How to know you’re burning out and your road to recovery


How to know you’re burning out and your road to recovery

In 1985 when I was at secondary school I was given a lecture that the 1990’s and 2000’s would be the time of leisure.  We were told about deferred gratification, and that one of our major choices as adults would be how to spend our oodles of leisure time.  Recognise this?  No me neither.  In fact quite the opposite has turned out to be true.

Burnout has become a norm in our society, and it’s long term impact is grossly misunderstood.  When people burnout the real cost is hidden.  Burnout is not just where a person can’t face work, burnout is where you are so overwhelmed, and in disarray you are unable to work.  Burnout requires serious attention, to recover and to avoid it again in the future.

A person burning out can actually experience it as traumatic (i.e. life changing).  Traumatic means something that is overwhelming to all your senses, resources and previously held skills of coping.  You see, once you’ve burned out you often lose all ordinary markers to your life.  It’s not just that you can’t work, it’s that your basic day to day functioning is devastated.  Previously sturdy people brought down under the pressure of prolonged stress. It is this that causes feelings of grief and loss that follow burnout.

5 signs you’re burning out

  1. Gut deep dread of the impending day – every day.
  2. Overriding basic needs, for food, rest, toilet breaks. Obsessively trying to find ways of to save time
  3. Feeling full up, dizzy headed, can’t take another thing, to happen or go wrong
  4. Intrusive thoughts of walking away, running away, self doubt
  5. Anxiety, nervousness, twitchiness without putting your finger about anything specific

The pre-burnout  dread can eventually turn into a hypersensitivity to even the thought of the work building; the journey to work;  the people.  Eventually dread can create nausea, anxiety, and you are repelled by the mere thought of workday functioning.

The overriding of the above symptoms is partly what creates burnout.  Someone’s inner strength becomes their weakness. It is also compounded by the working culture, behaviour of colleagues, bosses and the environment.  So the strongest of us are able to override our basic human needs, and this is okay and even necessary for short episodes of stress, but it is not the way to go about life, not if you want to avoid burnout and it’s many profound consequences.

The real cost of burnout is to our:

  • Physical health
  • Emotional health
  • Psychological health
  • Nutritional health
  • Relationship health
  • Parenting health
  • Friendship health
  • Financial health
  • Happiness health.

REMEMBER it is the hardworking, the committed, the loyal, the grafters who burn out.

The 7 processes towards recovery and healing are:

  1. KNOWLEDGE – STRESS is CRAZY, you are NOT – gain knowledge about what’s happening. Don’t leave yourself alone and without knowledge about what is going on.  By gathering information about trauma and stress you will give yourself the best chance of recovery.  You will less likely turn it against yourself.
  2. SAFETY –STRESS hates safety– slow down and find your ‘soft place to fall’. Allow yourself TIME. We need time to find the upward course of recovery.  You need time off work, and time to convalesce.  Treating yourself with kindness now will ensure a deep and lifelong recovery.  The exact opposite is also true.
  3. CARE ABOUT YOU– STRESS THRIVES ON YOU HATING YOURSELF – beat it with love and kindness. All brutal thoughts will lengthen your recovery, even prevent it completely.  Talk to yourself nicely, and treat yourself well.
  4. HELP – your antidote to stress – allow help from professionals, friends, and family. Recovery from long term stress and trauma is almost impossible to do on your own.  If you have a hunch you need help, seek it!  This is a KIND act towards yourself and will speed up your recovery.  Find someone who knows about burnout and trauma, and who believes that recovery is possible.
  5. REFLECT & ATTEND– meet and treat yourself with kindness, STRESS HATES that. Allow yourself to reflect on your life and your choices once you have decided to never harm yourself with what you find.  Reflection is good as long as you are propelling into the future and enjoying the present.
  6. HEALING – smoothing out your STRESS marks. ALLOW time to chill out, doing nothing very much.  Know that healing is a journey that follows recovery.  Recovery is to ‘recover’ something, healing is to smooth out the experience.  Recover yourself first, and then heal.
  7. VISION & MOVING ON– integrating your skills-kit and dealing with STRESS once and for all. Know that this recovery and healing will last you a lifetime if done with kindness, and depth.  It’s yours forever.

Be loyal, committed, a grafter, a workhorse as long as you look after yourself in the process.



The state of mental health in the workplace

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