The 4 Stages Of Burn Out

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Feeling Stressed And Burned Out?

The 4 stages of burn out are commonly experienced by men and women who are just too busy and who don’t have enough down time. Do you wake up and can’t get back to sleep? Are you one of those people who will get up and go to the kitchen and look in the fridge? Maybe you go to the toilet and go back to bed, but your mind is still racing and you just can’t seem to get back to sleep, you end up tossing and turning. Perhaps you run through the events of the day, having conversations with people at work, you want to resign and have had enough, drafting an imaginary letter of resignation, fighting a sense of outrage and inadequacy. You keep thinking that the senior management is down on top of you, and you worry about your job, your partner, your kids. You worry that you may not be able to service that mortgage. Are you the kind of person who worries about everything, about your lack of interest in exercise and sex, you worry that you are drinking a too much, the wrinkles and the size of your love handles? You are tired of thinking that people may see you as “letting yourself go” and you’ve just had enough of everybody and everything. You could well be suffering from serious job or life burnout, and you need to take action now before this ends in a serious health problem in time! Welcome to burn-out, people, an all too common problem I see in the clinic today affecting many people.

Common Signs Of Burn Out

Can you identify with any of these?
• I often feel sad about my life, everybody is having fun but not me.
• I feel tired even when I have had my normal eight hours of sleep, I wake up tired.
• I am bored with my work and have difficulty concentrating, I need more fun in my life.
• I carry too much responsibility, everybody asks me to do something and I’m sick of it.
• I have got to a point where other people’s’ needs don’t concern me anymore.
• I feel emotionally empty at the end of a normal working day.
• My workload is far too heavy, I keep getting more work.
• I do not feel as sensitive as I used to feel, I couldn’t care less anymore.
• I often worry about my ability to do my job after hours, I frequently do work at night.
• I’m on the computer many nights a week, feel tired but keep on going.
• My boss has completely unrealistic expectations of me.
• I often drink too much alcohol or coffee.
• I eat too much, skip breakfast at times too.
• I am often ill, I seem to get sick a lot.
• I wake up in the morning dreading the thought of going to work. Not another day!
• I am no longer interested in sex, just leave me alone!
• I can get depressed on Sunday evenings, not another week ahead.
• Life generally seems pointless to me.
• There is not much in life I look forward to.
• I take less care of my appearance than I used to.
• My family constantly complains about not seeing enough of me.
• I spend a lot of time watching TV when I am not at work.
If you have answered ‘true’ to even five of these, you could be on the way to the slippery slope of burnout. Take action before it is too late!! 

4 Stages of Burn-Out

1. The Alarm  – The Honeymoon Phase

During this phase, your new job seems to be the answer to everything. You say yes to everything, take on plenty of work and are positively stimulated by it. You are seen to be diligent, and a willing employee. Your boss keeps on loading your plate. “If you want something done, ask somebody who is busy” so the saying goes. You are happy and fulfilled and your enthusiasm knows almost no bounds, you even work at nights and weekends. No task is too demanding and you are never loathing to walk that extra mile. The housework slides a little, but you try to pick up the slack on the weekend, even though you want to sleep in till 9.00am. At this point you probably have mild adrenal fatigue score when taking Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal fatigue questionnaire. You feel fulfilled and stimulated, albeit temporarily. Your body is in stage 1 of the stress phase, you are stimulated and the adrenalin is flowing. But can it last? It seems too good to be true.

2. The Resistance – The Reality Check

Your body I snow starting to resist the stress. The rose-tinted glasses are coming off and you start to see your boss for who he/she really is. You now realise that the office staff gossip behind your back, you are not getting paid for how much you are really worth. Your partner doesn’t floss his teeth, put out the garbage and the kids don’t clean up after themselves but you try to cope by doing it all. At this point you probably have moderate adrenal fatigue score when taking Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal fatigue questionnaire. You are never paid for any overtime and you work day and night. You have worked out the “working harder” does not make the difference, and “working smarter” doesn’t seem to cut it much either.  Your job and relationship are not really satisfying all your needs. You feel ripped off. And now you try to work even harder, but this does not seem to be the answer and you become tired, disillusioned, dispirited and frustrated. What is the point of it all?

3. The Burn Out – The Disillusionment

You now no longer feel enthusiastic and energetic, but constantly exhausted and irritated. Your partner, kids and job are appearing less attractive by the day. You start either losing or gaining weight, and your PMS may be getting worse. You may be experiencing regular headaches and your sleeping patterns are changing. You start exhibiting compulsive and addictive behaviour patterns with regards to alcohol, maybe sex or taking prescribed or recreational drugs, partying or compulsive shopping. You may have fantasies about having another relationship and could end up having a one night stand after an evening of drinking.

You start feeling angry a lot, blaming others for all the things that go wrong in your life. Your short term memory is shot, work deteriorates and you become openly critical of your partner, family, superiors or colleagues. Anxiety and depression become a part of your everyday existence and you often are ill.

4. The Exhaustion – The Red Alert

This final stage is serious and unless someone intervenes or you take control of your life, it could end in serious illness, or even death.
At this stage, life seems pretty pointless and you feel constant despair. You are completely exhausted and feel as if your mental and physical reserves have been depleted. You experience an overwhelming sense of total failure and a loss of self-esteem and confidence. You may well be one of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who have been prescribed an antidepressant, a sleeping pill or some other prescribed drug to “help you cope” with life. At this point you may have severe adrenal fatigue when taking Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal fatigue questionnaire. You feel unable to take charge or make any changes. You may have even thought the unthinkable, what’s the point in life when you feel so absolutely dreadful about everybody and everything?

Avoiding Burnout

• Never expect any relationship or job to completely fulfill all your needs.
• You need to learn how to balance work and play, don’t let your job take over your life. Working overtime will impact negatively on your ability to do the job in the long run, your health and relationships will be second best. Was it worth it?
• Overworking in an effort to avoid dealing with personal or relationship problems will lead to major problems, deal with problems and communicate effectively with the important people in your life before it is  too late
• Maintain an active social life, become involved with others on a regular basis.
• Do you have a non-tech hobby such as playing an instrument, board or card game, painting or drawing?  It can be very therapeutic.
• Learn to say no before you become overloaded, and don’t feel guilty for doing it.
• Accept the fact that you cannot be everything to everybody and that you are not irreplaceable. Learn to say no!
• If you work in a helping profession, remember that you cannot take responsibility for other people’s problems. They have to do so themselves, and all you can do is point them in the right direction.
• Doing things for people that they should be doing for themselves says quite a lot about you and possible unresolved control issues. Learn to relinquish control!
• There is little point in taking medications unless you also deal with the source of the stress, treat the cause, not the end result. Get help if it is something within you that causes you to work to the point of burnout.
• If you can’t change jobs, change your attitude with regards to the existing one.
• By learning to set boundaries and to sticking to them you can avoid burnout to a large extent.
• Learn to read your body – take a holiday when you need time out. A change can be as good as a holiday, but a holiday can be the best way to recharge those batteries.

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