To avoid burning out it’s imperative you know the symptoms of burnout and steer clear. Burnout is a bunch of entangled emotions; it’s the result of “constant and frequent emotional upheaval associated with people…in the workplace” Olejownik (2018). Bouncing Back! Overcoming Obstacles (p. 4). When stress is left unmanaged burnout starts developing. When the environment is full of too many pressures and not enough support burnout has the green light to take off. Those who experience negative self-concepts while becoming detached, uninterested, unreceptive, and unapproachable develop burnout. Powerful results do not come from grinding yourself down, burning yourself out or using yourself up.
It was 1993 when Becky discovered her passion for working on engines. She started out working as a mechanic in a local racing shop in Texas, Ohio. At first it was difficult because she had to fight for her right to be a mechanic in a shop full of men. She was bombarded with gender discrimination, and the stress that came along with being the only female mechanic in a male dominant shop. However, she hung onto her hopes and dreams of one day working in her own shop.
In 2002, Becky found A+ Automotive Articulators and advanced her career to working on high performance racing engines. Taking a position in A+ felt right in the beginning because high performance engines were her thing. In fact, to learn the internal, external mechanics of the supercharged masterpieces she decided to be the best master mechanic in the shop. For her, that meant eating, sleeping, dreaming, and being a high-performance engine.
During her tenure at A+ some of the guys in the shop valued her work ethic and KSA’s (knowledge, skills, and abilities) working on gas, diesel, and alcohol engines. Others created conflict with comments like, “you should be in a kitchen not in an engine shop”, or “don’t you want to get married and have children”. Still others gave her indignant stares like she didn’t belong.
Life in the shop was tough but Becky was strong, she was determined to make it no matter the cost. Yes, Becky admits, there were times when working in the shop was overwhelming; some of the guys tried to set her up for failure, especially when a car came into the shop that was different from what she had experience working on. She worked hard to overcome a lot of internal stressors like perfectionism…however, every time she managed to crush one stressor, another one would rear its ugly head.
Because Becky ruled by a different kind of standard as a high achiever with an intense appetite for success; regular stress management and overcoming burnout strategies just didn’t work for her. Becky did not like idle time and felt it was a waste of time; she enjoyed exciting challenges that would push her limits. Even though she had moments of exhaustion and loss of focus from doing too much, Becky knew for her engine to achieve top performance, she needed to find something different, something extreme to help her manage stress. She felt if she didn’t find something unique to help her get a handle on stress and burnout, she’d find herself wrapped around the axel.
A key sign of stress, worry, and burnout is a mounting feeling of exhaustion and impaired motivation. The exhaustion from decreased energy and increased worry, and the impaired motivation from doing too much, both of which reduce efficiency and focus.
Occupational Burnout is now classified as an Occupational Phenomenon
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 28 May 2019 Burnout is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It is not classified as a medical condition but as an occupational phenomenon. The three points covered in the article reference burnout as being characterized in three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long-term involvement in emotionally demanding situations (Olejownik, 2018. p. 4). To understand Burnout is to know that life is full of change and change is going to happen whether you choose to accept it or not. Change resonates with each of us based on our experiences and with the seasons of life.
Another way to describe burnout is to think of yourself as your car, you cannot drive yourself to high performance if you do not have regular maintenance. Now imagine you are in a NASCAR race. How many times do you think you can get around the track under NASCAR racing conditions without proper pit stop maintenance? You must have a full tank of fuel and maintenance to race at 200+ mph or you are going to stall-out in the middle of the track with all the others cars racing towards you at high-end speeds. Taking sufficient pit stops is important for your overall performance.
Race cars need pit stops, much like a human needs self-care to perform at peak performance. We think we can run on reserves but we cannot run on reserves all the time or we will find ourselves in a very unpleasant experience, which can end up with costly consequences. For a car, its towing services, part repairs or replacements…due to fuel tank sediments clogging your injectors and filters. For us as humans, it’s the symptoms of burnout.
What Are Burnout Symptoms?
Two symptoms of burnout are exhaustion and disillusionment. You can overcome exhaustion with rest however, the core part of burnout is an overwhelming sense of disillusionment, which is represented as dissatisfaction, disheartenment, depression, disappointment, and cynicism.
Some physical and emotional signs of burnout include chronic fatigue, headaches, insomnia, anger, irritability, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, heart disease, and shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, diabetes, and dizziness. You may also experience increased illness, loss of appetite and mood swings. According to Bourg Carter, (2011) other less noted symptoms of high stress and burnout include family conflict, child abuse, and psychological problems for family members (High Octane Women, 2011. p. 30).
Guides For Overcoming OR Avoiding Burnout
You don’t wake up one day and say, gee I feel burned out. Burnout develops over several weeks, months, and sometimes years. To overcome burnout requires change. For some people, change consists of breaking old habits and creating new routines. The first step to overcoming burnout is to eliminate vices such as any substance you may use to either help you sleep or gain more energy. These types of substances either make you more tired which in turn leads you to more caffeine to get out of a foggy funk, which leads to a crash and burn. The most challenging step to beating burnout is disconnecting electronically. Being available 24/7 is NOT good for anyone. Schedule small blocks of time, 30-60 minutes twice a day and once on the weekend to check your email, text, and phone messages. Here is more information on overcoming burnout.
For Becky to overcome burnout, she had to discover unique nontraditional approaches, making sure her self-care was the preventative maintenance right for her engine. With the help of a coach, Becky discovered she loved vigorous workouts. She joined a CrossFit Box because it challenged her physically and mentally with High Intensity Interval Training (HITT); it got her mind off the stressors in the shop, and she was able to set HITT goals and break physical and mental barriers.
Becky also discovered she loved vacations that challenged her tenacious drive. Because she loves her Siberian Husky, Miska, meaning little bear, and plays with Miska’s dogsledding abilities in the winter months, Becky decided she wants to experience dogsledding/racing in Ely, Minnesota at the Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge.
How Do I Use Self-Care To Avoid Burnout?
Self-care is the practice of important routines to improve your own health. You must take an active role to improve your own health, well-being, and energy, not just during stressful times, at all times. Recharge yourself to better manage your energy with three steps.
- Set an earlier bedtime and give up social media and TV, an hour before bed. Set a note pad and ink pen next to your bed, make a list of tasks you want to complete the next day. If you notice waking up in the middle of the night, thinking of something you forgot, get it off your mind by writing it down on the note pad.
- Start your day with a healthy protein packed breakfast. Pack two healthy snacks, one for before lunch, and one for after lunch. Enjoy your snacks away from your desk or work station; this short five-seven-minute break helps you regroup and reenergize, improving performance while helping you avoid energy leaks. Plan an after-dinner walk, after dinner walks help in digesting food, speeds up metabolism, and provides better sleep.
- Downtime is very important to accomplishing your goals because it gives you the opportunity for self-care, reflection, and a good self-image.
Putting It All Together
Powerful results do not come from grinding yourself down, burning yourself out or using yourself up.
When the environment is full of too many pressures and not enough support burnout has the green light to take off. Burnout is finally recognized by the World Health Organization as an Occupational Phenomenon. To understand Burnout is to know that life is full of change and change is going to happen whether you choose to accept it or not. There are many signs and symptoms of burnout; to overcome burnout requires change.
You must know yourself first to know what will work best for you when overcoming burnout and bouncing back. You must take an active role to improve your own health, well-being, and energy, not just during stressful times, at all times. Are you in need of a coach to help with the emotional entanglement of burnout, contact me.
One final thought: If you are suffering from burnout you’re doing too much.
Becky bounced back from burnout and finished strong; she opened up her own shop. Ask yourself what you are willing to surrender. Remember, when you surrender, you lose the battle (the burnout) but not the war (your purpose).
I would love to hear your comments!