With the global COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing and businesses impacted in every way possible the UK has unsurprisingly headed into a recession, its first for over 10 years. We are hearing about redundancies and job impacts every day, and it can be pretty depressing!
But what’s also been happening is that we’re dealing with …
The long term stress of a pandemic
Workers who haven’t been furloughed have been running at full speed for months on end, reacting, innovating, putting in the hours, doing new things in rapid-time, covering the tasks of those on furlough, and doing everything possible to keep things moving. Plus working from home 100% of the time, whilst also home-schooling or caring for others depending on their family circumstances.
Those who have been furloughed have been dealing with a totally different kind of pressure. People tend to point and say they’re the lucky ones, but the stress of not working can also be really high. The loss of purpose and daily routine, the pressure of less income, the concern around job security and whether there will be a job to go back to, along with the sense that you have to be perfect at home when DIY and home-schooling are not really your thing!
And to top it all off, many people haven’t been taking a break or going on vacation, because lots of trips abroad and at home have been cancelled, or there’s a fear of straying too far from home given how quickly things change all the time.
I could add more and more to this list, but I think we can all agree that it’s been a challenging period and we’re not out of the woods yet. It’s no surprise that people are tired, really feeling the fatigue set in, but are not sure of how to tackle that.
Are you burning out?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. People experiencing burnout will often use phrases like: I’m exhausted all of the time; I’m running on empty; I’m completely overwhelmed; I can’t cope like I used to; I can’t think straight; I have no tolerance for anything these days; I can’t carry on like this.
And it can present with a whole load of other symptoms too such as digestive issues, particularly the onset of Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, muscle and joint pains that can be hard to relieve, skin irritations such as rashes, eczema and psoriasis, and even headaches and migraines.
Burnout is a whole-person condition and it will present itself in different ways to different people. When I experienced burnout my extreme fatigue was accompanied by my body aching head to toe, a loss of strength, and a complete lack of interest and motivation in just about anything.
So, if you’re experiencing burnout or feel like you’re heading towards it, it’s clear that you’re not going to be your most effective at work.
Job Loss Fear Is Real
OK, so the economy has headed into recession, there are job losses being announced every day, you’re still working and feel lucky for that, BUT you feel like you’re heading for burnout. What should you do?
Fear is a strange thing and influences our behaviour in ways that we might not consider the most logical. And job loss fear is a big and very real thing.
There is a strong drive for many to ‘push on through’ – “if I can get just get through this then things will be OK”. If you tell your boss that you’re burning out and need some time out to recover will that mean your job is at risk, will it mean the company is at risk, will that mean others have to share the burden of your work, and so on?
Now we all know that legally someone shouldn’t be losing their job because they are unwell, but that doesn’t stop the fear being fully present and influencing behaviour.
Should you tell your boss you’re burning out?
Only you can make that decision, but here’s my advice following personally experiencing burnout and helping many other people going through it.
Ideally YES, you would absolutely tell your boss and you’d discuss a way to get you back on the path to health and working at your very best. This might be reduced working hours, different duties, taking some holiday, or having some sick leave. The reality of the situation is that, without change, you will end up out of the workplace and unable to make a contribution because when burnout strikes fully you won’t be physically able to work.
If you feel you can’t tell your boss for whatever reason, then it’s absolutely critical that you take some time to allow yourself to get off the path to burnout and recover. Educating yourself on how to build more resilience and manage stress is a must for you and there are lots of ways you can do that. Do you have any holiday you can take? Do you need to take some sick leave? Some time-out right now is essential for you. Avoid the desire to just push on through.
How can you recover from burnout?
The very best thing is to get off the path to burnout before it hits – it’s much easier to make changes and regain your vitality that way. If you’re already there, it is fully possible to recover, and I can say that with confidence because I have done just that.
Often recovery involves a long, hard look at our thought processes and lifestyle, because we likely have habits and patterns that make us more susceptible to burnout. Making change is a necessity, but it doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to do it alone.
There is a way forward and you can do this. Don’t be alone.