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The Cycle of Burning Out How to Watch for Signs of Burnout

Burnout is a culmination of cognitive, physical and emotional exhaustion. Typically, burnout comes as a result of unmanageable stress and prolonged fatigue. It is the overload and strain we put on our physical and mental health.

Ultimately, the stress that you put on yourself leads to serious consequences, both mentally and physically. It can often be summed up as a total breakdown of your body.

Neglect Burnout

When you feel helpless, incompetent or unable to keep up with the daily demands you face, whether at work or home. This type of burnout can start with demotivation and passivity.

Overload Burnout

When your goal-getting mindset means that you don’t let anything stop you in the search for success. For example, you are willing to risk your personal life and health to achieve the pinnacle of your career.

Underwhelm Burnout

If you feel bored, underappreciated, under-stimulated and under-challenged, you can end up distancing yourself from work and not being able to enjoy the activities you used to love. You may avoid responsibility and ultimately have an overwhelming sense of disengagement and helplessness.

All three of these types of burnout can cause an overwhelming sense of overload. This is where you can’t see beyond your current, exhausting and often soul-destroying situation.

The Cycle Of Burning Out

Burning out can feel like a tunnel you are trapped in, and the more you try to get out, the further down the tunnel you feel. You may try to get out of the tunnel. Usually, this is by working harder believing there will be respite when you ‘finish’ your work mountain. Alternatively, it may be that you just do nothing to change your current situation or know how to fix the root cause.

It is such a common misconception that the only answer when reaching the burnout point is to do even more. You may believe that working harder will lead to you feeling more organised, or that you can just work through this tricky spot.

The problem is when trying to work through burnout; you end up giving yourself more stress, as well as more things to do. The problem usually gets worse rather than better. This is because exhaustion, tiredness and a busy mind mean you are not able to do anything properly. This is where mistakes can happen. You end up giving yourself twice the workload as you have to correct your errors.

Do You Know When You’re Burning Out?

There is a fine line between stress and reaching the point of burnout. Here are some of the signs to look out for;

Stress can cause you to feel tired and have less energy; however, burnout is when you dread doing anything because you are completely exhausted.

Your current stressful situation is leading you to have more frequent headaches, so you try to work from home when you can. Burning out, however, is when your weakened immune system can no longer cope, and you’re frequently ill with colds and flu as well as infections.

You may find that you are forgetful or struggle to concentrate during high-stress periods. However, burning out will mean you cannot focus on anything – at work or home – meaning every activity takes longer.

Stress and burning can lead to addictions, such as alcohol and smoking. For periods of stress, you may end the day with a glass of wine to relax before bed. When you are facing burnout, you may think it is impossible to relax without alcohol.

Sleep can also suffer. In stressful situations, you may find you struggle to drop off or wake up throughout the night. In a burnout situation, sleep problems may be a nightly occurrence.

How To Recover From Burnout

  • Remember, burnout isn’t a sign that you’re weak; it is a sign you are doing too much.

  • Focus on mindful activities that calm your mind and switch off the constant chatter.

  • Prioritise your sleep with a wind-down hour before bed and allow yourself 7-9 hours of interrupted sleep.

  • Find ways to stimulate your creativity through fun activities that you enjoy.

  • Put time to relax in your diary – this will be the only way to block out time for you.

  • Remember the number of hours you work is not a competition or a badge of honour.

  • Give your phone use a schedule and switch your devices off when it’s out of hours.

  • Talk to someone; you are not alone in facing a burnout struggle.

  • Remember who you are and focus on what you want to be, not what you ‘do’.

Maintain a healthy diet

Due to your responsibilities as a leader, you may forget to take breaks and eat meals. This is a habit you should avoid. After all, maintaining a healthy diet has been proven to result in a lower level of burnout symptoms. This is because the stomach and central nervous system are tightly linked. When healthy food is consumed, the brain takes this as a good sign and allows for positive mood changes. Before your workday starts, plan your meals. Include fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates like bread, and protein in your dishes. At work, make sure you take breaks to eat and rest. If you cannot afford to take breaks, then have healthy snacks on hand like nuts or chopped fruit. Plus, remember to stay hydrated, as this is a part of maintaining your health for burnout prevention.

Become more mindful

One common strategy that is being taught to reduce employee, management, and leadership stress is mindfulness. The more present and mindful you are as a leader, the easier it is to lead from a place of empowerment and ease, than a state of disease. The more you learn to slow down and focus on one task or person at a time, the more mindful you will be of your thoughts, actions, and reactions. This naturally improves a leader’s awareness of self and others.

Set boundaries at work

As a leader that people depend on, you may have a difficult time rejecting additional tasks or favours that are outside your workload. This can be a common cause of burnout because it burdens you with more responsibility outside your usual workload. To conquer this, learn to say no to additional tasks. Know your responsibilities at work and stick to doing those. To politely decline, you can tell the person “Sorry, but I already have prior commitments” or “Sadly, I am not qualified for that type of task”. Acknowledging your limits is better than taking on too much and wanting to give up midway. By learning to say no, you can prevent the stress that can lead to burnout.

Properly distribute tasks

Micromanaging is a habit that many leaders fall into. Because they want everything to be perfect and according to their standard, they tend to hover over everyone and their jobs. However, trying to manage every little thing can quickly cause you to burn out. Instead, communicate to your team your goals and visions. Tell them how you want a project to turn out and why it has to turn out that way. When you do this, they will know exactly what you want to see. As a result, they’ll perform their tasks in a way that reaches your goals. You are then able to better trust your team and properly distribute tasks, thus preventing burnout.

STOP and take breaks

Working through lunch and tea breaks is an unhealthy habit that many leaders and employees fall into. This chronic busyness and often inability to switch off and relax is a major cause of chronic anxiety, chronic stress, and chronic burn-out. It is important to lead by example, and take time to switch off throughout the day. Even short 5-minute breaks can help move the mind, body, and emotions off the stress response.

Learn how to relax

Forms of relaxation have been proven to reduce stress in individuals. In a test group of people who performed muscle relaxation techniques, it has been found that their stress and anxiety lessened after the activity. Take time to practice relaxation techniques to prevent leadership burnout. Progressive muscle relaxation techniques can help. Some are a simple two-step process that only takes 10-20 minutes. The first step is to tense particular muscle groups in your body, such as the neck and shoulders. Next, release the tension and pay attention to how your muscles feel as you relax them. This helps lower overall tension and stress, helping the body enter a state of relaxation. As a leader, you are vulnerable to experiencing burnout due to your responsibilities. However, you can conquer this using the natural ways listed above and will soon be back in top leadership shape.


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