For those who have experienced burnout at some point in their lives or career, this won’t be too unfamiliar to you. For those who haven’t, you may find that understanding how burnout comes about and identifying the symptoms and behaviours might be helpful not only for yourself but for your friends, colleagues or maybe family who may be heading towards this without realising it.
Burnout, despite what some may think, doesn’t just happen – it’s a process!
Often once burnout has hit, and we’ve recovered we can look back and realise there were signs, symptoms, people noticed and said something, others were telling us to slow down or stop doing too much, but the power of hindsight, eh?
There are various schools of thought about the stages, how many, how long they might last, and whether people experience all the symptoms or not. Either way, having a better understanding and being aware of the stages could be the saving grace that helps us and others at some point.
My inspiration was an image by ‘The Present Psychologist’ – The 12 Stages of Burnout.
In the beginning we are just trucking on with a powerful determination to prove ‘we can do this’ and want to keep going no matter what.
To ensure we achieve, and with high expectations of ourselves, we continue to work harder and harder, longer and longer to achieve our high expectations.
The more we focus on the goal in hand, which may be unachievable, the less we focus on ourselves, it starts to become an obsession with what we’re doing and neglect of ourselves.
Mistakes can often start to happen, we have multiple deadlines and priorities, starting to struggle and becoming frustrated with the situation we are in and blame others or the situation.
Common sense and our personal values start to fly out the window as we stop listening to our gut instinct, put our heads down and tail up and work more and more.
Denial creeps in when problems raise their ugly head which are created by early stress. Ignoring these due to denial is the first danger sign.
Work or the goal becomes an even bigger focus and now we are not only neglecting ourselves but our family and friends as well; we start withdrawing from our support network.
Behaviour changes set in, frustration and anger which start to upset our loved ones and even our work colleagues which further distances us from those nearest and dearest.
Now the focus returns to yourself, but not in a good way. You don’t like yourself, your behaviour or your performance. The focus on how much you aren’t doing well becomes magnified.
We start to operate in a daze or trance, everything becomes automatic, and we start to rely on help and support which can be in the form of alcohol, drugs or other substances.
This becomes exhausting, depression starts to set in and a feeling of loss and uselessness. We now start to feel completely alone and a failure.
You become like one of those battery toys which is running out of battery, everything starts to slow down more and more until eventually it stops. You stop, collapse physically, emotionally and mentally – you’re now officially in burnout.
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