleepy after lunch, a lack of tolerance and a build-up of frustration, moodiness, high blood pressure, aches and pains in the body, a lack of energy after work and on weekends, poor nutrition choices, sadness, anxiety, depression, a decrease in confidence, lowered sex drive, hormonal disturbances, and many more.
As we continue life and push past any symptoms to just keep going, because after all, we have people counting on us, we experience the many consequences that come with the symptoms of burnout.
We have work to do, we need to just keep going… so we continue to place our body, mind and soul in an environment conducive to illness, unhappiness and low quality of life.
If we want to make sure burnout doesn’t impact us we need to make sure health becomes a lifestyle . Building a lifestyle that creates an environment for health and wellness is the only way to truly avoid burnout.
How does burnout really affect us?
Is burnout real?
A question often asked by professionals, peers and friends.
After experiencing burnout myself, and knowing how many people experience this, I find it difficult to understand why we are not more focused on burnout as a direct contributor to any number of symptoms, to chronic health issues and long term challenges in the workplace.
Here are some questions to keep in mind
- If you are tired after work, how much attention can we give our partner?
- If we have headaches, what is the actual quality of our work?
- If we wake to feel exhausted instead of rested, which ‘us’ are we bringing to the day, our loved ones and to our work?
- How creative can you be when you have aches and pains sapping your energy?
- If you don’t know how to switch your mind off, how present are you with your loved ones?
- If you are experiencing low moods, anxiety and sadness, in what way will you show up for those around you?
- If you continue to experience symptoms without making changes, what is the actual quality of your life and how long do you think you can keep going before your body takes charge and makes you listen?
- Have you ever gone on holiday to waste it being sick?
- Do you know people who are always sick on holidays or weekends?
- Do you look forward to the weekend only to feel exhausted and not get anywhere near what you wanted to get done?
A slow downhill quality of life and health are often signs of burnout.
Are you facing burnout?
Now, keeping burnout at bay is not about keeping going during one bout of illness or a few late nights, a few days of working too much or a week of stress.
Burnout and making sure you don’t experience it is about being able to really tune in and listen to your body and respond with small, consistent and persistent actions, that contribute to and have a positive impact on your quality of health and life.
Many of us have been taught that health is boring, hard work, means everything has to change at once, and that it is difficult to achieve.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
By learning the skills and listening and responding to your body, even the smallest but right changes for you, can make all the difference.
They just need to be what is actually right for you, not everyone else.
What happened to me when I didn’t keep burnout at bay…
Many years ago, I didn’t listen to my body, I didn’t avoid burnout and I paid that price. Is burnout rea? Yes, I’m well aware that it is.
The hustle and keep going narrative was alive and well within me.
I experienced a serious bout of pneumonia and pleurisy after ignoring many signs, signals and symptoms and kept pushing.
Burnout was upon me and I wasn’t listening.
After ending up in hospital with pneumonia and pleurisy and making a deal with the Emergency Dr that I would only have to stay in overnight, 14 days later I emerged from an experience that I now help people to avoid at all costs.
At that stage, my mindset was hustle, I need to do this, I need to get that done.
I’m young enough that I should be able to just get back to life, however, I didn’t have the awareness that I needed to make changes to help me to heal.
I thought going home from the hospital was enough and I needed to get right back to it.
I kept pushing as soon as I left the hospital and sometime later…
Can you guess?
I was right back where I started with an extra addition of a post-viral syndrome that lasted three and a half years.
One of the many reasons I have such a passion is to help others to achieve optimal health.
Many years ago burnout was not given a second thought, except that perhaps people were a little overworked, needed to toughen up and become more resilient. We did not ask, all those years ago, is burnout real? If we had we could have started to address the problem way back then.
I know what it feels like to be unwell, I know how this impacts life, and I know given the right environment, our body has an innate ability to heal.
Questions you should be asking yourself
- What do I believe about health?
- What culture and narrative does my workplace have?
- Do I know how to listen to my body?
- Would my quality of life be better if I had better health?
Still, to this day, our current culture supports a narrative of hustle, of keeping going and pushing through.
There are numerous reasons why this does not and will not ever work, but that’s for a different blog.
Until then, ask yourself, How am I?
Then really listen.