If you have ongoing stress or heavy demands, whether it is work related or personal stress, and you notice you are feeling exhausted, your energy is depleted, you zone out a lot and find it difficult to focus – you may be experiencing the lead up to burnout.
Burnout is the term we use to describe mental, physical and emotional exhaustion which can happen due to prolonged periods of stress, over-working and ongoing demands. This can be because of stresses at work, demanding bosses and tight deadlines that are difficult to meet. It can also be (as it was in my case) extreme pressure you put on yourself because you are a high achiever and want every day to achieve so much.
Once you’ve reached the state of exhaustion, it’s common to struggle to think clearly for some, where on the weekends and evenings you just want to sleep when you are not working and have little energy for outings or relationships.
Some people can go so deep into it that they lose motivation to get tasks done and lose all interest, they still do things but don’t enjoy it anymore. I’ve got to this point before when I was in the corporate world, I started to dread my phone ringing. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about my work, inside I just wanted to scream – just leave me alone. If it has reached a point where you can no longer stand your work or function properly then it’s important to make changes as soon as possible. As not performing or functioning can add further stress.
I worked with a Private Equity Managing Director once who was so burnt out, so angry and stressed all the time – he shouted at all his staff. Then they would leave and he would have more stress having to hire and recruit a new team. Sadly it got to the point for him where his body gave in, the emotional negative environment he was living in made him so unwell he had to have 3 weeks in hospital. His body gave up on him in many ways. After that, he flew to Dubai to do the 3 day breakthrough and we restructured his whole way of working, released his need to have a zero inbox, to be a perfectionist and to let all self-criticism go. I choose this topic as it can severely hurt a person and of course have a massive impact on a relationship.
A study was carried out by job recruitment site “Indeed” on employees in the US to explore the impact of burnout on different groups of people and was aimed at comparing the results of burnout in different sectors before COVID and in present times. The results were very eye opening
However, burnout is not just work related, anyone who is experiencing stress for long periods of time and aren’t able to tap out and recharge themselves can suffer from burnout.
Eric contacted me as he felt his wife, Christine, was showing signs of depression and he wasn’t sure how to support her. However, in my first conversation with Christine it was clear that she was experiencing burnout. Christine shared –
“I wake up tired. I don’t get enough sleep because the baby is waking up every 3 hours and doesn’t sleep through the night, then when everyone is awake, I have to sort out breakfast, lunch, dinner, get the house sorted, make sure the two older kids have everything they need for school. I can’t sleep in the day very well and now my husband is working from home he is loud talking to his team and so I can’t relax in my own house. I’m stuck in a rut. My husband wants to have friends over on the weekend, the kids want to do activities but I can’t do much and I feel guilty. My husband has no empathy for me, he is fed up that I am tired all the time, I can’t help it and I don’t believe in letting a baby cry out he does.
He keeps suggesting I go to the gym or yoga or get my nails done, he doesn’t understand that if he gave me that 1 hour or 2 hours to myself I would just want to lie in bed and rest in peace.”
Sadly, Christine isn’t alone – According to a poll carried out by Meredith and The Harris Poll, 63% of women shared that they felt like they had already completed a full day’s work just by sorting out their family in the morning. Additionally, 48% of women reported that their symptoms of burnout were keeping them up at night too – which added more stress and exhaustion.
Whether mums are stay at home mums, working mums or entrepreneurs, there is always a huge risk of burnout because of the additional stresses of running a family home, contributing to the finances and being a wife/mother. On top of all of this there is a huge case of mum guilt.
According to online magazine Good To Know, a recent study highlighted the following statistics –
This shows that mothers feel a range of pressures – personal, professional, and financial. Mum guilt truly is real! This includes wanting a break but not being able to have a break without feeling guilty or not being able to afford childcare.
Although there are cases where fathers are the primary caregiver, a lot of studies point towards the mother bearing the brunt of all the child related responsibilities – regardless of whether they were working mothers or stay at home mums which adds to the feeling of burnout.
This of course must apply to men who are hands on parents, that share the responsibility or take on more of the childcare responsibility – just there are less studies in this area.
I want to stress here that burnout is not just a term we throw around for someone who is simply feeling tired or slightly stress, it is used to describe someone who is experiencing chronic stress (stress over a long period of time) and struggle on a mental, physical and emotional level.
The World Health Organization have recognized burnout as a syndrome that is now included in the International Classification of Diseases. So, if you can relate to anything I have discussed so far, I hope the following information helps.
Psychologist and author of “Mommy Burnout” states – “people experiencing burnout suffer from fatigue, cynicism, lack of motivation, headaches, chest tightness, stomachaches, nausea, hair loss and even increased crying.”
This supports the idea that burnout is much more than just normal stress, it has a much deeper impact on physical and emotional wellbeing.
In fact, according to “Science of People”, burnout has the following impacts on your brain –
Ok so we know the science behind burnout, however, it is just as important to understand the causes of burnout.
The most common causes of burnout are –
This is one of the biggest reasons why parents experience burnout as often, with small babies, it is not physically possible to have a full night’s sleep. Not having that chance to recharge or relax, builds up the pressure and stress levels. Some parents do well do divide it, for example one person does 4am onwards and goes to bed early say at 8 or 9pm and the other parent does 9pm to 4am and then sleeps from 4am to 11am or whenever they wake up. I have seen that work for couples.
When we feel low, we feel lethargic, we have no drive because the world seems gloomy, and any traumatic past experiences will keep cropping up because they are triggered by things that are happening now. For example, if you grow up being told you’re not clever or worthy of good things and then your boss calls you in for a meeting to discuss your work – even if they have shared good points, you will focus on the things you can improve on and feel like you can’t cope, and you may live in fear of losing your job. Feeling like this over a long period of time with no release can cause burnout.
If any of these points ring a bell for you and feel like you are experiencing at least one of these symptoms, you may find it helpful to understand the 5 stages of burnout. Which I will share in the next podcast and what you can do about the 5 stages of burnout.