Burnout might not be what you think it is

It's way more than just tiredness 😫

2020 is the year of burnout.

I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being the “Word of the Year” under some guise or other.

I'm sure I'm not alone in finding the last few weeks (and months) really hard, and I've seen plenty of people on Twitter also suffering from the dreaded burnout.

But burnout is more than just tiredness, or even exhaustion. It's a collection of seemingly random mental, emotional and physical symptoms that completely ravage you from the inside out.

What is burnout?

According to the WHO, burnout has three elements: feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment from one’s job and poorer performance at work. Burnout differs from stress in that we can be both stressed and incredibly efficient, productive and, ultimately, successful. Whereas burnout is when the internal effects of the stressful lifestyle leak into your performance and, as a result, you start to see mental, emotional and even physical symptoms.

I think it’s important to differentiate classic stress from burnout, not to put down those who experience the prior, but instead to shine a light on the lesser-known effects of the latter. As a freelancer, I am answerable only to myself (and Craig, who works with me now). But in a corporate role, any significant decline in your performance is often only seen as a bad thing. You might be called into a meeting to discuss your performance and new targets will be set, but has any boss ever considered how burnout might be behind this change? And not just laziness, as is so often assumed by upper management.

Also, your tolerance for burnout is not the same as the next person. You might see someone seemingly do the exact same job, look after four kids, cook a healthy meal every night, ride the Peloton until the seat wears to shiny chrome and still get 12 hours sleep a night. Burnout and comparison are best buddies, when you are at your lowest you are drawn to admiring (or resenting) those who are at their highest. And how do you even know they are at their finest? We all have struggles and the only ones you will ever truly know are your own, so focus on those and let everyone else get on with it.

How to spot burnout?

According to The Burnout Solution, the signs of ‘pre-burnout’ are similar to that of depression. Great news for those of us who already have depression and, therefore, cannot tell the difference…

Burnout may also bring back old habits, whether that’s smoking, drinking too much, binge eating, OCD tendencies or whatever your Kryptonite, burnout has a habit of luring them out.

Noticing what the initial symptoms of burnout look like for you is the first stage to tackling it before you become a mushy mess. If you’re already a mushy mess and you feel like you aren’t a good writer anymore or never going to be good enough then remember this: burnout is more than just tiredness, it seeps into every area of your life.

It might be giving you a dodgy tummy or causing you to produce work you are simply not proud of, it might be making you snappy or pulling you back to the cigarettes. Whatever it is doing, remember you are not burnout - burnout is just a passing phase and with a little rest, recuperation and time outdoors, you will be back to your amazing self in no time.

Further Reading and Listening

PODCAST: Is This Working - How to recover from burnout

BOOK: The Burnout Solution by Siobhan Murray


📺 American actor and comedian Rob Delaney has been in the news discussing the passing of his two-year-old son back in 2018, I was browsing his filmography and realised he had written and starred in a sitcom called Catastrophe with the amazing Sharon Horgan. It’s on Prime Video and I’ve nearly watched all four series, it’s fantastic viewing - both hilarious and tragic at times - highly recommend!

Obviously, The Mandalorian is back and as amazing as ever. This week’s episode was INCREDIBLE. If you’ve seen it then you know.

That’s all from me this week! See you next week for my top books of 2020 🥳📚


Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:

9 December: Whatever happened to ‘be kind?’

2 December: The best briefs are anything but

25 November: Welcome to the busy-ness Olympics

18 November: Too many cooks spoil the brother (and the marketing campaign)

11 November: Everything is different now, so why are you trying to live like before?

4 November: Lockdown Part II: Here's my manifesto 📜

28 October: Why business owners don't talk about depression

21 October: How to actually stick to something (and why it’s okay if you don’t)

14 October: Meet the bosses who shaped me

6 October: Running a business when you're sensitive AF

30 September - Let them eat lockdown layer cake 🍰