Why nearing burnout in your career can be a good thing.
‘I didn’t realise when I started your career coaching programme that there would also be so much personal development and support for my wellbeing’ Mandy commented during our consolidation final session together. She was delighted with her new lease of life but hadn’t appreciated from the outset that this would be the outcome – along with the renewed career direction that she had signed up for.
Working in a high pressure, corporate career when I first met her, Mandy was putting in long hours, travelling extensively, grabbing food on the go, using alcohol to help her switch off at night and feeling constantly fatigued, negative and drained. She felt overwhelmed and irritable and had little to no time, let alone inclination, left at the end of the day to attend to self-care.
She had also grown increasingly resentful of the soul-sucking treadmill she found herself caught up in and came to coaching questioning her career direction.
Nearing Impending Burnout
What Mandy didn’t realise, because it happens so gradually, is that when you are working very hard, and carrying a lot of responsibility, stress hormones are slowly but steadily building up in your body. The impact of these stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine) is huge.
Your mind gets so busy, so attuned to dealing with problems at hand, that you have trouble switching it off and sleeping at night. The fatigue that accompanies this – akin to a fog in the brain- then impairs your ability to concentrate, disrupts your ability to make decisions, and your creativity, intuition and social skills disappear leaving you feeling angry and irritable and with a strong desire to withdraw from social situations.
Left unchecked this accumulative stress can lead to adrenal fatigue and the breakdown of your immune system, and ultimately can lead to anxiety, panic attacks and depression. As a former mental health clinician I am attuned to spotting these signs and work holistically with my clients to help them re-align their energies – and priorities – so they can make better career and life choices going forward.
So if this accurately describes your current reality – how can you turn things around?
- Becoming aware is half the battle
For Mandy the reflective space of the coaching sessions allowed her to take a mental step back from the treadmill and re-evaluate what was important to her. In an early session of the programme we explored her values – in her career and wider life – and she realised how important her value of wellbeing was to her functioning – and ultimately to her satisfaction in her career and wider life – and yet this value was the one most neglected in her day to day reality.
She also became increasingly aware of the self-defeating daily behaviours she had got caught up in and began to take charge to incrementally change these – for example slowly reducing her alcohol and caffeine intake and substituting healthy snacks and water to sustain her during long car journeys.
- Learn to mentally switch off
Next we tackled Mandy’s negative thinking and the incessant thought loops of rumination and worry that had led to her feeling negative about herself and then comfort eating and making poor choices in the past.
The fastest way to switch off the incessant chatter in our brains, step out of overdrive and reconnect with our bodies is using our breath – we can change how we feel simply by changing how we breathe – specifically slowing our breathing; breathing deeply from the diaphragm and lengthening our exhale compared to our inhale.
In fact a really effective way to switch off the mental chatter is to practice mindfulness – which combines deep breathing whilst also observing the thoughts that arise in the mind. A 2013 University of Oxford study showed participating in an online mindfulness course reduced stress by 40% and anxiety levels by 58% after one month.
Mandy began to practice mindfulness for ten minutes a day – using an app like Headspace, Insight Timer or Calm – and gradually, over time, she began to feel calmer, more positive about herself, her sleep quality improved and she was more able to think clearly and make better decisions during her day.
- Manage your energy
Then we turned our attention to Mandy’s energy levels throughout the day – looking at activities that replenished her as well as those that drained her.
Not unlike the technology we have become so reliant on we need to recharge our batteries regularly in order to perform at our best and meet the demands of our ever changing workplaces and wider lives. However most of us are not aware of the differing types of energy we all utilise – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual – and the need to replenish all of these in order to perform at our best.
Once she was aware of the importance of these Mandy resumed her gym sessions; created time to connect with friends and family; carried on utilising mindfulness and began to consciously use her values to make decisions to shape her career and wider life. This brought her more happiness, more meaning, and a sense that she was back on track.
- Recognise the hidden gift
When you hit the proverbial wall and are in the middle of a burnout experience, it might not feel like much of a gift. You might feel like you are spinning on a proverbial wheel with no end in sight. However as Einstein once said, our biggest problems are never solved at our current level of thinking.
As Mandy discovered when you use coaching to take the time to step back, slow down and reflect; carefully discern what is most important to you and your health and happiness – and adjust and follow through on the necessary changes – great things can come out of it – both for your future career path and wider health and happiness.
Over to You
What helps you deal with the constant daily treadmill? How do you switch off and replenish your energy? I’d love to hear from you.
Need more help to overcome burnout and get your career back on track?
Take a look at my coaching programmes on my website here. Or fill in the form here to arrange a FREE, no obligation Clarity and Confidence Consultation to help you get some clarity on the situation you are facing and move forward with confidence.