By Health Coach and founder of Peppermint Wellness, Suzy Glaskie.
The funny thing about burnout is that we’re familiar with the word…but we don’t tend to recognise it when it applies to us. And yet so many of us are well on our way to burning out, particular as the clearly defined boundaries that used to exist between our work and our home lives have dissolved. Those of us who are champion multitaskers are particularly affected. Getting children ready for nursery or school, dealing with admin, caring for aging parents, food shopping… and on it goes. And that’s before we even get started on work responsibilities.
It’s often easy to overlook the signs because burnout doesn’t just announce itself one day, like chicken pox. Instead, it slowly creeps up on you over time. It’s important, though, to be on the alert for warning signs, so that we can prevent it from becoming a full-scale breakdown.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- Feeling like you just can’t ever get on top of things – no matter whatyou do.
- Struggling to sleep.
- Having difficultly focusing at work/making mistakes.
- Feeling exhausted.
- Suffering from heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches or backache.
- Loss of appetite; digestive or skin issues.
- Feeling anxious, apathetic or depressed.
- Low energy.
- A lack of joy, even at happy occasions.
- Being irritable and short-tempered.
I know these signs well…but I didn’t associate them with burnout. Back in the days when I was juggling an impossibly stressful job with looking after a baby and a three-year-old who seemed to take it in turns to be ill, I turned into a walking wreck. I was desperate to be the consummate professional I’d always been – but, grappling with chronic sleep deprivation, I was falling apart at the seams. My weight plummeted, I had a constant knot of fear in my stomach and I was struck by all manner of weird ailments, including a horrible red eye that refused to heal…until the day that I finally resigned.
Now that I’ve retrained as a health coach, I’m a lot more aware of what my body is trying to tell me. Whereas I used to plaster over the cracks, slap on more make-up, fake a smile and crack on with the job, I now recognise when I’m overstretched – and I take action.
I’m far calmer, happier and more focused now at 49 than I was at 29. Back then, I was attempting to do the impossible and was wrecking my health in the process.
My mindset around my own self-care is now radically different from how it used to be. I now make sure to put my own wellbeing to the top of my list. Here are some of the things I now do regularly as part of my self-care toolkit:
- Start the day with a morning self-care routine. You could start really small by taking three minutes to focus on your breathing or do some gentle stretches before you hit your phone.
- Respect the boundaries of my energy and be more choosy about what I commit myself to. I recognise that if I take energy out of my bank, I then need to put some energy back in!
- Schedule me-time into my diary – whether it’s going for a walk with a friend or doing a weekly yoga class.
- Pay attention to my breath – the fastest and most effective way to get back to feeling calm. One of my favourite breathing practices is 7/11: breathing in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11.