Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
- Helen Keller

Do you recognise these 3 Steps to Burnout?

Blog - Man at desk overstressed

Some years ago one of my friends had a cardiac arrest in the office and died, he was a fit and healthy male in his mid 30s who was rising up the career ladder; he was survived by his wife and young child.

If you think a cardiac arrest sounds melodramatic and can’t happen to you, think again, it can happen faster than you realize.

This post concentrates on what an individual can do to recognize burnout symptoms for themselves or others rather than looking at organizational policy, process and culture which can influence burnout behaviours.

Candidates for burnout

I am fortunate to work often with highly capable, ambitious, enthusiastic, energetic, talented and generous people. Most work very hard to deliver results against the odds on a regular basis, and they revel in their capacity to do so. Such ‘workaholics’ or ‘over-givers’ are often well rewarded financially or emotionally for their effort and they gain some self-esteem from being the one able to ‘hold things together’.

Whether at work, in our relationships, in social groups or elsewhere the areas in which we are most likely to burn out are those where

  • We invest our creativity, our passion, our heart and our ability to contribute
  • We earn a sense of identity, value, belonging, purpose or meaning

Entrepreneurs are particularly at risk because both the conditions are often true.

Research (2013) suggests that British professionals are likely to feel most overwhelmed and burnt out by their workload at age 41.

Candidates for burnout often include those dealing with change, balancing multiple roles, travelling extensively, on a fast-track career path, growing a business, or preparing for promotion.

Houston we have a problem…

As long as the situation remains healthy, our contribution is effective, our energy is high and our outlook is positive this is a great place to be. However, if something upsets the picture we become candidates for burnout, we work harder and do not respect what our intuition is telling us about our needs. Acknowledging the symptoms early enables early remedy.

3 steps on the road to burn out

These steps are not a medical definition, they are summarized based on my own experience, that of colleagues and occupational health professionals and from reading numerous books on the subject.

Burnout is not recognized as a distinct medical disorder due to the fact that burnout is problematically close to depressive disorders.

Here’s a small selection of burnout symptoms*, if any resonate with you it could be time for you to take corrective action.

Sick and Tired

  • Work is no longer a pleasure
  • The list of tasks is endless but you’re the only one who can do them
  • Your stress levels have hit the roof
  • It will all fall apart if you stop
  • You worry, hate, get tearful or are cynical more than usual
  • You’ve started getting illnesses & you used to be healthy

Burning Out

  • Pleasure is no longer a pleasure
  • You are doing more and more but achieving less and less
  • You’re losing faith in yourself
  • Everyone else is talking or doing things too slowly
  • You forget things easily or sit and stare into space
  • You wish you could get out of here because there’s too much to do

Burnt Out

  • You don’t know quite what you’re doing it all for
  • You are detached from everything - no real feelings at all
  • Whatever you do makes no difference anyway
  • You are tired of taking care of everything and everyone but you can’t stop
  • You are exhausted all the time and sleep doesn’t refresh you
  • The thought of being seriously ill makes you think at least you’ll get some rest

If you’d like to find out more about low-cost or no-cost ways to develop resilience habits that prevent burnout why not book on our open course here? Or get in touch to find out about other resources.

Best wishes,


*Some of these symptoms have been taken from “The Joy of Burnout” by Dr Dina Glouberman

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Thank you Angela, I had the most productive day I have had in ages. I estimate that I am going to save 1-2 hours per day by being more effective following your training so it was certainly a worthwhile day out of the office!
- Rob Borland, Validation Engineer, Caterpillar

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