Experience of Burnout

If you watched my video for Wellbeing Wednesday in November, you’ll know I talked about my experiences of having Burnout.

 

It’s not something that I talk about a lot because quite frankly, it’s something that I’ve not fully worked through! Give me a blog or ask me to talk about depression or suicide any day!

 

But as it’s stress awareness week, this is something that I am feeling really drawn to talk about. After all, if I can stop one person from feeling like I did, then I have done some good in this world.

 

First things first, a little about me…

 

 

My story

I spent a long time in a corporate role, 18 years to be precise as a tech analyst. I moved from Sheffield, left all my family and the first husband, to come to Manchester and start over with a fancy new job. Little did I know that I’d still be here over 20 years later, or that it would nearly kill me.

 

The job was not a 9 to 5 kind of role. We had contracted hours but were expected to support our clients no matter what time we were due to leave. Of course, when you’re 26 (as I was) that isn’t such a bad thing. I ran on adrenaline for a number of years. But eventually being on-call for a week at a time, or the threat of being sued does eventually take its toll.

 

Also, the customers were getting bigger and more reliant on their software. I was regularly speaking to IT managers at the likes of Highland Spring and Dyson to name just two. Whilst the customers were amazing, the work environment was not always so glamourous.

 

Last 6 years of my career, I switched to supporting another product. But at that same time, I was becoming increasingly more stressed. Not just a little bit stressed either, the stuff that is debilitating. To the point where you’re screaming (literally) at your husband about teabags – no really, and everything is an issue. Ironically a personality test predicted all this in me, but no one ever picked up on it!

 

Three times I went to the doctors with stress, three times I was signed off. But the last time was different. I’d gone from being this wailing banshee to nothing. Literally unable to function. I’d lost all interest in everything, and thought I just was depressed.

 

Then the doc said the dreaded words, ‘Sarah, I think you’re burnout’ It was horrendous. I mean, I don’t have burnout!?! That’s for other people, not me… But I did, and I had to make a decision that would change my life forever.

I eventually, one year later, quit my job… Of course, you know that already!

 

How did burnout feel?

Many people experience burnout in different ways, so it’s worth saying that this is how it impacted me. Others may be totally different. The biggest issue for me was my lack of interest, but more on that in a moment.

I can’t honestly tell you all about it in great detail. I don’t remember a lot of it. I am pretty sure that my brain, even at this point, is still trying to protect me.

 

I know that I was exceptional at staring into space, arguing with my boss about some ridiculous idea he’d just had, or just arguing with my shadow. Literally, everything was an issue!

 

I was drinking more than I normally would. I see some of my Facebook memories from that time, they always seemed to be booze involved. I’d cut down on my drinking when I moved here, but now it was ramping up again. Not only that I was relying on junk food and chocolate. My diet was abysmal, and I felt shocking.

 

It’s worth also mentioning some of the common symptoms. Ironically, a number of these can be for other conditions such as depression, some autoimmune conditions and also the wonder that is perimenopause!

 

 

  • Exhaustion

 

  • Worry and anxiety

 

  • Sleep problems

 

  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains and/or gastric issues

 

  • Irritability and mood swings

 

  • Loss of enthusiasm

 

  • Reduced work performance

 

 

Interestingly, the one thing that is missing from that list, which sets it apart from depression, is suicide. It’s very rare for people who have burnout to feel suicidal. I guess there is a blessing in that somewhere?

 

 

So how do we help ourselves?

This is very still where I am a work in progress. I am essentially re-learning how to live my life in a way that doesn’t drag me back to that dark place. Because I promise you, I am never going back!

 

Some of the tips that I’ve found useful are…

Boundaries – agree on working hours and try to stick to them – easier said than done when you’re self-employed! But if that means Sunday afternoon working, that is perfectly fine as long as you’re not compromising on yourself.

 

Maintain a healthy work-life balance – whatever that means to you! It doesn’t have to be all about bubble baths at a weekend, and no work! You need to be led by what works best for you and your schedule. You’re trying to be you, not someone else’s version of you.

Exercise – walking or just getting outside for endorphins. Fresh air is a great healer, especially if you’re being blown away on Conwy beach!

 

Eat well – if you eat crap you’ll feel crap!

Stop trying to be perfect – easier said than done – as perfectionists are more likely to get burnout.

 

Perhaps one last tip and possibly the best is to make sure that you get some help and support. That could be a clinical intervention, such as a GP, but it doesn’t have to always be. Sometimes just talking to a friend, or sharing experiences in groups like The Mothership can be a great help. There are so many of us out here cheering each other on and offering support, you’re never alone.

 

I know that really has helped me no end!

 

by Sarah Steinhofel

The Hive Mind Company

https://www.thehivemindcompany.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

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