How do you know if you are on the path to burnout? As a leader, what do you do when stress hits the hot button? What is burnout anyway?
What do you do when you are the one in charge?
Above all, burnout doesn’t happen overnight. The signs show up little by little. Therefore, I want to help you distinguish between a bad day, a terrible day, or something more serious. In addition, I want to help you evaluate your stress level so you can make adjustments successfully.
Most importantly, I hope you can gain a new perspective about the impact of stress on you and those you serve. To clarify, leadership requires adaptability and a curious nature for ultimate success.
Don’t let stress topple you, your team, or your company.
Know the warning signs of excessive stress
For example, do you ever hear that inner critic in your head say, “There’s too much to do and not enough time?” Or perhaps, “Hey, you can’t stop since everyone depends on you.” One more, “If you can’t figure this out, you are doomed!”
Here’s what happens when stress is ready to spill over. It’s like a pitcher with no more room for even one extra drop. There’s going to be either physical, emotional, or behavioral consequences.
Physical concerns include digestive issues, sleep concerns, chest pain, heart palpitations, constant colds, frequent headaches.
Emotional issues include feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, excessive anger or irritability, mild to severe panic attacks, sense of helplessness.
Behavioral reactions include lack of productivity, addictive consumption of food, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, retreat into isolation, ignoring advice, excessive daily naps.
Burnout does not discriminate, it belongs to everyone.
My personal story of burnout has a bit of magic, so please read on. I hope it will help.
Back in the day, when I didn’t know any better, I would constantly say YES. I was the perfect pleaser. This was especially obvious as I added more and more clients to my coaching practice. I did this till I was working day and night without a break.
Because I knew “they” needed me. Or so I told myself.
That is until I could not ignore a series of stress-induced headaches. Finally, one day, I had to sit quietly in a darkened room till the pain subsided. I felt like a failure. I saw myself as weak. Unworthy. A wimp.
Can anyone out there relate to this?
What do you do when you are at the edge of health? How do you handle it when you are ready to fall into the abyss of illness and breakdown?
Subsequently, I did something that felt unprofessional and, yes, even career-limiting.
What happens when you must take action?
First, I called my assistant and told her to cancel my full schedule for the next two days.
I knew I was at a crossroads. I hated having to stop what I was doing. Yet, I was not sure which way to go.
Moreover, I definitely knew I was not in a zone of optimal performance. Sadly, I was drowning in my own success.
On that fateful day, I waited for the headache to subside. Then, I decided to go for a walk.
And that’s when the magic happened.
The magic of synchronicity can guide you to health and productivity
I wandered for a bit. Then I ended up in a local mall to get out of the summer heat. I soon found myself staring at a vast display of the targeted book of the month. The title, Burnout!
It was like a decision was made for me. Now I would finally face my personal and professional health condition. It was there in big, bold red letters on the BURNOUT poster.
Yes, I could feel my spirits uplift enough to laugh at the synchronicity. In addition, that And yes, I bought the book. It helped.
Subsequently, here’s what helped even more.
I emailed my clients with an apology and a curiosity question.
Remember that adaptability and curiosity are two major assets of good emotional intelligence for leaders.
I asked how did they handle the last-minute change? How did they use the extra time my absence gave them?
Subsequently, the tally from the 20 clients was both life-affirming and life-changing for me. And I hope it will be for you also.
Sometimes You are NOT that important.
My clients all functioned well. They got along without me. Initially, that was an ego downer for me.
In fact, some were able to tell me later they felt empowered. Many were able to resolve issues because they had no other choice.
At first, I figured my career was mostly worthless. And yet, I realized each of us plays a small part in the lives of family, friends, and colleagues. You cannot make yourself bigger than life.
AND equally important is that you are a better teacher and guide when you do your own inner work first.
Saying NO can lead to a better YES
As a result of my time away from clients, I learned the power of taking a step back. The importance of assessing my work-life balance finally became clear.
Consequently, I had to look at my pattern. I finally admitted I was a serious pleaser. And to admit it is a kind of addiction. Therefore, I would say yes even when I wanted to say no. I questioned the real benefit to be so available.
Why would I say YES to everyone without discrimination?
To clarify, what was in the way of simply saying NO?
In the same vein, those closest to me saw me losing my perspective and my enthusiasm.
However, until the awful headache forced a shutdown, I had not wanted to listen to anyone.
Likewise, I finally had to give up the title of “invincible.”
Exhaustion and inefficiency to strong and resilient
In addition, I saw that my exhaustion was leading to being inefficient. It took some time. However, now I ask myself the following questions whenever I feel the old pleaser pattern yearning to return.
Here are the questions to keep burnout at bay:
- What do I want as an outcome from taking on this project?
- How can I influence the path to success?
- Who else can help me in this endeavor?
- What are the resources available to me?
- What will happen if I say no?
- Who can I talk with when frustration sets in?
- How can I tell the truth without burning bridges?
- What do I need to do to transform the pleaser pattern?
- Is the reward worth the physical, emotional, behavioral investment?
Recover your mojo and thrive
In conclusion, make sure you stay in touch with the various levels of stress. Want to know more about how you handle stress? Take the Stress Busters quiz. Keep yourself in the “safe stress zone.” Of course, stress impacts your well-being. When you can raise or lower the stress thermostat (and that is your personal job), you can absolutely have higher levels of energy and what I call OLS, your overall life satisfaction.
Stay strong and healthy,
P.S. Learn more about leadership, stress, and burnout in this masterclass. Or better yet, join the Stress Busters Program and become a stress master who has power over outdated patterns.