I’ve been thinking about burn out quite a bit recently… Actually, I’ve been thinking about it since last year when I got really sick and went to hospital for 5 days.
I also meet and work with a lot of people who work in education. And I get the sense that many working in this space are exhausted. Sometimes, I wonder if they’re actually burnt out.
Burn out is serious. I thought perhaps I might be burnt out too. But I read the Wikipedia entry tonight and I decided that I’m not.
Here are the stages of real burn out:
- You feel compelled to prove yourself.
- You work harder and harder and you become obsessed with this work..
- You neglect your own needs and the needs of your friends and family.
- You know something is wrong but you can’t tell what it is.
- You revise your value system so that it now equals your work
- You become intolerant, anti-social, and deny emerging problems
- You lose any sense of direction or hope and withdraw, perhaps into drugs or alcohol
- Your behaviour changes.
- You lose touch with yourself and your own needs.
- You feel empty inside and look for meaning in other activities such as alcohol or drugs
- You feel exhausted, hopeless, indifferent and depressed believing that there is nothing for you in the future.
- You collapse physically and emotionally (and should seek immediate medical attention).
If you know someone who might be heading down this slippery slope they may need help. That might mean your help or a trained professional.
Just one caveat though: I think it’s perfectly normal to experience any of these things at any time. We all do.
Feeling exhausted, or that your work is meaningless, or that you’re going through a patch where you need to work really hard… well, that might just be how it is.
I think I could’ve ticked most of those boxes back in October last year. I think real burn-out is not just experiencing some of the above, but pretty much all of it. Sleep disturbance should be added to the list, as it is one of the more distressing symptoms – desperately needing to sleep deeply, but unable to either get to sleep, or stay asleep through the wee small hours.
Long-term burn-out is hard to come back from, I heard of someone being unable to work for 7 years. Having finally started to recover a sense of wellbeing in the past few months, I am much more awake to the early signs in people, and have been actively encouraging folk around me to take better care of their general health through good quality nutrition, exercise, sleep and less alcohol, drugs, work and stress. It sounds like a boring life, but I SO appreciate being able to easily walk up a flight of stairs, or swim 30 laps of the pool, without needing to sleep for 2 hours afterwards to recover! And to have my brain functional (if not yet really sharp) again is a blessing.
Thanks R. Great to have this perspective. I’m so pleased you’re doing well. Kind regards G
RB – great to hear you are feeling better (or on the way).
Re the sleep thing – I read this funny internet meme thing that said:
Big day tomorrow, brain decides to wake up at 3am.
So true for me – when I need my sleep I just cannot sleep. Stupid brain.
And then it’s like each day is a big day… I’ve stopped worrying about the sleep thing. Here’s two things that have helped. I’ll probably blog about them at some stage but this: http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/ and an app called Sleep Cycle on my iPhone. I’m not terribly disciplined on using either of these, but even just occasional use seems to help if I start feeling like I’m behind on sleep. Apparently, naps are supposed to be awesome, but I feel to guilty…