Burnout is real and can get the best of all of us. No leader is immune to burnout in either the professional or personal life. Years of collectively battling a pandemic have only made this important issue more prevalent and harder to combat. We’ve all spent a lot of time trying to navigate a new reality while trying to do the best at our jobs, and for our families and loved ones. 

Before we jump into action to combat burnout, we’ll first need to get a good understanding our ourselves, the signs of burnout, and where it can come from. 

Are you lying to yourself?

“I’m fine.”

You may think that you don’t have a problem, but burnout isn’t a short-game issue. It creeps its way into your whole life and by the time you do identify it, it’s already manifested itself in you. It’s not too late, but there is more work to do to get back to a healthy balance in life. 

Leaders can lie to themselves about their ability to set boundaries in order to manage stress, workload, and self-care. The multi-year pandemic only increased this by causing a false sense of urgency in many leaders’ workstreams. They felt like they had more to prove in a new remote work environment that they found themselves in and there was no longer a physical barrier between their work and home life. While some of those responses are natural for the increased stress levels that the pandemic created, they can’t be sustained in a healthy way. 

I’ve helped leaders that lied to themselves in order to “push through” burnout. They would coach their team on the importance of work-life balance and boundaries but then they would often be found working late into the night and on weekends as well. 

Honestly check yourself on your boundaries. Throw “normal” out of the window for this classification; there is no normal these days. Instead, look at “healthy or not” to your workload. I know a lot of leaders that going at 80% is other people 100%. Pull back in small increments and see what difference it makes in your personal and professional life. It’s highly likely that your work won’t be impacted too much negatively, but your personal-care time will see a big improvement. 

The signs of burnout

These signs are not all-encompassing. Some people experience one or two as they approach burnout, while others experience all of them. The important thing is to know yourself and your body well and to tune into changes that have and continue to occur. 

  • You lack the energy that you used to have – Early on you may feel more tired than normal and in later stages, you are outright physically, mentally, and/or emotionally exhausted. 
  • You start having physical complications – headaches, stomach issues, etc – Maybe it starts itself out as something small like an eye twitch but can increase to heart palpitations, severe pain, and chest pain. Seek your doctor’s help if you feel yourself experiencing any major physical changes. 
  • Your eating habits have changed – You may begin to stop eating as much or you take it the other way and begin to find yourself snacking more than normal. You may lose your appetite altogether and start dropping weight in later stages or you begin to put on weight as you eat to cope. 
  • Your sleep habits have changed – You find yourself moving to either extreme, perhaps you are getting a lot less sleep or you struggle to get out of bed. 
  • You no longer feel satisfaction in your personal and professional victories – This one can start out small. Maybe you aren’t excited to jump into work or you are ready to leave as soon as possible. From there, you may start avoiding additional work of taking on new projects. This can also extend into your personal life when you lose the drive and excitement that you had before. 
  • You’ve become more cynical and pessimistic – Perhaps you’ve started into more negative self-talk (EP XXX). This one can change your personality altogether. You used to be a joyful and happy person, and now you don’t see yourself or act that way. 
  • You are less productive – Here is one that shows in people you think that they can push through burnout. More time spent on work doesn’t make you more productive, it can, in fact, make you less productive. If you find yourself putting in more hours just to get the same things done that used to take you less time, then you may be experiencing a bit of burnout. 

The causes of burnout

Burnout can come from a number of directions and often finds power over you when multiple avenues come together to compound the issue. Here are just a few of the areas to be mindful of for burnout. 

  • Lack of Control
  • Unclear workplace expectations
  • Poor leadership from above
  • Work-life rhythm is off
  • Lack of support at work
  • Lack of support at home

The first step in overcoming burnout is to identify and understand that you have a problem. Next, we’ll give you actionable steps that you can take to combat and overcome burnout in yourself and a way to help your team guard themselves against it too. 

Make a better tomorrow.