My Burnout Survival Story
Mental health is something that I have always taken extremely seriously, or so I thought. For those of you who don't know, I just spent the month of September on stress leave from work due to being so burnt out that I struggled to get out of bed and when I did there were lots of tears throughout the day or I felt like a zombie just trying to make it from point a to point b without dying.
In other words, I was no longer living or loving life, I was merely surviving it, and every day that went by I thought "Oh, I just need more sleep this weekend" or "I just need to go to bed earlier" or "I just need to take a vacation" and none of those things would fix how I was feeling. The truth is, there was no amount of sleep or vacation time that was going to fix the level of exhaustion I was feeling.
I began to dread getting up in the morning and going to work. I started feeling guilty about not being enough as a Mom, wife, friend, employee, and business owner. Imposter syndrome crept in stopping me from taking on new clients in fear of disappointing them. My nights were plagued with nightmares of losing everything and everyone I loved because I simply was not feeling well or performing my best.
The harder I pushed and "willed" myself to get better, the worse my symptoms became. Work meetings would almost always result in me crying. Everything was overwhelming to me and my creative brain no longer functioned. I was short-tempered with my children and family. I stopped leaving my house. I stopped enjoying things that used to excite me - including my career as a Digital Marketing Specialist.
Finally, I reached out to my Doctor who strongly suggested that I take Medical/Stress Leave and focus on getting my body and mind back to a place where I felt comfortable and safe again. The decision to take time off was daunting and would cause a huge financial hit to my family, but eventually, my family and I came to the decision that if I didn't do this now, I was only going to get worse - something my family really couldn't afford and didn't want to see happen.
Now, I am back and I have decided that for the foreseeable future, I want to use my platform to talk about mental health as well as digital marketing. I enjoy writing about both topics and both have so much important information that everyone should know when it comes to your employment, your job, or running your business.
Recognizing and addressing burnout in today's fast-paced world is important not only for employees but also for employers and business owners alike. In this article, we are going to explore what burnout is, the effects of burnout, distinguishing burnout from exhaustion, creative burnout, and how to fix burnout once it has begun.
What is burnout & how do I know if I am burnt out?
Burnout is a state of complete head-to-toe, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion. It is all-encompassing. One of the most common types of burnout is job/work burnout and most people will feel a form of this at least once in their lives.
When it comes to job/work burnout there are a few subcategories as well. These are:
Overload Burnout: This is exactly what it sounds like. Overload burnout happens when you continue to or are pushed to work at an unsustainable pace and/or put in long hours without appropriate mental breaks.
Under-challenged burnout: This happens when you are not being challenged enough by your job/career.
Neglect Burnout: This happens when you no longer feel a sense of purpose and find it hard to stay engaged at work.
When it comes to early signs of burnout there are a few things you can watch for:
Loss of interest/enthusiasm for work
Physical aches and pains
Reduced performance at work
Increased worry and anxiety
If you are already in the throws of burnout the above symptoms will likely have become increasingly difficult to ignore, plus you may start to feel:
Increased self-doubt and/or imposter syndrome
Decreased job/career satisfaction
Feeling alone in the world
Loss of motivation
Wanting to quit/quiet quitting
What are the effects of burnout?
Ignoring or not addressing your burnout could have extremely negative implications for your health, your job, and even your life. Some of the major consequences of ignoring your burnout could be:
Alcohol or substance abuse
High blood pressure
Diabetes (Type 2)
Loss of employment
Pulling away from colleagues
Anger towards family and friends
Irresponsibility with finances
Isolation from friends and family
Burnout does not just affect your mental capabilities, but also your physical health. There are personal consequences and even professional and spiritual consequences that can arise from ignoring and leaving your burnout untreated. Work/job/career burnout is not just a small thing that people need to "get over". It is a very difficult reality for many people that can lead to many consequences in all areas of life.
How can you distinguish burnout from exhaustion?
While burnout is a form of exhaustion it is more than just exhaustion. Burnout happens when exhaustion levels are left untreated and are prolonged to the point where usual methods of treatment for exhaustion (sleep, rest, breaks, etc.) no longer work.
What is creative burnout?
Another form of burnout that a lot of people with creative jobs will face is called 'Creative Burnout'. For those with jobs that require a lot of creative thinking, the pressure to always perform well and quickly, plus keep up with changes and industry trends can make creative burnout set in so fast you don't even know what hit you.
Creative burnout (the feeling that you have drained all your creative energy and have no ideas or energy left to create more) for digital marketing specialists and many other creative-minded job professions is a reality that is on the rise, especially in the day and age of AI. There is so much pressure on creative minds to perform their jobs quickly and "perfectly" because if they can't, there is the looming threat that AI can which creates a whole other problem with job security, imposter syndrome, and feelings of workplace worthlessness.
You can check out this article for more information on Digital Marketing & Creative Burnout.
How to fix burnout
Fixing burnout is not easy. It takes time and lots of patience. You may need to seek professional help through therapy and even medications. However, there are some things that you can try on your own to prevent and treat your burnout.
The first thing you should try to do is to talk to your boss/human resources at your work. They may suggest that you take some time off to rest and recharge. If they do not offer that, then you may need to consider using sick/vacation time to get the rest that your body and mind need and to be able to step back and reassess your situation.
If that is not working or is not enough time, consider talking to your doctor about medical/stress leave. If you have benefits through work, they may cover your time off and if you do not have benefits, you may qualify for EI Sickness Benefits through the government of Canada.
While you are on leave or vacation or taking a break, try these things to help re-center yourself and begin the healing process:
Practice mindfulness techniques
Being physically active
Getting enough sleep
Seeing a therapist
Taking a break from social media
Try to explore new activities or old ones you haven't done in a while
Do not check in at work - while you are off, you are OFF. That means no work.
When you return to work it will be more important than ever to work with your employer to establish appropriate workplace/workload boundaries, set a schedule, and know your limits and the law - you do not need to say yes to everything all the time (no matter how nicely you may be asked) and you do not have to work outside working hours.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis because of your burnout, please seek medical attention from a doctor or mental health practitioner. You can also contact any of the helplines below for more information and to speak with someone who can help.
Burnout is not something that you should take lightly. It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout not only in yourself but also in others. Ignoring your burnout for too long can and will have drastic consequences in every aspect of your life.
You can help yourself to prevent burnout by doing simple things like setting appropriate work and life boundaries, recognizing your need for and taking your breaks/holiday time, and reaching out for help from your primary care physician or mental health practitioner if your symptoms become persistent.
I am happy to say that I am doing well in healing from my burnout, but also that I know that I have a long journey ahead of me. I know now that it is important to take my own mental health seriously and to "practice what I preach".
I was very lucky to have so much support from my friends and family during my time off from work. I could not have done this without them.
Always remember, if you don't take time for your health and wellness now, you will be forced to make time for your illness later.
I would love to hear your stories of burnout and if you have any questions or are worried you may be experiencing burnout, please reach out to me. I will do my best to help you out or point you in the right direction. We are all in this thing called life together - you are never alone!