According to the World Health Organization, burnout is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”
Earlier this year I burnt out.
I never thought it could or would happen to me. After all, I have my own business, I can take time off to recharge my batteries whenever I need to.
Except, I didn’t.
I worked myself into the ground – either hosting residential retreats or creating online retreats – without realising. It was only when I was diagnosed with malignant glaucoma in September that I realised I had been overdoing it.
All I knew was that I had to make my business work to be able to provide for myself and my menagerie…and that I was feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, beyond caring, as if I had arrived at the end of the road, as if I had nothing more to give.
Burnout is a gradual process. It doesn’t happen overnight, it insidiously creeps up on you. The symptoms were subtle at first, but become worse as time went on. Initially, I just felt tired and drained most of the time and I was more vulnerable to infections, I got one cold after the other, and even COVID, once. I also had frequent headaches, loss of appetite, indigestion and insomnia.
I just thought I was stressed, I assumed this to be normal when one starts a new business.
But then I started feeling too exhausted to function. I felt demotivated, frustrated, irritated, impatient, disillusioned, detached, defeated and trapped.
Do you feel the same?
If you think you may suffer from burnout, ask yourself:
- Does getting out of bed feel like too much trouble? If not near impossible?
- Do you have to drag yourself to work and do you have trouble starting anything once you get there?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with others at work and at home?
- Do you feel drained, your productivity has taken a nose-dive and your energy levels are at rock bottom?
- Do you find it nearly impossible to concentrate? Even for 5 minutes?
- Have you lost your appetite? Or are you comfort eating? Or very unhealthily?
- Do you have insomnia? Or early morning awakening? Or do you sleep erratically and wake up exhausted?
If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, you need to have a word with your doctor. If you answered mostly “no” but you wonder if you are resilient enough to avoid burnout, you can take this quick quiz.
This article first appeared in the Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter on LinkedIn