3 signs of burn-out and what you can do about it

Are you on the road to burn-out?

It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol – Brené Brown

At a recent workshop a participant commented that she always realises that she’s burned-when it’s too late. She would notice a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ moment when she shouts at her partner for no reason or comes down with a cold.

I could really relate to what she said. There is sometimes an overwhelming urge to “power through” and to keep going until something external stops us from going on.

Society normalises burn-out but that comes at a great cost both to your life and to those around you. It’s not a sustainable way to live and there will be point when your body says “no more”. I’ve put together some warning signs of burn-out and what you can start to do right now to address it.

3 signs of burn-out

1. Difficulty in concentrating and short-term memory gaps

Do you have 100 browser tabs open on your computer? Are you constantly distracting yourself, unable to focus on one thing for more than 10 minutes?

Both struggling to concentrate and experiencing memory gaps can be a key sign that you’ve got too much swimming round your brain.

Forgotten a conversation you had this morning? Chances are you weren’t present when talking to that person and were too distracted by your internal chatter. This can be an important sign that you need to slow down or simplify your life.

2. Feeling depressed, fatigued or anxious

When you’re over-worked, your stress levels rise. Too much stress over a prolonged period keeps your mind and body caught in the stress response (also known as the flight, fight or freeze response).

The stress response was designed to help us deal with short, sharp episodes of dealing with high levels of stress, like running from a sabre-toothed tiger. It was never intended to help us deal with the longer term stresses of modern life.

During the stress response, your body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which has a depleting effect over the long-term. This is why people with burn-out can suffer anxiety symptoms such as sweating, a high heart rate, feeling sick and a racing mind. Others will feel exhausted or low because their bodies are drained from keeping them on high alert for so long. It’s also very normal to experience a combination of these feelings.

3. Stiff or aching body

Our physiology unconsciously changes when we are particularly stressed or overworked. Our breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. Our muscles tend to tighten particularly in the jaw, neck or shoulders. Spending hours in front of a screen without moving can leave us with a stiff, aching body. In a quest to maximise productivity and to ‘get on with it’ many of us teach ourselves to ignore or brush aside sensations that exist to alert us that we need a break.

What you can do about burn-out

If we’re wound up and stressed, slowing down can feel counter-intuitive because our busyness is a way of protecting ourselves from further stress. We think the solution lies in doing more, more, more.

The problem is there’s always more we can do. Our to-do lists are usually open-ended so it’s up to us to create a structure whereby we decide enough is enough.

Here are a couple of tips you can start looking at right now to move your body away from the stress response to feeling calmer:

Journalling or creative expression

Writing down your thoughts and feelings means you’re putting them somewhere that isn’t your mind or body. This is a powerful release that creates space between you and your thoughts and allows you to consider them with more perspective and insight. You might be able to learn about common themes that show up when you write and have renewed clarity to think of solutions.

A similar release happens in relation to any creative expression you enjoy. It could be cooking, dancing, sketching, playing an instrument, singing or anything else that allows you to express yourself in a different way. Your body and mind can channel the stress you’ve been experiencing in a way that will leave you feeling calmer and more satisfied.

Listen to your body

There are many ways you can grow your awareness of your body and become more mindful of what it’s telling you. Just spending 60 seconds every day to pay attention to your body will really help.

Here are a couple of suggestions to help you re-connect with you body:

Slowly scan down your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes bringing your awareness to each body part. Where do you feel tension? Where does it feel looser and more comfortable? If there are areas of discomfort how can you change your position or stretch to support your body better?

Bring your awareness to your breathing. Are you breathing quickly, high up in your chest? If so you may find that slowing your breathing down, extending the exhale and breathing from your belly relaxes you. It can be helpful to imagine sending oxygen to those areas of your body that need it most on the ‘in’ breath.

Most of us actually need to learn to slow down to speed up. We need space to think clearly. When our brains are swimming with 101 things we feel we should be doing, our quality of life suffers and so do we.

Ready to break up with burn-out?

If burn-out is a familiar pattern for you and you would like to change it, why not get in touch today for your free, 45 minute Clarity and Confidence Call. You’ll leave with a clear plan on how to enjoy more calm, balance and energy.

Not ready for a call? Feel free to ask any questions via my contact page or subscribe to my newsletter, The Pause.

23 November 2017