Thirty something years ago I met a business leader who was struggling to keep a business afloat. The pressure had been building for a long-time. Market conditions were hard, and they were struggling with personal problems. The bags around their eyes and their pallid complexion were indicators of the lack of sleep and exhaustion they were feeling.

They weren’t eating, were consuming copious amounts of alcohol; between one and two litres of spirits on a good day, and more when things were terrible. So much so that a doctor had warned they were months away from heart failure and/or sclerosis of the liver.

They were fast approaching total Burnout

How do you recognise Burnout?

Sadly, the above scenario is not unusual, but there are many causes of burnout. The following are my top four Symptoms.

1. Stress

2. Chronic fatigue

3 Loss of self-belief

4. Procrastination

1. Stress

Stress may lead to burnout, but whereas stress can be periodic, it is often the result of too much to do in too short a time frame. When you feel stressed, you believe you will overcome it by getting things done. When you are close to burnout you feel inadequate, and incapable of turning things around. Burnout happens over time and often results in feeling empty, isolated and both physically and mentally exhausted.

2. Chronic fatigue

A common symptom of burnout is Chronic Fatigue. This is more than tiredness; it is a feeling of exhaustion accompanied by an inability to sleep or waking up frequently. Even simple daily exercise becomes an effort. Memory, concentration, and listlessness become the norm.

3. Loss of self-belief

Where, prior to Burnout, you the individual, were decisive and quick thinking, you now question your decision making. The hitherto positive mind experiences negative thoughts about your ability. This leads to a feeling of inability to change things or hopelessness. This leads to the fourth malaise: –

4. Procrastination

You put things off or they are “kicked into the long grass” as politicians frequently describe avoiding decision making. People who have been successful will often describe procrastination as a puzzling pursuit. It’s often an early symptom.

Other symptoms include: –

  • A negative attitude – nothing will work
  • Growing apathy, towards work & life
  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • snappy & short tempered
  • neglect of exercise and self-care
  • decreased motivation
  • feeling of failure

When burnout becomes advanced and when red lights are flashing: –

  • Severe Headaches
  • inability to concentrate on anything
  • Loss of memory
  • sleep goes from poor to almost impossible
  • Alcohol, eating or other drugs are required to get some sleep
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Depression

What can you do about Burnout?       

Because burnout causes you to lose your motivation for self-care, having someone to confide in can be lifesaving. A non-judgemental confidante to help connect with your motivation and hold you to account is a great second step (after acceptance)

Changing your mental state is challenging but with patience, is possible. Start by doing something different. If you work in office, go out for a short walk at a different time to your normal break. If possible, connect with nature. Anything from taking the dog for a walk to a walk around a park. Better still, find a class. Try yoga, the meditative type preferably, as it’s your mind in need of relaxation and rest. It’s not just your body which needs a rest. The exhaustion you’re feeling is likely to be emotional exhaustion not physical.

Stress expert Carole Spiers shares her top three simple steps for beating stress and overcoming g burnout

  • Make sure you have 10 minutes ‘me’ time every day
  • Learn to say ‘no’–said nicely but you mean it!
  • Learn not to get stressed over things that are outside of your control

So what is the Number One action you must take to prevent Burnout?

I began with a story about a business leader who was struggling to keep a business afloat. Well, that person was me. My biggest mistake, and it was fatal to my business, was thinking I had to cope with it all myself.

Coaching didn’t really exist or was in its infancy, and I hadn’t heard about it. I thought Psychotherapy was for people who were mentally ill and, mistakenly thought I wasn’t. The decision was terminal for my business and almost fatal for me. I will do whatever I can to help my clients avoid the same fate. The good news is that it doesn’t need to happen.

So, the most important action, the number one thing you must do to prevent Burnout, is to acknowledge you need help. Just as the addict heals when they own the problem, so must the individual who is in danger of burnout. Loved ones and colleagues may recognise the symptoms and encourage the individual to seek help, but ultimately, it’s for them.

A skilled coach or therapist will apply whatever it takes to help you pick through and gain an understanding of what is happening to you.

I would certainly apply Hypnotherapy, as a first step to help still the mind and calm the individual. Then it would be a case of addressing the symptoms and doing the detective work to root out the cause.

With tough times ahead of us, it will subject more and more people at the sharp end of the business or Practice to stresses and challenges. If this is you, do the courageous thing and seek help. Don’t Burnout and become a glorious failure. There is nothing noble about depriving the world of your gifts. Now, more than ever, the world needs them.