In partnership with Guernsey Mind.
Recently, after six challenging years as Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern surprised the world by announcing that she would be stepping back from her role as New Zealand’s leading lady. Her candid resignation speech resonated with many around the world as she described how she simply no longer had the energy to carry on with the challenges that come with the role, showing once again what it means to be a modern leader by setting boundaries and prioritising mental health on a global scale.
But she's not the only one. You don't have to be holding a high powered job to know you have too much on your plate. Regardless of who you are and what your job is, the physical and emotional exhaustion that we identify as burnout can hit any one of us. In fact, burnout has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ and a recent survey revealed that 88% of UK employees have experienced at least some form of burnout over the past two years.
But with bills to pay and mouths to feed, for most of us resigning is simply not an option. So we have to learn to recognise the signs and avoid burnout before it happens.
Spotting the warning signs that you might be headed for burnout and taking the time to make some changes can help you prevent it, according to Mind. There are seven early warning signs of burnout, as set out by Dr Rangan Chatterjee, who describes burnout as ‘a type of chronic, unmanaged stress that has significant consequences for our physical and mental health’.
The signs to look out for are:
Feeling physically exhausted and tired all the time. This is beyond needing an early night. If you wake up tired, go to bed tired and generally have no energy, then you are physically exahusted.
This is usually expressed through irritability and a cynical outlook on life. It can be the little things that annoy you and bother you, when they never would have been an issue before.
Withdrawal from people around you because you simply don’t feel you have the energy to socialise and don’t get the same pleasure you used to from time spent with family and friends.
Inability to find pleasure in things you used to enjoy. They’ve simply become too much effort and another thing to do, rather than something that makes you happy.
When things like eating healthy meals, going to bed at your regular time and making time for exercise all fall by the wayside, it's time to recognice that you are not looking after yourself.
When you know what you should be doing, but you just can’t seem to take any form of action to make it happen, often leading to a feeling of disappointment in yourself.
This can be in both your work and personal life and extends to things like struggling to multi-task or even think of solutions for the most simple of tasks in your everyday life.
Dr Chatterjee uses a rubber band analogy to describe the cumulative effect of stress and its correlation with burnout. A rubber band can be stretched and bounce back to its original form, just as we can deal with a certain amount of stress and get on with things. But over time, with persistent stretching the rubber band starts to lose elasticity and eventually it can’t return to its original shape. Sound familiar? Luckily, unlike a rubber band, there are things you can do to reverse the effects of burnout and get your bounce back.
All of these symptoms can creep up on you, so recognising there may be a problem is a good place to start taking back control of your life. And the good news is that by reading this, you are doing exactly that. The next step is to do something about it. So, together with Guernsey Mind, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you take back control of your life.
Speak to family and friends so that they understand if you have become more distant or irritable. They are your primary support system, so it’s important they understand how you are feeling.
Look at your calendar, at home and at work, to prioritise the important stuff and see if you can lighten the load. Remember, it’s ok to say no sometimes.
Make time to recharge. This isn't a selfish act. Go for a ten minute walk every day to clear your mind, make time for some lunchtime meditation at the library or to cook yourself a proper meal and maybe do some stretches before bed. Rest is also really important for your physical and emotional recovery, so if an afternoon on the sofa feels like a luxury, take it. And set yourself up well for a good night’s sleep with our tips here.
It's easy to get caught in a cycle of thinking in a negative way. Sometimes we have to actively turn that around in our minds by looking for the positive until it starts to become more natural. Challenge unhelpful thoughts and find a different way of looking at them with 5 Ways To Worry Less.
Reflect on your work situation and recognise if there are red flags linked to everyday tasks. If you feel anxious every time you receive an email or you’re filled with dread when your manager approaches, think about the why. Speak to your HR manager or a trusted colleague and find out what support is available to you at work. Encourage systems around you. You don't have to be at breaking point to need help. Prevention is key. Guernsey MIND offers Wellbeing Training and advice which can help to transform the workplace environment with just a few small changes.
Finish work on time. Try to switch off by setting clear boundaries between work and home so that you have an opportunity to recharge and refocus. If you work at home, create an end of work day ritual like writing your to do list for the next morning and putting your laptop away, so you can focus on your evening at home.
Many of us don't, so book some holiday time. You don’t need to travel to exotic locations to benefit from time off work and by taking time to rest, the time you do spend at work will be more productive.
If you feel you need professional help, reach out to your GP, or get in touch with Guernsey Mind for details of support and services you can access locally if you have concerns about your mental health.
You might also want to take a look at Where to Find Mental Health Support in Guernsey.