I used to be someone whose motto was "I'll sleep when I'm dead", but after suffering burnout last year, I'm now 100% committed to putting my health first. As I’m back to full health now, I know that I did the right things – listening to my body, resting and taking things a little slower. As someone who teaches others how to be productive, I've seen how these things improve productivity!
Last year, I had the pleasure of chatting to Dr. Eleanor Akaho about her personal experiences of burnout. As a doctor, she has a professional understanding as well as a personal perspective, so it was fascinating to chat to her and realise that I wasn’t the only one that burnout caught off guard.
In this blog, Eleanor explains what burnout is and how it affected her. We also look at how you can recognise it and recover from it.
When I interviewed Eleanor, she explained to me that burnout is physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. You won’t be surprised to hear that the most common causes of burnout are work pressure and the stress of being a carer.
As Eleanor explains in her honest and personal video interview with me, the common signs of burnout you need to recognise include:
Eleanor tells us that the following life events can increase our chances of burnout:
Throughout your life and especially when embroiled in life-changing events, you need to regularly stop, take time out and check how well you’re coping. This goes a long way towards working out if you’re heading towards burnout.
Did you know that according to the Health and Safety's Executive’s work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2019 in the 2018-2019 financial year:
However, the problem is not limited to the UK; it is happening all around the world.
Eleanor is a qualified psychiatrist who currently works with children and adolescents. During her training and working years, she has had about three or four episodes of burnout but didn’t actually realise what it was until 2018. She told me she had been working too hard in one job, staying late trying to finish all the paperwork and not taking care of herself. Then she encountered the stress of moving from one job to another, whilst also moving home and dealing with other life events.
Like me, she didn’t see burnout coming. For her, it was one small incident that made her realise the extent of her exhaustion. She spilt something in her kitchen and when bending down to sweep it up, she felt woozy and as though she had just ran a marathon! This marked the beginning of her most severe burnout episode and she ended up taking seven weeks off work in order to stay at home, recover from the burnout and reflect on what direction she wanted her life to go in from that point on.
Angry with herself, she wondered how she had allowed it to happen and how she could stop it happening again. During her reflective period, a good friend told her a few home truths: "You don't sleep enough. You're not drinking enough water. You're running around all the time doing stuff for other people".
I think this is something a lot of us are guilty of, right?
Burnout will not go away on its own. In fact, it will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore burnout, it will only cause you further harm, so it's important that you begin recovery as soon as possible. However, recovery from burnout is often a slow journey, so be patient with yourself.
The first step towards recovering from burnout is to take time out, have lots of rest and work towards identifying why you've experienced it. As in Eleanor’s case, it can help to have an honest friend or family member who has good insight into your life. In some cases, you may need the professional support of a life coach or counsellor.
Not only is fatigue a symptom of burnout, but insomnia also ranks high on the list. In order to recover from burnout, it is essential to get enough sleep. Develop good sleep hygiene habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night, keeping your bedroom dark and cool & not using smartphones, laptops or other electronic devices before bed.
Burnout offers a hidden silver lining. It can be a positive force for change, giving you a perfect chance to reassess nearly everything about your life and your work. Take time to think about what you really want in life – your goals, priorities, future goals, etc.
If you are someone who naturally puts others needs before your own, it can be very difficult to assert yourself and say no. However, saying no is powerful tool. After all, every “yes” you say adds another thing on your plate and takes more energy away from you.
As Eleanor told me, “You need to know when to say, ‘I'm really sorry, but I'm so exhausted, I've had such a long week. I know that we made plans, but I don't think I can do that."
It is important to recognise an impending burnout. As in Eleanor’s case, are you feeling physically tired and mentally drained after little or no exertion?
In my case, I didn’t realise I was sleep deprived and didn’t see the warning signs. It was more of a mental rather than physical tiredness and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. All I knew was that I didn’t feel like me, I was finding it hard to cope and I was feeling extremely emotional.
If you are suffering burnout, you urgently need to take time out to address the underlying issues. Please feel free to get in touch, as I am happy to share my story.
Eleanor Akaho is a qualified psychiatrist who currently works with children and adolescents. She is also a certified personal development coach for women via Ellementes Coaching and has an inspiration page called Elleversation. Eleanor is a passionate advocate and teacher when it comes to topics around mental health and has taken part in several discussion panels, workshops and other events.
Eleanor is now also a published author. Her first children’s picture book – Everybody Counts
– was written during her rest period in 2018 and was published in February 2020. It is a fun, rhyming story for 4-6 year olds about celebrating diversity and embracing social inclusion.
You can find her on both Instagram and Facebook:
Habits are what gets you success and my blog, 4 Insanely easy ways to create good habits, explains four easy ways to start creating good habits to prevent burnout.
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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.
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Copyright 2020 Alice Dartnell Limited
This blog is published solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The author and publisher are not offering it as legal, accounting, health care or other professional services advice. While best efforts have been used in preparing this blog, the author and publisher make no representations or warranties of any kind and assume no liabilities of any kind with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be held liable or responsible to any person or entity with respect to any loss or incidental or consequential damages caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by the information contained herein. Every person and company are different, and the advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Alice Dartnell or Alice Dartnell Limited is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised in this blog. You should seek the services of a competent professional as appropriate. You are responsible for your own choices, actions, and results. Always consult your own General Practitioner if you're in any way concerned about your health.