By Kate Gare
Working from home is now commonplace for many of us, bringing with it stresses of a different kind.
Firstly, there is the pressure of rapidly adjusting to remote working – not seeing people face to face may have lost its appeal by now – followed by increasing anxieties linked to job security, the economy and enforced social isolation.
We may also unknowingly be working longer hours, and the blurring of our usual work / life boundaries can make us feel constantly available to our bosses and colleagues.
Indeed, a recent survey by LinkedIn and in association with The Mental Health Foundation found that half (56%) of UK workers are feeling more anxious and stressed working from home. Plus, employees are working an average of 28 hours overtime per month.
We may feel that our stressful existence is manageable in the short term. However, pushing through a whirlwind of obligations zaps our physical, mental, and emotional energy and we become trapped in the cycle of stress and exhaustion. And this chronic stress can lead to burnout.
So, what is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by sustained or recurrent stress. It is often accompanied by feelings of doubt about our capabilities and our sense of self-worth, leaving us unable to function successfully on either a personal or professional level.
And burnout is not just limited to the workplace.
Parenting, romantic relationships and those caring for relatives and loved ones can all suffer from overwhelming exhaustion, the weight of their responsibilities and the feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
Burnout does not just happen in a few weeks or days. It takes prolonged periods of living under the shadow of chronic stress, with little change, for us to reach the end point. But when we are enduring a stressful existence, it can be hard to notice the signals our mind and body are giving us.
It is important to recognise the warning signs to be able to take steps to support our health and wellbeing:
1. PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION Our energy levels are a clear indicator of our mental and physical health and it is important we know what our ‘normal’ is. Have you noticed a drop in energy during the day? Are you always tired, even after sleep? Maybe you are depending on caffeine to get through the day, or you just feel a physical apathy that is hard to shake. It is impossible to perform at your best if you are permanently fatigued.
2. FEELING OVERWHELMED AND UNABLE TO CONCENTRATE Are you spinning so many plates that just one more will tip the balance to bring your world crashing down? Do you feel ineffective and in fear of failure, no matter how hard you work? These feelings of ‘overwhelm’ drain our energy and can lead to an inability to concentrate as our mind is too scattered to focus.
Perhaps you are irritable or quick to anger around others as you struggle with feelings of inefficiency? Are you too restless to read a book or watch a film? If we lose the ability to immerse ourselves in the things we enjoy, our self-care dissipates, and we begin to cope rather than succeed at life.
3. SLEEP ISSUES AND INSOMNIA Do you find it difficult to switch off and fall asleep? Do you wake up in the night, unable to go back to sleep? Any change in sleep patterns causes havoc with our systems and there is a direct link between daytime stress and sleep problems.
The quality of our slumber is important too. Ever wondered why you wake up still feeling exhausted? You might not be achieving a deep sleep, so not getting adequate rest. We all deserve to wake up feeling refreshed.
4. FEELING LOW, ANXIOUS, AND IRRITABLE Living with chronic stress may evoke a low mood or less enthusiasm for the things we normally enjoy – such as socialising with friends.
We are also more likely to engage in negative self-talk, leaving us unable to be productive. And being stuck in a pessimistic mindset makes it difficult to actively participate in a life we love. It can be difficult to notice, but this creates a cycle that can lead to burnout.
5. PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS AND RECURRENT ILLNESS Our bodies go through so much as we forge on with our stressful schedules and routines. Low moods and anxiety (as mentioned above) sometimes manifest themselves as physical symptoms including stomach issues, shortness of breath, and migraines.
Is your stomach is churning with worry? Maybe you are skipping meals, or reaching for comfort food? Your metabolism and immune system may be suffering, leaving you prone to colds, infections, and other viruses.
True burnout is not a temporary state that will resolve itself in time and if any of what I have discussed resonates with you, please do not ignore it, speak to your GP.
I learnt this the hard way many years ago when I ended up with burnout, fatigue, and chronic pain. My dad had died, I was a people pleasing perfectionist and I was my biggest inner critic. I also partied too hard and didn't listen to the massive nudges my body was sending me. ⠀
I've studied and learned so much since then and as one of the most experienced Lightning Process practitioners, and the creator of The Live Powerfully Programme, I have supported hundreds of women experiencing the same.
I know it is possible to get back on track and thrive at life once more, however, people should not have to reach burnout or be suffering from chronic health conditions before they seek support. We have a choice when we acknowledge that ‘enough is enough’.
I passionately believe we all deserve to have a brilliant, healthy, happy life full of meaning and love.
© Kate Gare, everylife 2020