I meet many many people who are feeling overwhelmed at work. Sometimes it's the work, but sometimes it's also a stressful workplace. This is not uncommon. However, when it gets to the point of burnout, it's a whole different matter. When I meet people who cannot tell me one thing they have achieved at work this week, who have nothing but negative self-talk about their abilities and capabilities in the workplace, I ask them to tell me how it's affecting them as people. When someone is burning out they begin to lose their sense of self, and this limits their resilience, their self-esteem and their capacity to defend themselves.
Whatever our work or where we work, as unique human beings we are entitled to respect. We do not have to tolerate abuse. We might be frightened of speaking up for ourselves because we fear looking weak or losing our jobs, but we can at least support ourselves with positive self-talk.
"I can only do as much work as is humanly possible and that is enough"; "my boss is under pressure, but that does not mean I have to give my whole life, my health and happiness to this job"; "I am a good and capable person, I will do my work and separate it from my personal life"; "I will not allow my working life to undermine my values and principles"; "at the end of every day I will remind myself of my achievements"; "I celebrate the work I have done today, the rest must wait until tomorrow"; "even if nobody else appreciates me - I do". When you begin to doubt yourself, take 5 minutes to list all your skills, abilities, your qualities, and what matters most to you in life. Taking that 5 minutes will not increase your backlog at work; it will have a positive affect on your mental health and help you to achieve more.
Wellness in the workplace is a big issue. It is perfectly reasonable to tell your line manager that you need to meet with a workplace coach. If your line manager responds with "do you want to hear about my pressures" then guess what? S/he needs to see a workplace coach too. The people we work with/for affect us, but we affect them too. If you can speak up and care for your own wellbeing, it will have a positive knock on affect in the workplace.
How do you know when it's more than work pressures, and you're beginning to burnout?
As an employee, are any of these familiar?
You think about work last thing at night and first thing in the morning (and probably while you're asleep), or you get very little sleep at all because you worry about work.
You feel ill, but worry about taking time off in case someone else will get your work done and show you up.
Your workspace is a mess - maybe subconsciously wanting others to realise you're overwhelmed.
You are tired all the time. When you get home you just want to sleep. You have no energy for a personal life.
Your concentration is poor. You work extra hours to catch up on the work you couldn't finish because of poor concentration, and make the problem worse.
When you take annual leave, you double your hours to get your work done before you go, and become ill while on leave (every time!)
You are irritable with workmates who seem to be better at coping. You feel tense and angry and it spills over into your personal life.
You are losing or have lost the ability to enjoy anything and can't remember when you last had a good laugh. You have become pessimistic and negative.
You cannot muster any sympathy for colleagues who tell you they feel overwhelmed at work, because you are so much worse off.
Your appetite and eating patters are affected.
You have begun to isolate yourself at work. Working through lunch, closing the door to stop people talking to you, coming in early or leaving late to avoid others, bringing your coffee to your desk to avoid tearoom chats (I'm too busy).
You feel detached and disconnected from colleagues
You have catastrophic thoughts - always worse case scenario.
You feel ill and hope it's something serious to account for the fact that you are not coping with your work
Hopeless, helpless, ineffective
You have thoughts of self-harming to make it stop.
You can make it stop, by talking, caring for yourself, and examining your priorities and values. Let someone help you. It's a sign of strength, not weakness.