No More Yes Man – Avoiding Burnout

I am not professing to being educated or diagnosed in any form of mental health myself, these experiences and observations are my own.

To a degree, being a ‘yes man’ is a good thing. But at what point does a good thing become too much?
The last course of a career step I took, taught me to always say yes. To anything, any job. Be open, be willing, be a yes man and that will get you where you need to go. For the longest time, I’ve stood by this – a proud doer, and willing working woman.

Did it take burning out to give perspective?

As with physical burns, there are different degrees to burning out in life too. Emotional, physical, and mental burn out manifestations, chemical reactions that manifest differently in everyone that experiences them.
I remember the first time I felt the effects of burning the candle at both ends when I was 18, working 4 jobs almost every hour of every day, and partying between those hours off, like most 18 year olds I suppose, but as with everything I put my energy into, it put it all in and landed myself in a panic attack, alone, in London. As a result, I do not recommend putting all of your energy into anything that doesn’t fully serve yourself and with that, your mental wellbeing.

Why couldn’t I see it at the time?

Being so wrapped up in everything I was doing, working double shifts in a kitchen 6 days a week, a bar from 10:30 – 5am, a cleaning/care job, and managing the our self defence school, I really couldn’t see anything outside of whatever I was doing at the time. I remember my Dad being the only person that could see the spiral I had created for myself and telling me when I booked a ticket to London for the day, that I shouldn’t feel guilty for having a day off and that I should rest, he even used the term ” burning the candle at both ends”. But I was 18 and stubborn with a point to prove to someone or other.
Looking back, there is just no way I could have seen what I was doing to myself, other than being tired all the time. I didn’t even see it the next time it hit me 3 years later when I’d made the move to London close enough to full time to be paying rent and moving to 3 different apartments whilst I was there. For a little more around that story, read >here<.
Now I know that no matter where I’m at in life, taking time to step back and realign is important even if I don’t feel like I need it.

Recognising exhaustion

Is something is all too dismissed “How are you?” “Tired.” “Me too, I’m exhausted!” How many times a week do you hear that in the workplace or any other? How many times do you look up from what you’re doing and stop to see if that person has been able to take the time to look after themselves? My guess is not enough. Kindness is in short supply these days people, and it doesn’t cost anything for all of us to show a little more of it.
Burning out isn’t a medical condition. This is something that you can reverse and treat by yourself with a little more self care and down time. Recognising that you’re spiralling into burn out is better the earlier, as with anything, and it can happen to anyone.
Have a read of >this story< from a woman who encountered burn out and how she didn’t see it happening at all.

Physical exhaustion can look different on everyone, but classic signs include looking fatigued, illness, headaches, a change in sleep routine and appetite. This can be expected through trying times, and lengths of prolonged stress.
It is important to remember throughout this, that all is relative, and what stresses a child may seem trivial to an adult, but that does not decrease the severity of stress that the child is under.

Mental exhaustion can show a change in attitude and lack of care in both home and work life. When spending any energy on anything of basic care, even brushing teeth or getting in the shower becomes too much, it’s a good time to check in with yourself. As would make sense, there is a cross over in mental symptoms between burn out and depression, but all the more reason not to self diagnose. If you feel you are suffering for more than a couple of weeks after having a couple of days off, please make a doctors appointment rather than google your feelings.

Emotional burnout can often rise to the surface through regular feelings of dissatisfaction, upset, paranoia, avoidance to your responsibilities, and often a dependence on alcohol, drugs, food and even physical abuse.
All of which are reasons not to dismiss “exhaustion” as a common reply to the innocent “How are you?”.

Check in on your ‘strong’ friend

Even the strongest people have weaker days. And more often than not, they’ll shake it off and say their fine. Which they probably are! But just take the time to check in and ask again, really ask them. Maybe from a distance just observe how they’re handling things, are they taking on extra work, are they suddenly no where to be found in their usual social escapes, are they distant or looking a little more worn out than usual? A little pick me up note, a cup of coffee, a phone call, even as much as a smile and genuine ‘have a great day’ can change the tone of the day for someone with a lot on. A little something to let them know you’re there is sometimes all it takes. Do for them as you would hope they would for you.

Accepting that it’s good to stand back and recover

It’s all too easy not to. To carry on, and mutter ‘ get over yourself’ when we feel weak, but there is no shame in feeling weak and admitting it is something that only the strongest can do! There is no point to prove. No medal for being the hardest working. When you look back at this tine in your life, it shouldn’t only reflect how many hours your working week was or how tiring and overwhelming everything felt. Step back. Speak to whoever you need to and just say ‘ Hey, there’s a lot going on right now, and I would really appreciate a little time out whilst I get on top of things.’ You need to do this before you become inefficient in whatever you are trying to achieve, and before the struggle to reverse the effects becomes too much.
If you are unsure of who to speak to about this, you can simply google health and well being councillor for your area, or call you GP.

It must be OK to be a no man.

When it’s too much, it’s OK to say no. You don’t have to be a hero and take on more than you can handle. At home or at work. These days, most workplaces will have a good standing policy for managing the workload and a reliable system in place for when this gets too much.
Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be a level of reason when applying using the no card, I can’t say no to the ironing and expect it to be done for me. Nor can I say no to my basic tasks asked of me at work, but a break is alright.
“Yes” will get you far, but make sure it is in a direction you want it to take you. “No” is the word you use when you need to re-direct or use the breaks.