What is it about this time of year that pushes 'busyness' over the top? Artificial deadlines appear for things that must be finished by the end of the year. Then there's the Christmas preparation overhead. No wonder we feel like we're running on empty.
If you’re feeling stressed and time poor, rest assured you’re not alone. Latest figures from the Race Against Time Report, show that balancing work and family remains a big issue for Australian men and women, with around 40% of women and 30% of men feeling often or always rushed or pressed for time.
The report shows how the sharing of household tasks, longer working longer hours (including more early starts, late finishes and weekends at the office) and more time spent commuting are all impacting the quality of our lives. It also seems that the more we earn, the less free time we have, with those in the upper quartile having between 1.5 and 2 hours less per day to play than those in the lower quartile.
Seems like ‘busyness’ is a way of life but it’s not necessarily good for us. Left unchecked, this state of being can lead to a nasty dose of the Burnout Blues.
What are the Burnout Blues?
The Burnout Blues (BBs) are a side effect of relentless 21st-century living. They feed on society’s expectations, an unhealthy lifestyle of too much work, lack of direction, time and purpose, loneliness, and disempowering beliefs.
Put simply, the BBs create an abiding and ever-increasing sense of despair, discontent, disenchantment, and disconnect. Rarely attributable to one definable cause, they start slowly and gradually pervade every part of a sufferer’s life.
A chronic, insidious condition, the BBs have become a way of being for many people. They feel powerless to control or change anything, yet often invest a lot of energy, time and emotion ineffectively trying to control and change everything. Nothing they do alters the outcome and prolonged sufferers inadvertently become sitting duck victims.
The BBs are a common response to the pressures of juggling work and life, though not a clinically diagnosable mental condition. However, failure to recognise and address them can lead to prolonged anxiety, exhaustion, physical illness and depression. So… how are you feeling? Let’s see if you’re suffering from the Burnout Blues.
Top 5 Burnout Blues Symptoms
While there are over 20 common symptoms of the Burnout Blues, here are five that may be familiar. If you had to rate how often you’ve experienced these over the last year (0 = never ? 5 = all the time), what score would you give yourself for these:
Symptoms Beliefs Typical feelings
1. Stress……………..……. too much to do, too little time …………………… pressured
2. Demotivated………….. whatever………………………………………………….. bored
3. Frustration…………….. my best is never good enough………………………. irritated
4. Controlling…….. if it’s going to be right, I have to do it myself…………….. inflexible
5. Guilt…………………. I can’t say no or let people down……………….. compromised
If you scored 3 or above for any of these, don’t despair. We all inhale the exhaust fumes of life yet it is possible to filter out those which contribute to the Burnout Blues. By identifying the cracks in your life that need attention, you can take out the polyfiller and repair them.
Top 3 Tips for Beating the Burnout Blues
Simple life repairs and renovations now will prevent major problems further down the track. Here are some actions you can take right now to stop the rot setting in:
1. Step back and notice how you respond to events
One of the most common reasons we suffer the Burnout Blues is that we ‘buy in’ to the drama and invest precious emotional energy in it. Notice how you feel when your work phone rings while you’re having dinner with the family at night. When work pressure increases, the stress levels of those around you quickly rise. Before you know it, you’re also time poor, stressed out and struggling to maintain perspective. This often leads to an instinctive reaction, driven by your fight or flight reflex as you go into an auto-pilot survival mode.
Mentally step back, as if you’re a fly on the wall, and simply notice what’s happening, without reacting. Take a walk outside and give yourself space before consciously deciding how you will respond to the situation. Ask yourself, how do I need to be to manage this situation effectively? By consciously choosing how you’ll respond, you create the ability to conserve your energy, maintain perspective and know that ‘this too will pass’.
2. Instigate a ‘Be Kind to Me’ Strategy
The busier we get, the more we tend to neglect ourselves. Believing it to be ‘selfish’ to put ourselves first, we mistakenly focus on helping others while our own energy bucket empties out. Before you know it, you’ve become tired, unfit and struggling to get everything done.
Although it may seem initially counterintuitive, putting yourself first is vital. When you carve out time each day to do something that refills your energy reserves, you’re much better placed to help others. What’s more, when your wellbeing is regularly nurtured, you have more capacity, opportunity and perspective.
What’s one thing you can do every day to take care of you?
3. Keep what’s working well and ‘ditch’ the rest.
Nothing’s all bad and it’s important to recognise the parts of your career and life that are working well. What parts are OK or even terrific and what have you done to make them this way? Having identified your success strategy for these parts of your life, how can you apply them to the other areas?
For example – I’m pretty successful at resolving problems at work by taking time to understand them first, involving and listening to others and agreeing on what ‘fixed’ looks like. This is a strategy you could also use at home to encourage your partner and children to share more of the household tasks.
Whatever’s not working has to go or change. Identify the main contributors to your Burnout Blues. Specifically, what’s the main cause of your anxiety, exhaustion and discontent? If it’s your job – what’s within your control that you can change? If the work is no longer fulfilling, interesting and enjoyable, maybe it’s time for a career change.
Consciously reducing tasks that add little value is immediately liberating. Seriously, if you don’t check your emails every 5 minutes, will it really matter in a hundred years? Close email and check your messages 3 times a day instead and notice how much more you get done.
The pressures of 21st century living are not going away anytime soon. However, there’s far more within your control than you may think and living with the Burnout Blues doesn’t need to be inevitable.
So what’s one small thing you can change that will make the biggest difference today?