Are You Suffering From Silent Burnout? Identify These Signs to Avoid its Ugly Effects
Back when I started my coaching business, I was in the thick of kicking it off and growing it to match my vision board. Riding the client roster rollercoaster, I’d burn the midnight oil, keeping my eyes on the big prize – stabilizing and increasing my income. I wanted to make enough to fly on vacations instead of driving and I wanted to put away money for my kids' college tuition. But sometimes it felt like 2 steps forward and 3 steps back.
Some months I’d have an influx of clients and on some, you could hear the crickets loudly. So my logical mind told me to do more, try more and do more again, in order to end this feast-or-famine cycle.
I kept going after the next big thing and the next cool new project or idea. And I'd put off the break I desperately needed. “You can't keep going on this way”, I’d hear the little voice in my head say. And I'd shove it aside and respond with, “Oh, just this next project, and then I can catch a breather.”
That break never came.
Then my body retaliated with ten golf-ball-sized fibroids that took an 8-hour surgery to remove. It was during my six-week recovery, I realized what months (probably more like years) of constant rollercoaster stress and worry had done to my body. This was the effect of silent burnout. It creeps slowly before turning your life upside down.
If you saw yourself in my story, you know what burnout feels like. Brain fog, energy spent up, and emotions running wild. The feeling that you haven’t done enough despite giving all.
You are not alone. According to the latest report, more than half of American workers are experiencing burnout due to workplace stress. The effects of silent burnout can be devastating, but the good news is it’s preventable if you know the signs to look out for and do a timely course correction, not ignoring that little voice like I did for so long.
The five stages of burnout
According to scientific studies on burnout, the progression of burnout takes place in five stages. Keep an eye on these symptoms to identify at which stage you are in and what to do about it:
- Stage 1: Hustle Mode – At this stage, you are brimming with enthusiasm and energy to give it all to your new job or your start-up. To prove yourself, you get to the grind, wear multiple hats, and do more than what’s expected. You brush off the stress citing the demands of the job.
- Stage 2: Onset of Stressors – Proposed by Cherniss in his burnout study, at this stage, you start to feel overwhelmed by your workload. As the job stressors like deadlines, long hours, and lost weekend pop up, the joy and thrill you experienced earlier start to dwindle. Only to be replaced by physical symptoms like fatigue, headaches, and high blood pressure.
- Stage 3: Emotional Exhaustion – Emotional exhaustion happens after you’ve spent too much time caring too much. It is the first of three components identified by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in 1975 in his clinical definition of burnout. By this stage, stress has become your everyday affair. You wake up exhausted every morning, dreading the tasks and responsibilities that lie ahead. Your productivity and performance take a hit. You’d miss deadlines, procrastinate and start to feel withdrawn.
- Stage 4: Depersonalization – At this stage, you start feeling emotionally detached and cynical towards others. Your levels of compassion and empathy deplete and you develop a distant attitude. Basically, your emotional batteries are drained.
- Stage 5: Disregard for personal accomplishments– This is the crisis stage where you don’t care anymore. Burnout has gripped your physical, emotional, and mental well-being and you’re likely to feel depressed. This is coupled with a decreased sense of accomplishment where you constantly feel “nothing I do matters.”
How to Cope with Burnout?
In her book The Burnout Fix, Dr. Jacinta M. Jiménez suggests proactive strategies to foster resilience and avoid burnout before it starts. Here are a few things you can start doing today to manage the onset of burnout:
Don't Bite Off More than You Can Chew – Many of us believe that to achieve big results, we need to do it faster, pushing ourselves more than we should, and that isn’t sustainable. Pace yourself - success is created through consistent momentum that creates scalable growth. Also, stop the perfectionism that leads to over-analyzing. Remember, done is better than perfect.
Ask For Help – Sometimes we think we can do it all (or have to do it all), we can do it better than anyone else, and we need to be in control of every aspect of our lives. It's not weak to know when you need help -- it's strength and courage. We all need friends, mentors, and fierce supporters who can give us a hand up to the next step.
Do An Energy Audit – As you track your goals, start tracking your energy sucks. If there are some activities or people that sap your energy, you need to note them down. Tracking your energy vampires will allow you to find effective solutions. For example, if you have a call with a demanding client, you can plan a coffee break afterward to reward and revitalize yourself. Learn to cut cords and create a protective bubble for yourself whenever you need it.
Practice Mindfulness – You know the feeling when you can’t completely unplug. You might be at dinner but not be mentally present because your mind is replaying the day’s events, worrying about what's next, and going through all the possibilities. This can happen if you are obsessing about the past or the future.
In his profound book, The Power of Now, author Eckhart Tolle says, “Stress is caused by being “here” but wanting to be “there,” or being in the present but wanting to be in the future.” By practicing mindfulness techniques, and focusing to be in the moment, you can respond better to anxious thoughts.
Disconnect –. Most of us suffer from information overload. We’re constantly online and constantly addicted to checking for a response on our phones. This needs an overhaul.
Setting times of the day when you’re offline and turning off notifications is invaluable for your mental health. Monitor which digital habits add value to your life and ones that distract you. Slowly reduce your time online.
Pause and nurture – What do Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates have in common? They both say they prioritize time for leisure. Oprah Winfrey spends time in her beautiful garden and takes her dog for walks. And Bill Gates goes on regular retreats, where he reads books, walks on the beach, and gathers his thoughts.
You can do the same by creating a self-care routine doing something that relaxes your mind and nurtures your soul every day.
Rest and Sleep – The hustle culture is obsessed with productivity. But your life isn’t about squeezing out every last drop of energy until you feel like you've been run over by a speeding train. Your life is about your dreams and desires, and you’ll be more likely to achieve them when you are well-rested.
Spend time in nature – How often were you outside in the past week? Being in nature for even 20 minutes a day is enormously beneficial for maintaining a sense of calm. Put your feet on the earth to ground yourself. Put "outdoor time" into your schedule. Sit in the garden at lunch instead of at your desk. Or take a walk in the park and take deep breaths of fresh air.
Tackling Burnout for People-preneur
If you are in the people business – working as a coach, mentor, or healer, it’s easy to get sucked into your client’s problems too. It doesn't matter what kind of healing work you do, people's energy will latch onto you. Over time, this energy builds up to enormous proportions. This is why it’s so important that you let loose and let go of the pent-up emotions.
As a healer, you have a responsibility to guard your energy and help others to manage theirs. Whether you've booked full of clients or you're just launching your healing practice, you'll want to be in tip-top physical, mental, and spiritual shape for those you serve (including yourself).
That’s why, every month, in the Life Changing Energy Healer’s Collective, we give you LIVE weekly cleanses and send you healing Reiki energy on the other days. Think of the cleansing sessions as upkeep and preservation of the most important vessel you have -- YOU.
It’s a place for you to get weekly cleansing, so you can dump last week’s dirt before starting this week’s sessions. Click here to know more