I’ve thought long and hard about writing a post about burnout. Mainly because I worry that if I write about my experience of being completely burned out that people will think I can’t cope with everything, when that really isn’t the case. But, here it is!
With the nature of my job (student recruitment, so lots of travel and late nights) and just who I am in general, it becomes quite easy for me to get completely burned out during the busy periods. I’m what most people would call an old fashioned work-a-holic. So basically, I do all of the basics in my job that I’m expected to do, but then also add 500000 (lots) of additional things that I really want to accomplish, but probably don’t have the time to do, oh and I’ll say yes to ANYTHING anyone asks me to do. I’ve always been that way. It’s just my nature I guess.
Not only that, but naturally I want to add 1000 other things to my free time too, so I don’t even really give myself that much time to actually reboot and relax. I suffer from severe FOMO, even when other people aren’t doing stuff. Does that make any sense? I spend most of my evenings on my sofa, with my husband binge watching TV (if I’m not working), so when the weekend comes I have to be VERY active. I have to go out to eat because there are loads of places I haven’t tried yet, or I have to go see some of the tourist sites, or I have to go see that new movie everyone is talking about. It’s a problem…
What is burnout?
Burnout is when you reach a state of complete physical, mental and emotional exhaustion and it happens when you’re extremely stressed and/or overwhelmed. As someone with anxiety, doubting and analysing everything I do definitely doesn’t help me steer clear of burnout. For me, burnout is when I feel completely hopeless, like I can’t cope with anything at all. I end up completely devoid of motivation, and depressed.
I’m going to share some of the signs of burnout that I recognise in myself in the hope that it might help you if you’re feeling similar things. I’m by no means a medical professional, this is purely from my own experience. For more general signs/symptoms from the actual professionals, you can click here.
How I know I’m heading for or have reached burnout:
I’m completely physically exhausted.
My body gives up on me. It tries to shut down in order to actually give me a rest. One time I ended up contracting a viral blood infection and ended up in a hospital bed for a week. I actually notice the physical effects before anything else (because naturally I ignore my mind telling me things are too much). This time round, I got sciatica which is extremely painful and a NIGHTMARE in the type of job I have. I start falling asleep VERY early (I’m talking 7.30pm) and sleeping all the way through, I get a cold, I get spotty, my whole body aches for no reason at all and I get completely run down.
I get upset/angry/frustrated at the little things or feel absolutely nothing (there’s no in between).
I’m talking about crying for the smallest things, letting one person’s comment completely ruin my day, or I give absolutely zero f*cks whatsoever. I have no normal or rational emotions. It’s all or nothing. I will either have a small panic attack that someone beeped at me when I was driving, or full on swear and shout through the window (with the doors locked obviously). My emotions being completely out of whack is a very clear sign that I’m reaching burnout.
I make silly mistakes.
As I’m a perfectionist in my job, making mistakes is not usually something that happens, so this is a clear sign that I need a break for me. I’m a planner and a list maker, so I have a list for everything. A general to-do list, spreadsheets to keep track of everything and so on. I’m not a forgetful person usually, so when I start to forget things and make mistakes it means I’m doing too much and on the brink of burnout.
I binge eat. LIKE SO MUCH FOOD.
I’m exhausted all of the time, and because of this my body thinks it needs more food to give me energy, so I’m always hungry. I also bloody love eating, so I’ll have something that I REALLY enjoy, aka a packet of crisps (crisps are life) and then I’ll eat the rest of the multipack, a chocolate bar, a bag of sweets and then drown it with a 2 litre of diet coke. When I binge eat like this, I know something isn’t right. Lots of people go the complete opposite way and forget to eat, or completely lose their appetite. I’ve always been a bit of a binge eater when i’m overwhelmed/stressed so this is another clear sign for me.
How to cope with burnout:
(COPE?! I feel like I can’t, but these things do help me)
BOOK TIME OFF.
This is critical. If you’re getting to burnout stage, you need at LEAST week off of work to give yourself the time and space to relax and recalibrate. Do it. I know when I go back to work next week I’m going to have about 150 emails, but I will cope with it next week. If it was this week, there is absolutely no way I would have felt like I could cope with it. March is one of the busiest work months in my job, so I booked the first week of April off to just relax and enjoy myself and it has worked a treat. I’ve had lay ins, chilled out days, adventure days, eaten out at my favourite places and had lots of baths. Sitting in the bath for an hour works a charm.
Plan for the busy times.
On my week off, I meal prepped for the next 2 weeks worth of dinners. When work is busy, I struggle to cook and eat healthy and regularly so I cooked all of my favourite meals (it took about 2.5 hours) and they will last me and Steve the next few weeks. It’s a little thing that can and does really help. For me, spending 30-45 minutes cooking a fresh, healthy meal when I get in from a busy day is the absolute LAST thing I want to do, so having them there and ready just takes a little load off of my shoulders. Plan around you schedule too, if you plan when you fit in your chill time or exercise or whatever you like to do then it won’t feel as much like you can’t cope.
Make time for the little things.
If you make time for little bits of self-care, you’ll feel like you’re coping with everything else much more. I’m talking about the very small things like a 15 minute face mask, an hour in the bath, ordering your favourite takeaway or a 30 minute walk out in the fresh air during your lunch break. All of these little things will make you feel SO much better. At least, they make me feel better!
Burnout is one of those things that pretty much everyone experiences at some point, so I hope if you ever do experience it, that this helps.
For more of my mental health blog posts, you can click here!