The statistics about burnout are pretty sobering – here in the UK, women are 60% more likely to suffer from it than men. If we’re going to change those stats, the first stage is knowing exactly what we’re talking about: what does burnout feel like, and what can we do about it before, or if, it sets in?
We had an amazing discussion over in the Facebook group recently all about what burnout feels like. I’m talking the specifics: physically, mentally and emotionally. It sparked some incredible shares from so many courageous and capable women, all of whom knew straight away what burnout out felt like. (If you’ve been there, take a second to think – how would you put it into words?)
What blows me away is how many common threads there are in our experience. If you’ve felt like this before (heck, maybe you’re feeling like this right now) the most important thing to take away from this is: you’re not alone.
Here’s what you need to watch out for:
What burnout feels like: 6 signs it’s time to press pause
1. Burnout is exhausting
“Burnout is waking up in the morning feeling pinned to the bed wondering how you will possibly move your limbs to get out”
Yes, we’re all tired from time to time. But when you’re struggling to get up in the morning, every morning, don’t give yourself a hard time.
It may well be a sign that it’s time to ask for some extra support. If exhaustion’s a recurring issue, ask yourself if you might be heading towards burnout.
2. Burnout is confusing
When capable, intelligent women find their brains just aren’t working, burnout’s likely to be the cause.
“A grey cloud fogging my brain”
“It stops me from making clear decisions and fuels self-doubt and inertia”
When we can’t think straight, more often than not, burnout’s the culprit.
3. Burnout is lonely
Burnout sneaks in to make us feel as though we’re all on our own. Words like “isolated”, “alone” and “cut off” came up again and again when women reflected on their experiences.
The truth is, you’re not alone – this is a really common experience, and one that there are so many people willing to help you through. It’s with the support of those around you, and communities like ours at One of many that you’ll find your way back out again.
4. Burnout is constricting.
“It feels like being behind bars”
“Like being stuck in the middle of a whirlwind of panic and impossibility”
We can be so quick to blame ourselves when we’re stuck, but the truth is real possibilities open up once we’re back on track and feeling taken care of.
Are you really out of options, or is overwhelm to blame?
5. Burnout is physical
It might not have a medical diagnosis, but our bodies are often the first to give us powerful indications that something’s up.
“It feels like a metallic ‘taste’ in my whole body”
“Thinking causes physical pain in my head and I can’t get my face to smile”
For you it might be a sensation in your throat, tummy or shoulders. Learn to spot it early, and you’ll be able to get the support you need before it gets too much.
6. Burnout isn’t you
“It feels like I am not me”
“Like being an imposter in your own life”
“As though I have lost the essence of me”
When things get too much, it can feel as though we’ve failed somehow. When the truth is, these are all signs that it’s time for a break. You’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and it’s time to stop and replenish yourself to get back to who you really are.
Getting out of overwhelm
If you’re starting to notice some of the signs of burnout right now, there are some simple things you can do straight away to start to turn things around.
From frantic to fruitful is a free online training I run to help get you off the treadmill and back to a space where you feel calm and in control of everything that’s on your plate. Click here to book your spot on this powerful webinar and discover a simple but counter-intuitive step-by-step approach to overwhelm.
Another exercise I’ve found really helpful to get you out of that emotional fear-based “I’ve fallen short” feeling is to consciously tap into a “celebrating and acknowledgement” phase. Start to get present to what you have achieved, instead of focusing on everything you haven’t done.
Grab a pen and paper and reflect on what you have achieved over the past six months or year. Take some time to look back and recognize what outcomes and intentions you did bring to fruition.
Even if they are smaller in number or magnitude to what you had hoped, look at the less-obvious intentions you’ve achieved
Having done that, you’ll see that, you know what? Often what’s wearing you out, more than the actual pace, more than what’s on your plate is a conflict between perhaps what you intend for yourself – your big goals and high expectations – and where you are on your journey.
Recognizing that, you may find that you can discover a new perspective that takes the pressure off and gives you space to be able take better care of yourself and be grateful for how far you’ve come.
For me, going through this process gives me access to an energy which is forgiving, nurturing and nourishing. And I hope that you’ll be able to do the same, if you recognise some of the signs of burnout starting to creep up. Challenge yourself to be gentler. Challenge yourself to pull your goals back.
If you’re nice to yourself, you might just discover that you can be more, do more, and give more than you ever thought possible.
Feeling particularly stuck?
Sometimes we are so burned out that no amount of positive reflection on our own is going to help. You may well need professional support- medical or otherwise.
Don’t be embarrassed. This is all too common in women, and very frequent symptom of what we affectionately call “Superwoman Syndrome”.
If this feels like the situation for you and you’re not sure which way to head, please reach out to one of our team by booking a call here. We are more than happy to help you determine whether this is something that can be handled with some gentle slowing down and coaching, or whether you need to seek other professional help.
Burnout is a biggie. Let’s help each other recognise it, heal it, and shift the culture to prevent it.
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