What is a burnout? How can we manage it, and what lessons can we learn from it?

Always saying “Yes” to everything, putting too much on your endless To Do list, not knowing how to slow down or to stop, not knowing how or when to  say no… We think we are somewhat invincible, but little by little, we start noticing something is up:  we start forgetting things here and there, then we start getting upset over small things, we become less patient with those around us, we sleep badly, we less in control of our emotions…

Do you feel guilty when you don’t finish everything you are ‘supposed to’ do today? We don’t seem to realise that there is always something else ‘important’ to do that we will never get finished… We are so stuck in the stress of it, that we feel it is the end of the world if we don’t get on top of it all. We simply lose track of the fact that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter if we finish our task in a day or two…

It is not easy to acknowledge, or understand when are overworked or overstressed. We tend to react by going into an emotional spiral which blocks our vision and awareness, and so it is very hard to step back and see the solutions in front of us. We tend to just hope that tomorrow things will get easier, and that we will finally find the time to take care of ourselves. But of course this doesn’t happen, because in our current state of mind, work is endless.

If these points ring true to you, don’t wait! Take a break, figure out where you are at, talk to someone you trust, and change the way you tackle things. This should be your Number 1 priority!

There are different levels of burnout, and where we find ourselves on this spectrum isn’t always easy to recognise. Personally, I have felt like my level of fatigue and stress has been building up over the past few years. It came to a head during these last 9 months as I have been dealing with a huge amount- both physically and emotionally. As usually happens in these cases, a little straw broke the camel’s back! I collapsed in my kitchen. Unfortunately, as I fell, I sprained and broke my ankle- something that I’m sure you will agree is not very practical for a spinning coach!!

Like a lot of others, i never took the time to slow down, or put my feet up. Life seems to be made like this: there are lots of cycles- we all go through ups and downs, relaxing periods and stressful periods… but what we don’t always appreciate is that our energy levels drop during these stressful periods, and if we don’t manage ourselves properly and take the time to re-energise, we are not firing on all cylinders and ready to tackle new difficulties as they crop up.

Our reflexive actions and reactions are conditioned by our previous experiences, by our education, by what our parents taught us all those years ago. This episode helped me learn that a life coach can help us identify certain behaviours that don’t work for us any more, and help us to disengage from them. I am lucky to have a coach in my circle of friends, so I called on her for support.

Thanks to these sessions, I was able to understand how important it is to take on challenges with a different frame of mind. I can give you a small example; thanks to her support, I was able to prepare myself for a meeting that would normally be extremely stressful for me. But instead I went with my notes, well prepared, very calm, and I was able to leave the meeting at peace and feeling positive. The fact that I wasn’t stressed during it allowed me to keep my flow thoughts, I was able to express everything I needed to say, and even thought it wasn’t a pleasant meeting, it didn’t affect me like it would have done in the old days. I feel like I came out on top of this all the more, because it was no longer a source of stress for me.

In the majority of cases, we only admit to a burnout when it is too late. Maybe this is because it seems to be a taboo subject these days. It really shouldn’t be. Its down to each of us to keep our balance, to speak about it when we feel the need to, to listen to our bodies and heads, to do sport…

After a few weeks of forced rest, I feel like I have been able to finally rebuild by energy, and I feel like I am back on top again. Sometimes to make that giant leap ahead, we sometimes need to take a few steps back first.