The 4 easy-to-ignore signs of burnout that will creep up on you
Jess Jones shelved her health and wellness for the 24/7 hustle movement. But when a harmless cold hit her like a truck, the now-founder of The Burnout Club knew things had to change.
Good old 2020, eh? We’ve all had our ups and our downs. Some, we’ve been through together. Others, we’ve suffered through alone. Regardless of whether you’re an employee, a business owner, a student, a parent, or juggling several of these, our mental health has been challenged.
In starting a new year, we want to ensure we apply what we’ve learnt about ourselves and our mental health, and that we’re ready to make some positive lifestyle changes to live a long and happy life. Even if it means making some tough decisions.
Burnout is something that needs to be experienced before one seeks help to stop it returning. For some of us, it takes recognising the cycle before we understand that it’s something that can’t be ignored, hoping it will sort itself out. As an ambitious, overachieving perfectionist (delightful personality traits that put someone at a higher risk of burnout), I’m guilty of this.
I’m a serial entrepreneur, an employee and a single parent of two kids under seven, sharing 50/50 custody with their dad (a top bloke, I might add). So yes, it’s busy, but there are many factors that contribute to being able to live my life healthily and happily.
It wasn’t always this way though. My first burnout was in 2017. I was running a business and although I used to write blog posts promoting self-care, I was actually one of the ones that backed the hustle movement that once was. You know, ‘go big or go home’ and ‘have goals so big that they scare you.’
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My health and wellness were not on my to-do list. I was sleep-deprived from the business and young children, and my partner at the time constantly pointed out that I worked too much.
A month after completing a five-day road trip for a campaign, I caught a cold from one of the kids. No biggie, it wasn’t the first time. I was too busy riding the high of my business ‘passion.’
I thought I was invincible and then it hit me. My cold morphed into the flu and I was bedridden for days, hallucinating due to the fever. It was the first time all year that I’d actually just stopped. Until then, I didn’t realise that burnout was creeping around in the shadows for some time, just waiting for me to be still.
That high I was riding on? It was just adrenaline masking sleep deprivation and stress. I was so focused on work that my partner felt like he was on the bottom of my priority list, and he was close to it, only ahead of my own health.
The lifestyle I was leading was not sustainable and it took me weeks to recover. I was stretched in every direction and I kept putting it down to passion. What it was, was naivety.
Here are the signs I shouldn’t have ignored.
1. Your stress levels are out of control
It was constant because the to-do list never ended. But I wrote it off as part of the job(s). If you have ongoing stress in your life, stop and ask why. Make a list of what the contributing factors are and make a commitment that you’ll do what you can to change it.
2. Your sleep is suffering
Yes, I had young children and some of the sleep disruptions came from them. However, I was on my laptop until 1am many nights then had trouble sleeping because I was wired but my body was exhausted.
Sleep is everything. It’s taken me a long time to recognise this and value it. If you’re not prioritising a good night’s sleep, start now.
3. Your bad habits seem like good coping techniques
Often, people turn to eating poorly or drinking more and use it as a vice to manage other issues they choose to ignore or don’t deal with in a healthy way. I was in a constant cycle of working, stressing and arguing my unhappy partner because of my workload.
I started having a couple of drinks at night to cope, rather than dealing with the issues head-on. If this is you too, take this as a gentle nudge from someone who’s been there, alcohol won’t help.
4. Your passions are all-consuming
The obsession I had for my business back then, ruled over everything else. I had a partner, a four-year-old and an 18-month-old. I loved them, but the commitment I made to my work meant that everything else was neglected.
You need to ask yourself if your passion has become an obsession. I was so driven by achieving my goals and being successful, but there was no end in sight. Goals are good, but when you realise your focus is at the detriment of loved ones or other priorities in your life, it’s time to reassess.
If you mentally ticked off a few of these, I want you to block an hour out in your calendar today or tomorrow, and have a look at where you’re at, how your stress levels are and how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Don’t wait for burnout to be the catalyst for making positive changes in your life. Take control of 2021, don’t let it take control of you. Recognise the signs of burnout before it’s too late and please, go gently with yourself.
Jess Jones is the founder of The Burnout Club, helping business owners navigate burnout and build resilience on their road to recovery.