How To Identify And Prevent Burnout
19 September 2022
It’s all about boundaries, being aware and lots of self-care says Colleen Callander, leadership coach, author, keynote speaker and founder of Mentor Me Women.
Burnout costs billions of dollars every year to our healthcare system and endangers the wellbeing of thousands, many of who are women. In a recent report from Indeed, it found burnout is on the rise, with 52% of all workers in Australia experiencing employee burnout, which is above the global average.
Women, and especially mothers, often put others before themselves. It can be subconscious – a natural inclination – and it’s an experience I’m all too familiar with.
In 2007, I was the acting general manager of the iconic fashion brand Sportsgirl, and I became the proverbial ‘headless chicken’. To say I was busy was an understatement. With three children – Macey was just two, Trent, nine and Jake, 10 – an average day was barely-contained chaos.
As my role at work evolved, so too did my busy lifestyle. It involved everything from raising small children and managing the day-to-day running of a house, to interstate travel and countless meetings and appointments.
I describe myself during this period as a “Formula 1 race car”, but one that had not been refuelled, serviced, had its tyres changed, or pulled into the pit stop in a very long time. Is it any wonder that I was feeling burnt out? I had just been going and going and going. I knew no boundaries and said yes to everything, no matter how full my plate was. I wanted to be the perfect wife, mother, friend, sister and daughter. I put everyone else’s needs before my own, including my health, and this took its toll and came at a great cost.
No one asked me to do all of this, mind you – it was just me. I have always been a people pleaser. My whole childhood was about pleasing my mum and dad and making them proud, and that flowed through to the way I lived my life. Making my boss proud, my kids proud, my husband proud… That’s all that mattered to me. The thing about being a people pleaser is that it works out well for everyone else, but not so well for the person doing all the pleasing.
I was only 36 years old, but I was utterly burnt out. I hadn’t lost my passion – far from it. I absolutely loved my job and was so proud of what I’d been able to achieve in my career. I just didn’t have anything left in the tank.
I was very fortunate to be able to take time out. I took three-and-a-half months off and pulled into the pit for a well-overdue service, refuelled, changed the tyres and had the best lesson in self-care ever. Burnout was a gift in some ways. It taught me that I can only be good to others when I am first good to myself, whether that’s in my role as a mum, leader, friend or wife. I also got myself a life coach in Shannah Kennedy, and that was a game changer.
What I’ve come to learn in the years since, is that my problem was a very common one among women and was definitely amplified with the pandemic. The thing about burnout or exhaustion is it doesn’t just affect you; it affects everyone around you. You are tired, cranky, emotional, and sometimes even irrational. Your family, friends, and teams around you don’t get the best version of you when you’re in that state.
Burnout happens because you are overwhelmed and exhausted – which is a by-product of an overpacked schedule and always putting others before yourself. I am sure there are many of you reading this who have experienced burnout previously, or maybe you are on that train to Burnout Town right now. I wish I knew then what I know now; I wish I’d known the signs that very quickly creep up on you.
Signs of burnout show up in many ways, and we need to recognise these warning signs before we get to a point where burnout takes over. Chronic exhaustion, concentration and memory problems, constant fatigue, irritability and lack of patience, lack of energy, brain fog, sleep disorders or insomnia.
I also wish I’d understood the importance of self-care and self-preservation, and this is why I want to share my experiences and failures. I am passionate about helping other women recognise the signs of burnout before they reach the same dire point I did. I want to empower women to be comfortable with putting themselves first, and to live a life of self-care and self-love.
I also want women to know the importance of boundaries. Boundaries not only help you prioritise your wellbeing and support a ‘life in balance’; they also empower you to make healthy choices: emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Boundaries are about protecting the most important person – you!
Tips for setting boundaries:
- Communicate clearly.
- Set boundaries.
- Get comfortable saying ‘no’.
- Build in technology curfews.
- Get a mentor or coach.
- Prioritise what’s important.
It’s time for organisations to start the conversation that burnout is real and help employees recognise the signs and promote strategies within organisations to avoid burnout. This is one of the reasons I have collaborated with Shannah Kennedy, one of Australia’s leading life strategists, health and wellbeing expert, and author of the Life Plan, to create The Masterplan – Life, Leadership, Longevity. The Masterplan is an immersive and transformational day to reset, refocus and recharge as you create your personal Masterplan for success both personally and professionally. For more information, or to join us on the 11th October for a full-day event in Sydney, click HERE.