There seems to be a worrying increase in the number of clients who visit me with all the symptoms of what used to be called “executive stress,” but is now more accurately described as burnout.
To find out how well you are coping with the pressures of life, try answering the questions at the foot of this blog, giving yourself a score ranging from 0 for “Not At All” up to 5 for “All The Time”.
If your score is 0-30 then you are one of the lucky ones who enjoy their work and are able to cope with the pressures of life. However, before you get too smug, just look at any of the questions which scored 4 or 5 and think about how you could improve things for yourself.
If you scored 31-55 then you need to start looking after yourself. Think about how you might change what’s happening. You are very rarely without the power to effect change, you just need to find the right levers to pull. If you really do feel helpless, then it’s time to seriously consider a change of job, career or circumstances.
If you scored 55+ then you are definitely at risk. Now is the time to do something about it. Take back some of the time the company is stealing from you. Don’t get in quite so early. Take a lunch break, even if it’s only half an hour. Leave a bit earlier every day. Make it a rule to only work a set number of hours at the weekend – and then only if you really have to. Weekends should be for you, not your employer. If you don’t make changes, then you are running the risk of burnout.
I always explain the process of burnout to my clients in terms of our personal energy being like petrol and diesel oil.
Our everyday energy is like petrol; it is lighter, more easily consumed but is easier to regenerate with a good night’s sleep. It’s what nature provides to keep us fit and healthy, both physically and emotionally.
By contrast, the heavier energy is thick and oily, like diesel. It is the energy which we need to dip into at times of prolonged stress and difficulty. It burns more slowly and we have deep reserves but it is replaced only very slowly. So working longer hours than are sensible, worrying and fretting continuously, feeling frustrated and trapped leads eventually to this heavy energy becoming exhausted, creating a feeling of being unable to cope with anything at all. At this point the brain goes into a self-defence mode which creates a state of exhausted torpor. I experienced this years ago and for a week couldn’t make the decision between wanting a cheese or a ham sandwich for lunch. I was physically too tired to even think about it. I just wanted to sit and either cry or sleep. After a week or so my heavy energy began to reassert itself and my brain began to come back on-line, but for weeks afterwards it was very difficult to do more than just go through the motions of daily life while my body continued to replenish my energy store and restore my normal vitality.
If you wonder if you are close to burnout, then perhaps this questionnaire will help you take an objective view of life….
|Do you find yourself feeling increasingly tearful or sorry for yourself?|
|Do you have repetitive negative thoughts running through your head, especially relating to your job?|
|Are you increasingly impatient with the people you work with?|
|Do even trivial problems become huge ones in your mind?|
|Do you feel that you are doing other people’s work for them and that you can’t take on any more?|
|Are you feeling trapped by the need to earn money but not being able to find another job?|
|Do you feel bullied by senior staff or that you are given unachievable targets/tasks?|
|Do you dream of getting a new job or a new career with less hassle and stress?|
|Do you work evenings and weekends to the detriment of your family & friends, and yourself?|
|Do you feel unfilled by your work?|
|Are you frustrated your job and the management structure around it?|
|Are you angry at having to take short cuts or having too little time to do a thorough job?|
|Do you find that you are too busy dealing with today to plan properly for tomorrow?|
|Do you find that you sleep poorly and/or have stress dreams (eg. trying to find your way to a meeting through a maze of corridors, wearing only a bathrobe to work, being anxious to get somewhere but being frustrated at every turn etc)?|
|Do you feel totally exhausted at the end of each day?|