When busyness becomes burnout

As pandemic burnout becomes a thing, I’ve been reflecting on my own run-ins with this insidious modern ailment. Recognised by the World Health Organisation now as a work- related complaint I was interested in the new book by Anne Helen Petersen, ‘Can’t Even; How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation’, which echoes my own experience and that of my clients; burnout trickles into your everyday life.

The tell- tale signs for me have been always on and thinking about work, muscle tension and other minor ailments. Anne Helen argues that it is a societal problem of busyness rather than a personal failing which is a double edged-sword; you can’t change society so what else can you do to help yourself?

Here are the things that worked for me:

1. Take a break. Not an escape, just a retreat. A weekend, if you can, reconnecting with yourself and resting.
2. Make a plan. Make the healthcare appointments you’ve been avoiding and commit to an easy healthy target for the following week. More water, a lunchtime walk, less sugar. James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is fantastic if you need some inspiration.
3. Learn about mindfulness. There are so many accessible resources these days you should find one that suits you. Personally, The Happiness Trap book was a game-changer.
4. Practice mindfulness. You benefit so much more if you can build it in – even a few minutes a few times per week helps.
5. Get regular sleep and exercise.
6. Get some professional help, if need be.

Burnout can be avoided if you notice the signs of overwhelm and believe you have the power to change the things that are no longer working for you; if you believe that you have other options and believe that you don’t have to do all the things.

“The problem comes when we believe that energy is infinite.”

– Anne Helen Petersen

The core principle of Designing Your Life is to follow your energy. Energy levels are personal. Comparing yourself with others and what they do is unhelpful. Discover, in detail, what is giving you energy and what is taking it away. Once you know where you get your energy from you can make plans to get more of that and reduce the more draining activities. There are perhaps small tweaks you could make in your current role to create a balance that works better for you – redesigning not resigning. Sometimes, like I did, you look at the underlying patterns and principles and decide that a bigger change is required and then you are into Designing Your Life for real; not a knee-jerk reaction but a strategic change to work that makes your whole life work, that respects your nature and needs.

If that sounds like you then I’d love to help you plan and manage that transition.