Burnout :: Have You Lost Yourself And How To Recover If You Have!

You’ve lost your flame, your essence, and not much excites you anymore. Forget soul-stirring passions, it’s a good day if you care about matching socks! You sleep, but rarely feel rested upon awakening. The usual things that once left you feeling refueled no longer make a dent in your recovery or outlook. Burnout, whether personal or professional, often comes from choosing a high pressure career that is emotionally draining, or having too much on your plate. In addition to career demands, you may be juggling the needs of others—children or aging parents. In my private practice, my therapy and coaching clients describe feelings of exhaustion and overwhelm by the seemingly ordinary tasks of daily living. I have many clients complaining of long hours and added responsibility which they attribute to cutbacks and corporate greed. My clients describe feeling undervalued and disrespected in the workplace. Many are very experienced and are tasked with the responsibility of training colleagues who are inexperienced or younger and therefore hired because they can be paid less. Many have jobs that carry a great deal of responsibility with little reward which can feel hard on the soul.

How do you know you have burnout? There are many physical and emotional symptoms of burnout. They may include loss of joy, fatigue and exhaustion and behavior or cognitive problems such as agitation, forgetfulness and apathy. Stress manifests in many ways and a good physician can help you determine if stress is showing up in your body. Something is off and you may not even know what’s wrong especially for those who are over achievers. Getting support for professional or personal burnout will help you in your recovery. While the thought of visiting a psychotherapist fills many with terror, it may be helpful to see a professional just to talk, vent or express the emotions that you cannot do with a spouse, family member, friend or colleague. Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s very proactive and smart.

Quitting your job may not be the best solution right now, or it may be, I don’t know. However, your mind and body is screaming for some kind of relief. Wouldn’t it be nice if the throngs of overworked and undervalued people working for the corporate machine would stand up for themselves and say “enough” or “no!” That’s not likely to happen. So how could you be helped to say no where you can and set some appropriate boundaries. Setting goals is a valuable plan and often gets lost when managing all the other responsibilities that are consuming your life. Goals can help you carve out time for joyful activities or hobbies, friends and family. Staying focused on life-goals or the “big picture” can make it easier to set appropriate limits and boundaries with problem people and situations.

What are some common symptoms of personal and professional burnout?

  • You escape with behaviors that numb such as excessive drinking, eating or drugs

  • You lose your patience easily or you experience agitation

  • You experience physical exhaustion

  • You have a sense of dread

  • You experience problems falling asleep or staying asleep

  • You feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities

  • You experience frustration and anger

  • You feel hopeless about work and life

  • You feel anxious and depressed or have mental health symptoms that are new

  • You have difficulty finding joy in your life and you’ve lost interest in your usual activities

  • You experience physical symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, body pain, body tension, headaches, stomach complaints, and more (please see a doctor about these)

So, what’s happening with you? Together, we will focus on some important questions regarding your symptoms, including any anger, frustration and resentment that has now become an extra burden to manage in addition to tracking changes in health and emotional concerns. Sometimes burnout recovery therapy or coaching includes keeping a log or journal of your stressors, responsibilities and projects as well as symptoms in the body. This seems like one more thing to do, but it’s an important step to helping you develop awareness and mindfulness in ways that can help you heal. There may be practical solutions that you’re missing or unable to see that may be obvious to another.

Your body talks to you. Long-term stress can have a deleterious impact on health and well-being. When I work with clients on concerns related to burnout, we focus on body symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, aches and generalized pain, body tension, insomnia and digestion problems. I’m happy to consult with your doctor once you are cleared for an exercise plan. Meditation for even brief periods of time can be incredibly restorative. My clients who experience sleep problems will also receive help that targets this important symptom so that they may begin to recover.

Many high-achieving people are also people-pleasers by nature and thus experience burnout. This quality develops for many reasons, but digging a bit deeper to discover how this has served you but does not serve you now is a helpful intervention. You can be successful, high-achieving, responsible and well-liked and also take care of YOU and your needs.