The Myths of Burnout

I recently heard a fabulous talk by the National President of the Professional Speaking Association, Steve Bustin.  It was all about the myths of being a professional speaker.

Not only did it give me some great guidance on next steps for my speaking career, it also gave me a fab idea for this week’s blog – The Myths of Burnout.

With so many reports, surveys, articles and radio interviews on this topic nowadays, it completely baffles me as to how burnout is still not taken seriously by the majority of individuals and organisations alike.

So, in an attempt to try and debunk some of the myths that might be getting in the way of taking this topic seriously, I thought I would share some of what I know, from personal experience.

Myth Number 1 – All you need to do to recover from burnout is get a good night of sleep.

This is simply not the case.  Burnout is a slow burn, literally. It creeps up on you in a stealth like manner, over a period of time, getting progressively stronger.  Until it hits you full on, either physically or mentally, or both.  For example, my burnout finally showed itself in the form of my legs not working after collapsing at work.  The mental burnout had been going on for some time but it was only after physically collapsing that I had to face the reality of how I had been feeling for quite a while.

To recover from burnout takes time.  A good night of sleep is a good start but it is only that, a start. Getting adequate rest is a key component of recovery from burnout from my point of view, and it is something that needs to be consistent rather than a one off.

Ask yourself – When did you last feel 100% energised?  

Myth Number 2 – To avoid burnout means not working hard.

When I work with clients on the Burn Bright Programme (click here for details), I take them through a number of principles on how to Burn Bright, not out! One of the principles is – No is a complete sentence!

Out of all the principles, this is the one, without fail, that provokes the strongest response.  The sheer thought of having to say no to their boss, their clients, their family, fills people with dread as their thoughts spiral into:

  • What will people think of me if I say no?  
  • Will I jeopardise my career progression if I don’t say yes to everything that is asked of me?  
  • People will think I cannot cope if I say no to requests.

Interestingly, this is not what this principle is all about (that’s a topic for another blog), however it does flag up the conditioning we face in the world of employment that has the risk of leading us straight down the path to burnout.

This quote by Arianne Huffington sums this up perfectly:

We need to change the delusion that we need to Burn Out in order to succeed. The truth is, we are much more effective if we take time to recharge and refuel.”

Avoiding burning out isn’t about not working hard, it is about ensuring we take the time to recharge and refuel in order to work even better!

Myth Number 3 – It’s not my fault I’m burnt out, it’s my job / my boss / my workload…etc.

I fully support all the research out there that says organisations could be doing more to support the mental wellbeing and resilience of their people.  They could, and great steps are being taken to make that happen.  See the following as brilliant examples:

However, (spoiler alert, you may not like this part!) I also firmly believe that whether you burnout or not, is a choice.  Your choice!

To put this another way, if you do not have clear boundaries for yourself around things like your working hours, your time switched on to some sort of device (be it a smart phone, tablet or laptop – or all three!), you taking regular breaks to eat / rest / play, then how can you expect those around you to honour those boundaries?  If you do not regard your time or your mental and physical health as precious, no one else will either.

One of the key complaints I have from my clients when we consider this concept is “I don’t have time for myself, I am too busy!”  This is simply not true.  If your child or loved one suddenly needed half an hour of your time every single day, and their life depended on it, we both know you would find the time, no matter what.

Well, guess what?  YOUR LIFE depends on you finding time every day that is just for you.  Treat yourself as you would do your child or a loved one.  Surprisingly, the more you make time for yourself every day, the more the people around you will start to honour those boundaries and work around you.  Plus, you will all reap the benefits!

Try it next week.  Commit to taking a half an hour lunch break away from your desk, ideally away from your place of work if possible, every day you are at work.  See how much you benefit and how quickly those around you accept that that is what you do now.

Well, I think I will get off my Burn Bright soapbox for now he he! I could go on all day but I’ll save some for another time.

Wishing you a fabulous weekend and remember, it is time to Burn Bright, not out!

Donna x

Photo by Ursula Kelly @StudioSoftboxUK

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