What symptoms of burnout should you look out for and how can you beat them?
It’s this cycle really. Half the year is full steam ahead.
The second half of the year starts again. Full steam ahead.
And round it goes.
This is my story…
My year is divided up in two’s. Corporate organisations divide their years in a number of ways;
- By financial years (FY)
- By calendar years
- By quarters or halves in financial years
- By quarters or halves in calendar years
I’ve always fallen in category 3. This means that at the end/beginning of every year and in the middle of each year things get ultra busy and exhaustion quickly kicks in. Projects are due. Goals need to be met. And I love that. I’m all for progression and achievement. It comes with being someone whom is generally ambitious. But it has it’s drawbacks if not managed well.
I remembered writing an article a few months back where I called out my own angst in this journey towards doing something fulfilling in my life. My thoughts were validated as it turns out is was about 6 months ago that I had written it – lining up with the end of the previous year. So it’s no surprise there was some burnout then too. And I’m feeling it right now which is ironic really because the first thing I wanted to do was more work – to write about the experience, to help others identify it and see if you can relate. I guess the drive to do more gets addictive.
It’s currently July 2017. That means the previous FY has just wrapped up. It was a solid one. A tonne of achievements. But I’m due for a well deserved break if I may say so myself. I’ve got so much ambition for the next half of the year, so to me, it’s time to bunker down, re-energize and get ready for the next cycle. With that said and this personal experience under my belt, I’ve now identified the pattern that lead to the same feelings that come around twice a year — burnout.
The symptoms of burnout…
Anytime I experience burnout it is almost always accompanied by some form of illness, most commonly this will be flu like symptoms or an upset stomach. Outside of burnout periods I rarely ever get sick but when it hits I’m all stuffy nosed, aches and pains, headaches, sore throats, coughing and a just a general feeling of being run down. I often akin it to a feeling of pepper. Strange, I know. Remember getting a sniff of pepper and you get this feeling right before you want to sneeze? Well, it’s that feeling, all the time.
Un-motivated & un-inspired.
Even though my brain might be wanting to do something creative out of habit, it’s often quite difficult to get motivated, to actually take action and bouts of inspiration are a scarcity. Challenges in day-to-day tasks can show up in your writing, completing tasks that would otherwise be quite easy, overall productivity losses, not going to the gym or doing exercise and not eating healthy.
If you normally need a lot of sleep or feel tired in general anyway then you’d probably feel the impacts of this a little less. However, if you’re like me and usually sleep a little less than most then all of a sudden needing 7-8 hours or more of sleep feels like a waste of life.
Being a person who can quite comfortably survive off of 6 hours sleep I’d argue I’m quite out-of-sorts when burnout kicks in and I find myself needing to go to bed earlier than normal. The downside of this is compounded further as I’d then wake up in the middle of the night, not being able to get back to sleep only to struggle out of bed when the 6.20 am alarm goes off.
Can you relate?
Irritated, impatient & moody.
It’s not uncommon to begin getting impatient, even at the smallest of things. If you’re a parent you may start to find that what would otherwise just be kids playing in the house and having fun begins to sounds more like trouble than playtime. Having to wait for people or others to respond to tasks or carry through with a task can bother you more than it otherwise should. A routine drive to work can feel like you’ve traveled half way across the globe and things that would not normally bother you may begin to show up in the form of bad moods, for no reason other than you’re tired. And you genuinely are.
Questioning your very existence.
Okay, that was a bit dramatic. It’s more like questioning whether or not any goals or visions you have are the right ones and whether or not you’ll actually achieve them when you’re feeling burned out. If you’re anything like me and are working towards something more than average in life then times of burnout can be one of those unnecessary challenges you face that just feel like they are getting in the way of your path of A to B.
How to beat burnout…
It’s important to understand that burnout is your bodies signal that you need to take a break. Slowing productivity, impatience, tiredness etc. – these are all signals that a grinding halt is near and you need to pull back a little and re-calibrate, ideally before the burnout kicks in. At least that’s what I’ve now learned.
Look for the signs.
Now that I’ve recognized the pattern that leads to burnout and the periods of which burnout occurs, I feel I’m personally more equipped to recognize it next time before it shows up. This helps when you are aware of the cycles through which it will normally show up too. Looking back at the intro to this article you’ll recall I highlighted how some corporations split up their years. Whether you work for a corporation or not, or maybe you’re self employed or a home-stay parent, you might naturally find your years are split into different peak and off-peak periods. If your peak/off peak periods don’t line up with your work calendars you’ll need to keep an extra eye out for the tell-tale signs of burnout.
In general though, if you begin to experience any of the above symptoms for a few days or more, or even a few more times a week than usual, you might be heading towards burnout.
Take time off.
This one can be a challenge. Growing up I was always surrounded by hard working people. My parents trumped most people I knew when it came to work ethic which I think partly spilled into how I work myself, which I’m grateful for. But with that came little holidays. Seeing my dad work 7 days a week for years was, and is, normal to me. Hard work was, and still is valued in my mind. What I noticed with the rest of society, for the most part, was a culture of work smart, not hard. That mean’t people around me were quite comfortable to take holidays and breaks from work, which they should do. I’ve always had trouble with this though. In the last 2 years there has been this big push and buzz around the word “hustle” which growing up for me just mean’t “hard work”. Its often led to people working much longer hours and sleeping a lot less. I think this is okay, in bouts, or during times where you are naturally at your peak but it’s important to set aside time to be with yourself and family, to rest and re-energize and often that requires you to force-ably travel or switch off the phone so you can really disconnect. It then means you can work smart and hard, but with a little more balance; whatever you define that to be.
Do something other than work.
Life isn’t always about work. We have other things too, like family, friends, personal projects and passions, hobbies and past-times. I think it’s extremely important for everyone to have a hobby or at least something they can escape to other than work.
Personally, I enjoy creating a social brand – everything you see here and online. I see it as a hobby just as much as I do work so I enjoy it and feel it’s an escape from work, at least before burnout takes over. I also enjoy tech and nerding out with my telescope and my drone. And then there is family. The best part. Spending time with my wife and kids and looking forward to the end of the week where the family gets together and enjoys a meal, has some laughs and reflects on a big week.
Whether it’s sport, knitting, drawing or cooking, find something you enjoy and escape to it – guilt free. It helps you grow as a person and looking back on a life once lived, I’m almost certain we’ll remember the joy we found in these things rather than a job.
Life is great. And it’s a long journey. It pays to pace yourself for the long haul and managing burnout will definitely help you with that. I hope my personal experiences shared here helps you in some way.
If you liked this article I’d love to see you over at my facebook page where you can join in on the conversations and be apart of the bigger Siladji community. Alternatively we can keep in touch by joining my VIP list here. Ivan.