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on the edge of burnout? here’s how to avoid going over

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Muthoni Gathinji | Aug 15, 2018 | Photograph by: Xavier Sotomayor

When Arianna Huffington collapsed at her desk and woke up in a pool of blood with a broken cheekbone and an eye that needed four stitches, the gig was up.  Sleep deprivation and exhaustion, two common signs of burnout, had caused her to crash face first into her desk. 

It was an extreme wake up call.  Nevertheless she learned that a well-rounded life and high performance are not mutually exclusive and high performance is actually better for it.  This changed her approach to life and work as a whole.

Burnout is emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.  Some of the symptoms you may encounter when you are on the edge of burnout include the following. 

  • A growing loss of enjoyment for work you once enjoyed.
  • Growing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and self-doubt.
  • Negativity and cynicism start to become your default attitude.
  • You begin to avoid loved ones and start finding social life pointless.
  • Falling asleep and staying asleep start to get challenging even though your fatigue is increasing.
  • You begin to feel as if your effort is no longer making a difference.
  • You start struggling to express your emotions.
  • You’ve started to ignore self-care. 


How to Avoid Going over the Edge


1. Treat the source and not just the symptoms 

According to best selling author Brené Brown, the true source of burnout is the belief that people are not doing enough, they do not have enough, and they are not enough as they are.  This results in ones’ identity and value being attached to unsustainable action.  Driven by this belief you may justify sleeping for only two hours as more means that you are lazy for example. 

Brown says that when you free your mind from the belief that what you produce and contribute is not your value and get crystal clear on what is, you’re able to avoid or recover from burnout.  You understand that you are valued for who you are and not for what you’re doing for yourself or for others.


2. Start setting boundaries  

Every time you say yes, your mouth burdens your back.  Your back can only take so much before it gives in to the load it’s carrying.  This does not just apply to external requests but to internal requests as well.  You may have a lot of ideas you want to bring to life.  Can you bring them all to life – maybe.  Can you bring them all to life at the same time – no, unless you are planning on doing a piss poor job on all of them.

Regardless of how many ideas you have, there is only one you to execute them so you must learn to prioritise. 


3. Prioritise self-care 

When burnout begins to take flight, self-care is often the first casualty.  Self-care should never be driven by feeling.  It should be a habit.  Something you do no matter what.  From eating right, to getting enough sleep, to staying well hydrated, to learning to disconnect.  Staying committed to self-care will help you keep burnout from taking over. 


4. Learn to find calm in the midst of the storm

Stress is a double-edged sword.  Too little and nothing gets accomplished.  Too much and you’re on your way to burnout.  The goal, therefore, is not to eliminate it but to manage it.  When stress begins to climb, you need a pre-established coping routine that enables you to recharge and find balance and calm.  It could be anything from meditation, painting, yoga, walking, running, or talking to a friend.


Do you feel like you’ve been on the edge of a burnout since 2012?  A career change may just be what you need.  Dreaming of your own start up?  Miss Independent’s signature eCourse titled ‘Goodbye Day Job’ is due to launch in 2019.  Would you like to be kept updated for when enrolments open?  Stay in the loop by clicking here.




Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017, to educate and mentor women and help them make their best career and business decisions. Natalie is an experienced business woman and non-executive company director focused on organisational design, strategy, growth and innovation. Her goal is to help you think differently, work differently and feel in control of your own destiny.

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