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Stressed Out? How To Know If You're On The Path To Burnout

Your health is more important than replying to that email.

22/06/2016 10:05 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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My phone. I need my phone.

You're a serial phone checker. By the weekend, you've cancelled plans with friends because all you want is the couch. Getting out of bed on Monday seems like the hardest thing in the world. You're unenthused and just generally feeling helpless, about everything.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the destructive path to burnout.

"There are varying levels of burnout, it's not as if one day you are fine and the next day you're burnt out. It's a gradual process," Vanessa Bennett, CEO and founder of high performance coaching company, Next Evolution told The Huffington Post Australia.

To get to the point of burnout you are really disconnected. You're at that state of helplessness.

On the more severe end of the scale you might suffer something quite sinister like adrenal fatigue, but other times it's just a feeling that you get.

"When you're on the way, it is a general loss of enthusiasm. Everything just seems really hard," Bennett said.

Bennett explains you can still be functioning when you're burnt out and the difficulty with that is because it creeps up quite slowly, people often try and keep up the same routine -- and that's where you run into trouble.

"This is why it's so important for people to be monitoring their energy levels and how balanced they are feeling day-to-day," Bennett said.

Brigid Walsh, Golden Door Health Retreat's general manager agrees.

With more than 20 years experience in the industry, she's seen first-hand more than 14,000 guests come through her doors, many on the path to burnout or already there.

"To get to the point of burnout you are really disconnected. You're at that state of helplessness," Walsh told HuffPost Australia.

Being overwhelmed, having too much on your plate and not coping so well under certain circumstances creates stress, which leads you to burnout, Walsh explains.

Getting familiar with these signs and symptoms (which will be different from person to person) is key -- but also your own body, mind and resistance levels -- so how you deal with certain stressors, Walsh explains.

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Poor sleep

"Firstly ask yourself, is it a temporary thing? Could it be that the kids were up all night or maybe you had too much to drink, in which case it's not the end of the world," Bennett told HuffPost Australia.

Though if it's consistent, Bennett said this is when you should seek help or start to make changes to your routine to ensure you're getting seven to eight hours sleep each night.

"There's a lot of people out there who don't realise that they could be living their lives a lot less tired than what they are, they just don't know what it feels like to be energised properly," Bennett said.

Walsh adds waking up with work on your mind is another indicator as well as clenching your jaw, feeling tight through your neck and shoulders, feeling irritable and also, bowel problems.

Energy levels

Bennett teaches her clients to monitor their energy levels based on a points system.

From how positive and optimistic you feel, your resilience, how you are sleeping, eating and whether you are exercising and also how you structure your day.

"We believe if everything is working exactly as it should and you're feeling pretty balanced, you should wake up feeling energised and ready to take on the day -- or as we like to call it -- you have a maximum 100 energy points," Bennett said.

And that will be different for different people.

Your idea of 100 will be different to your neighbour's but it's about ensuring you have enough "energy credits" to spend on doing the things you want to do, and then also being able to invest in activities that will give you more energy credits, like exercise, social interactions and mindfulness.

Cold and flu


It's not surprising people who are burnt out have a lower immune system.

"This means they will be more susceptible to cold, flu and bugs," Bennett said.

Research points to the fact this is more than likely an indicator that other things, like your sleep or nutrition are not at their optimum.

One study found people who sleep six hours a night or less are four times more likely to get sick after being exposed to cold virus.

Constantly checking your phone

"People think that you need digital detoxes, but it doesn't have to be that extreme," Bennett explains.

It's when technology starts to control you and you're finding that you cannot switch off is when it becomes a problem.

"Our bodies aren't designed to be constantly 'on' all the time," Bennett said.

The reason people have trouble switching off and then going on this path to burnout Bennett explains, is largely because they're worried about not being able to justify their existence when they're not running at one hundred miles an hour.

This is where taking the time to stop and reflect is crucial, Walsh explains.

"It's about being accountable, not only for yourself but your friends too. We describe it as a 'circuit breaker' where you step in when you notice a behaviour and ask yourself or your friend, 'is this sustainable?' Walsh said.

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