In today’s episode, we're talking about how to know if what you're experiencing really is burnout.
"Burnout" is not just a trendy buzzword, but a serious condition that can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being.
We'll explore what the symptoms are so that you know whether it's time to start seeking solutions. We'll also give you an overview of the three-step process to recover from burnout.
It doesn't matter whether you're teetering on the brink of burnout or are experiencing full-on burnout, know that it's not your fault, and burnout is 100% solvable.
Episode 1: Is This Burnout?
What you'll learn from this episode:
🎙️ What the most agreed upon definition of burnout is.
🎙️ What three main symptoms need to be present to determine if you're burned out.
🎙️ One of the secret symptoms that my clients talk about.
🎙️ What emotions you typically experience in burnout.
🎙️ What physical symptoms you may experience in burnout.
🎙️How burnout impacts your relationships.
🎙️ How burnout occurs on a spectrum and why you should seek out solutions before you're in full-blow burnout.
🎙️ The 3 steps to recover from burnout.
Featured in this episode:
Sign up for my email list and receive the free guide, "9 Tips to Make Anxiety Disappear and Feel Better Now."
Book a Call to talk with me about what's not working in terms of balancing your career and life, and we'll make a plan to solve it.
About the Host:
Hello! I'm Heather Mills, a life coach who helps ambitious, professional women recover from burnout and relight the fire within themselves to create more joy, meaning, and fulfillment - without leaving their jobs. As a lawyer, I experienced the exhaustion, overwhelm and disconnection that happens with burnout and learned how to reverse it. Burnout is 100% solvable and you can do it too.
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Full Episode Transcript
Welcome to Relight the Fire. I'm Heather Mills and I teach you how to create more joy, meaning and fulfillment without leaving your job or blowing up your life. The exhaustion, overwhelm and disconnection that happens with burnout is 100% solvable, and you can do it too. Listen on to find out how to relight the fire within you.
Hey there friends, welcome to the Relight the fFre podcast where we dive deep into the world of burnout and how it affects professionals like yourself.
I know many of you have been wondering if what you're going through is truly burnout. Well, today, we're here to explore that question and provide you with some valuable insights and solutions.
Now, let's be honest, the term burnout seems to be everywhere these days, especially since the pandemic. But here's the thing. Burnout has always been a prevalent issue in high stress industries like law, medicine, finance, accounting, and academia just to name a few.
It's not just a trendy buzzword. You see, burnout is more than just feeling stressed, overwhelmed or exhausted after long hours of work. It's a serious problem that can take a toll on your physical and mental well being.
But here's the good news. Burnout is solvable. Yes, you heard me right. It is absolutely possible to recover from burnout, reclaim your life, reignite your passions and find success without sacrificing your entire existence to work.
I know you might be thinking how is that even possible, the workplace itself contributes to my burnout. And you're absolutely right, the workplace does play a significant role. However, here's the key. You don't have to wait for your workplace to change before you can recover. You have the power to make a change within yourself regardless of external factors.
In this podcast, I'm here to equip you with the tools and strategies to regain your personal power and overcome burnout. You don't have to fix the broken systems yourself, quit your job or set fire to your career. I'm all about simple and straightforward solutions that you can even implement on your own.
So let's dive right in and explore what burnout truly is. Now, here's the interesting part. Burnout still doesn't have a universally agreed upon definition even today. However, the work of Christina Maslach, a researcher at the University of California Berkeley, has significantly shaped our understanding of burnout.
So when the World Health Organization (the WHO) wanted to define burnout in 2019, and include it in their classification of diseases, they heavily relied on Maslach's research. So the WHO classifies burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been effectively managed.
And they say that it has three components.
Number one: exhaustion. Number two: cynicism and detachment. And number three: feeling ineffective in your job.
It's important to note that the WHO didn't go so far as to classify burnout as a medical disease. It refers to burnout as a syndrome, which is a group of symptoms that consistently occur together.
So let's dive, dive deeper and take a closer look at these three main symptoms that identify burnout, exhaustion, cynicism, and a feeling of ineffectiveness. These three elements work together to create the burnout experience. And it's important to understand each one.
So let's start with exhaustion. Now, I know you might be thinking of physical exhaustion as the primary aspect of burnout. That's how I used to think about burnout. And that's one of the reasons why I didn't think I was burned out.
But there's more to because there's more to it than meets the eye. Sure physical exhaustion plays a role because no matter what you do, you still feel drained and unable to find true rest. Even when you manage to take a vacation or some time off. It's challenging to relax. And the moment you return to your work environment, that exhaustion hits you like a ton of bricks.
But the real kicker is that emotional exhaustion is often the most debilitating aspect of burnout. It's when you find yourself trapped in a whirlwind of negative feelings, anger, frustration, resentment, shame, guilt, and even self pity. Your emotional range becomes limited.
You may find yourself exploding into anger or rage over the smallest things or you might burst into tears when you spill your cereal at breakfast.
I certainly can relate to this on a personal level. I was stuck in an endless cycle of feeling guilty that I wasn't performing at my peak at work. And outside of work. I felt like I was disappointing the people closest to me.
That was the story that I kept telling myself that I could not I couldn't meet the standards that I'd set for myself at work, mostly because they were impossible, but then I shamed myself for not being able to meet them. And so you can imagine that the tiniest things would make me want to run away and hide from it all: an email from a partner, or request from a request for a schedule change from an opposing counsel, or an invitation to write an article.
That led to just a general feeling of wanting to escape, but feeling trapped. And that's a common theme that I hear from my clients feeling trapped. I've had so many people tell me that they secretly wish for an accident just to have an excuse to get away from it all for a little while. So if you've had a thought, or a similar thought alike to that, know that you're not alone.
Now let's move on to the second component, cynicism and detachment towards your work and those around you. At some point, you might have been passionate about your work. But burnout changes all that.
You become a Negative Nelly about everything: the work itself, the day to day tasks, your colleagues, your boss. You may even start assuming that your colleagues or the people around you are discussing your performance behind your back, leading you to distance yourself and isolate from them as a way of protecting yourself.
You don't want them to know how deep the burnout really runs. So you avoid having any face to face meetings, you might find yourself pulling away from people outside of work too, because it's just too much energy to try and see people and you're too grumpy anyway.
The detachment also happens because people in burnout are extremely harsh judges have themselves and others that reduces their ability to empathize and show compassion for themselves and others.
Personally, my detachment and cynicism came in many forms, I no longer felt connected to my clients, I distanced myself from their pain, and my interactions with them felt much more transactional.
I also temporarily lost my belief in the effectiveness of litigation. I was a class action attorney and I initially believed in the power of protecting workers through class actions. But when burnout took hold, I convinced myself that class actions couldn't actually help people that the system was broken, the litigation itself was a terrible tool for making real change. I was really stuck in a cycle of cynicism.
So let's move on to the third component feeling ineffective in your job. This is experiencing a decrease in productivity, motivation, and having a sense that your efforts are futile. So this can take many forms, maybe you were once incredibly productive, completing tasks effortlessly, meeting your goals with ease. And now even getting out of bed in the morning feels like a monumental task. You can even put together a simple to do list. Or perhaps you're telling yourself a story about your own poor performance. Even though no one else may seem to have a problem with it, you've lost faith in your abilities and doubt that you can achieve what you once did.
Alternatively, you may feel like the work you're doing has no impact either in your workplace or for your clients, or maybe for the world.
In my case, I convinced myself that my work didn't matter to clients in the grand scheme of things. I saw it as a never ending cycle where we could spend years on a case and still fail to achieve positive results for them. So at some point, I felt like I was just a cog in a broken machine and had lost my fight in my hope.
And many of my clients share similar sentiments. They wonder whether they're doing something important for the world, they tell themselves that they're merely shifting money around among people who already have plenty. These thoughts and beliefs contribute to the burnout experience keeping you trapped in a cycle of exhaustion, cynicism, and ineffectiveness.
So there you have it, the three components of burnout, and awareness about whether you're experiencing these, these three components is the first step toward overcoming burnout. And according to Maslach, all three components need to be present for burnout to occur.
And I hate to be the bearer of more bad news, but feeling exhausted, cynical and ineffective is a good start for a list of burnout symptoms. But there are other symptoms that almost all my clients experience in burnout.
It's not just a matter of feeling tired. It's about being overwhelmed. The negative feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, despair, hopelessness, become overwhelming.
And let's not forget the physical symptoms, brain fog, insomnia, body pain or rashes that doctors can't seem to figure out stress and pain in the neck and shoulders.
I remember that at one point while I was burned out, I could no longer turn my neck to the right. I had so much stress stored up in my neck and shoulders that I literally couldn't move them properly.
These are the kinds of symptoms that come from unmanaged chronic stress. And as you know these stress hormones wreak havoc on our bodies and potentially lead to autoimmune disorders and other diseases.
Another important aspect often overlooked in the definition, is the tendency to numb ourselves. When we're exhausted and stuck in these negative emotions. When we're overwhelmed and negative emotions, we often resort to numbing activities like overeating or excessive drinking, or engaging in sex, drugs or shopping as a way to escape the pain of negative emotions.
And of course, all of the symptoms and the burnout experience occur on a spectrum. Some people may be teetering on the brink of work, burnout still functioning relatively well despite their internal struggles. On the other hand, some may find themselves in a full blown, burnout state, unable to perform their jobs at all.
Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of recovery is possible. But seeking help earlier is always better. Don't wait for a medical crisis to take action.
If you're listening to these symptoms, and beating yourself up for how you're feeling, I want you to know that burnout is not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you. However, there is a better way to relate to your work and to yourself that you haven't been taught yet.
Burnout can be reversed through a step by step process, you can find joy in life again. And here's the good news. You don't have to change your job to recover from burnout.
Well, that may be a possibility down the line. Changing your job in the midst of burnout won't magically solve the problem. I know. I tried that. You'll likely carry your burnout with you to the next job. I know I did.
It's essential to address the root causes and develop a new approach before considering any major changes.
Now recovering from burnout poses a challenge for those of us who experienced burnout because typically we are problem solvers, we often have Type A personalities and our inclination is to dive headfirst into solving the problem. But the truth is that this approach is not going to get you out of burnout. In fact, it's part of the reason you are experiencing burnout in the first place.
So let's go over the three basic steps to recover from burnout. And we'll explore each of these in more depth in future episodes. But I want to give you a quick overview.
Step one, you do need to ask for help. I know it's not easy for someone like you who is used to being self reliant and solving problems independently. But finding an expert who has a proven solution, and one that is simple and doable, is crucial.
Step two: learn new tools to address your particular burnout symptoms at the root level. You need tools to reduce the stress in your body, calm your nervous system, and develop your ability to bounce back from stress.
And step three: apply those tools everyday in your work and in your personal life. It doesn't require perfection, but it does require consistency to to continuously improve your well being to regain control to bring joy back into your life.
If you keep applying the tools, you will permanently overcome burnout. And then the world of possibility opens up to you again, you tap into your motivation and passion and then can mold your career in a way that allows you to have a life that you love.
I get it, I understand that it may be hard to believe right now. But in the upcoming episodes, I'll show you how it's absolutely possible.
So if any of this is resonating with you, if you're experiencing the symptoms, please know that it's not your fault, there is hope. And there's a way out of burnout. And that's what I teach, I help you understand how burnout is created, both externally and internally. And most importantly, I show you how to reverse those patterns.
Now when I say patterns, I mean you have the power to change your own patterns that got you into burnout. And that's where your agency comes in. And I'm here to guide you through that process. Trust me, it is within your reach.
Everything I teach is rooted in psychology and neuroscience. We dive straight into your burnout issues, tackling them head on in the moment.
So I want to paint a picture of you for you of what this transformation will look like. Imagine having more energy and enthusiasm. Experiencing far less stress, anxiety and frustration.
Imagine being efficient with your time completing your tasks and your goals for the day. Say goodbye to procrastination and self judgment.
Instead Imagine feeling a greater sense of reward and contribution becoming less sensitive to criticism.
Oh and work will become easier and more enjoyable. You'll find yourself motivated.
You'll also find yourself walking away from your computer, removing yourself from your emails, working fewer hours, and reclaiming time to spend with your kids or your partner or your friends.
Imagine improved sleep, reduced reliance on alcohol, food or drugs to feel better, and experiencing better overall physical and mental health. Just feel better.
Your relationships both at home and at work, feel more connected. You'll become a much stronger leader, even if you're not in a formal leadership role. You'll become more comfortable around your colleagues.
And really, this is just the beginning. You're going to rediscover the joy, fun and aliveness that life has to offer. Your self esteem will return and your career spot prospects will expand, leading to greater financial success.
But most importantly, you'll find yourself genuinely loving your life, your work, and of course yourself. And guess what, you'll have created all of this.
Alright, that wraps it up for today. Keep listening for more strategies to recover from burnout. And if you suspect you're burned out, schedule a call with me and we'll make a plan for your recovery.
Hey there if you're ready to overcome burnout and reignite the fire in your life, then make sure to join my email list where you'll find actionable tips and inspiration.
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