Burnout is not a "one size fits all" state. We all respond to stressful situations in different ways and for this reason, there are different ways to cope and bounce back. From working with hundreds of overworked, stressed out people, I've identified several common types of burnout. The more you know about your style of burnout, the more you can do something about it! Following each type, I've included a helpful first step you can take to get back to the person you used to be. Which of these types do you identify with the most?
The "Sunday Scaries" Burnout
You spend your Sunday evening or work day mornings with paralyzing feelings of anxiety and dreading work. You wake up in a panic and in your head, you run through all of the things you need to do and are already worrying about how you'll fail and what your boss will think of you if this happens. Not only is this worry taking time away from your already precious weekend hours (hence, the name "Sunday Scaries"), but it seems all you ever want to talk (or cry) about to your friends and family (and maybe it's taking a toll on them too). And because of this crippling anxiety you just don't want to go to work. You wish you were more excited about the day but your dread robs you of your happiness nearly every morning.
The simple solution: Identify the thoughts that cause you to panic. Usually they are the "fortune telling" type, predicting doom and gloom. Work with a coach to effectively "talk back" to these negative predictions in writing so that you can find your ground and confidence again.
The "Dormant Volcano" Burnout
You are usually very positive and upbeat on the outside, but inside, you're a volcano of sad, underappreciated and misunderstood feelings waiting to erupt. The stress is so bad that you're prone to crying at work (in the bathroom) after you interact with difficult people. When you're unhappy about something, you get quiet, internalize the stress, and procrastinate. You easily take things personally and you're overly sensitive to criticism or feedback. When you get defensive, it's often explosive because you've accumulated so much unexpressed negative feelings and you avoid confrontation. It's also difficult for you to ask for help or what you want because you tell yourself that you shouldn't want something different, or that you shouldn't feel a certain way about things. You also tend to blame yourself or feel guilty frequently.
The simple solution: Owning and accepting all of your feelings -- even the uncomfortable ones -- are key to building confidence and asking for what you want. Talk it out with a good coach and practice being OK with expressing yourself without feeling bad about it helps too.
The "Constant Fire Fighter" Burnout
You make work for yourself if there's nothing to do because you feel guilty if you sit around on a Saturday afternoon. Your mind is constantly running and the more you try to relax, the more it spins and the more anxious you get. You've always been good under pressure, but lately you haven't been dealing with the pressure very well and often bring it home, making you feel all tied up, frustrated, and sometimes angry. You love what you do, but you can't seem to figure out how to leave work there because the cell phone will ring and emails will come in at all hours of the night wanting a quick response. You find it challenging to make time to do what you want. You used to have fun and hobbies and lately have zero motivation for it. As a result, you're feeling tired a lot, very out of shape, and as a result, your self confidence is pretty low.
The simple solution: Work with your coach to schedule in a small break every day and focus on achieving that one break. Having a reward system in place is also important to make it a habit.
The "Mope and Grope" Burnout
You don't hate what you do, you just don't feel excited by it anymore. Even though you've mastered a variety of areas and you have an impressive resume to boot, you feel like you're not accomplishing much. You're sluggish at work, procrastinate frequently and end up working late hours because you let things pile up. You're mopey and don't feel like your usual smiley self and every night you go to bed frustrated that you wasted a day being unhappy only to get up and do it all over again. Usually, you're uncertain and unclear about what you need to do or how you need to move forward. You want to get excited about your work again because you don't want others to think that you're not a hard worker.
The simple solution: You may be daunted at the prospect of change and so you hold onto the present because even though it's not great, it's comfortable. Work with your coach to break big tasks into small achievable steps. This will reduce the overwhelm of change.
If you relate to any of these burnout types, congratulations! You now are empowered with a better understanding of yourself and for every bit of understanding comes a choice on how you want to move forward. If you're thinking that the simple solution presented won't work for you, it may be helpful to work with a coach to get personalized support to get off the fast track to burnout! It doesn't always have to be this way and it is possible to bounce back from burnout and feel in charge of you, your situation, and your life again.
Catherine Chen, Ph.D., Health Coach is passionate about supporting high-achievers to find time and energy to focus on their personal lives while rocking out in their careers. Prior to working at In Your Corner, Catherine graduated from Yale University with a degree in Pharmacology and has worked in the management consulting, biotechnology, and wellness industries in New York City and San Francisco. She is also passionate about French culture. And wontons. Seriously, they're delicious! If you're overwhelmed and stressed about work or relationships, sign up for weekly tips at www.achievewitheasenow.com (it's free!) or get in touch with Catherine here.
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