This week we are talking about stress and burnout, specifically how to recognise the signs and take control to avoid it! Especially as it’s Stress Awareness Month.
Episode Key sections
[0-8mins] My experience, how burn out manifests itself physically.
[9 mins] Managing signs of burn out – stopping Stress in it’s tracks.
I remember too well the feeling of burnout. So I was coming home from work night after night.
my workload had been building up over time. Issues kept cropping up too. I was tight on resource too. Whch was a self professing story.
We were getting in a mess constantly because deadlines were un realistic and set by outside CEO, the infrastructure was shaky and falling apart. and to top it off a member of the team was underperforming. I had to go through this awful performance management process.
I remember lying in bed with my head swirling like a washing machine, and my heart pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.
it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I couldn’t switch off. Insomnia set up, I couldn’t eat properly, I was distant. I’d come in snapping at my then boyfriend. if he called me in the day I would bite his head off for no reason.
What I didn’t know is how it manifests itself in a physical way I didn’t know was possible. My heart would pound uncontrollably like it was going to leap out of my chest and I just couldn’t slow it down.
If you’re new to a role, feeling overwhelmed right now leadership or have had a change like a new leader the desire to impress can mean you are the source of some of this stress.
Things I learnt about Burn out
I learnt two things after my year-long breakdown,
- I had created a ridiculous expectation/pressure on my self – it was unrealistic, unhealthy & unstainable.
- No one else will regulate my workload or ask if I’m coping ok or doing too much. They will just keep piling it on until you ask the question. So what do you want me to focus on when?
We suffer a lot in IT and data over undervalued hidden work. The business doesn’t see the cod construction in the background or time to test. Let alone the invisible decisions around the solution. We often have to educate our business users, or risk devaluing what we do.
So as you know I’m all about practicalities, I want to empower you to recognise the signs of burn out, catching them before they crush you.
Now I don’t know what your situation is right now, but if you’ve worked all through this year, you may feel pressured, perhaps to pick up the slack from missing colleagues & skeleton staffing.
If you’ve had some time on furlough and now been forced back up to full speed, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed.
- Early signs might be a tense neck, shoulders and headaches.
- Do your colleagues annoy you or the slightest thing at home upset you?
- Crying all the time and feeling low about yourself and the future can mean you’re heading for a crash.
- As this progresses you be exhausted all the time.
- A little snappy or your mind racing around
- Feeling negative with an inability to see the good in anything especially the future.
- Are you withdrawing from work or at home? Feeling distant. If you notice this in your loved ones or colleagues, take time to ask if everything is ok, sometimes you need to be heard.
So if you are experiencing any of these feelings then it’s really important to take some steps now. The longer you leave a situation like this, the deeper and harder you fall with longer to recovery.
I’m going to split the approach into two sections:
- Tackling the ‘to do’ list and growing pressure
1. Self Care
I know the last thing you think you should do when you have so much to do, is to take a break. I worked through breaks and long hours to my detriment and bet you do too..
Studies show that this is not productive, and it’s not healthy either. Take regular breaks and see them as recharging points in your day. Like taking a walk in the local park or woodland. Green spaces are found to help you with creativity, you can think more clearly.
Drink plenty of water, use this as an excuse to get up and move around.
Make sure you take a lunch break, I don’t mean a date with facebook or instagram on your phone, thats just feeding negative stuff in. Take a true break from everything, remove all imputs.
You know we don’t realise it, but beating stress and burn out is as much about doing the things that bring you joy as it is about anything else.
Brandon Burchard would tell you to bring the joy – everyday you should have a ritual that involves doing something that you enjoy. Think about it for a minute, what makes you smile?
Maybe it’s a sweet treat, perhaps a walk in nature or cuddles in the morning with your kids.
Whatever your daily joys are, write them into your day until they become habits that trigger happiness and appreciation.
2. Tackling the Pressure & Task List
Ok so first off, what many of us don’t think about is recognising that you will be treated how you allow yourself to be. We know it but we don’t practise it often, what you tolerate becomes the norm.
You need to learn to be your own advocate, no one is going to do this for you. If you have an unbalanced workload to colleagues, ask if anyone has some slack to pick something up.
Ask your manager, what are the priorities, which of the tasks can wait or do they have other resource that can support.
There’s always a temptation to feel the pressure to do it all, like in someway you are failing. In reality this is good working practise and remember often our work is hidden from view (they don’t know how long it takes). If you can organise it within your team this also shows great leadership skills.
Take a deep look at your to-do list and highlight everything that could be done by someone else, or that could be with the aid of a guide. This is your delegate list!
While we’re looking at your task list, what is the biggest, most challenging or dreaded task you know that you will procrastinate over for most of the day?
Now you know what it is, do it first. It’s called eating your frog. Imagine getting the end of it and the feeling of relief.
A small tip to reduce overwhelm -Turn off email notivations on your phone, turn off the email notifications desktop pop up on your PC and instead schedule a time fr checking and responding to emails.
This is a tiny tactic that has a huge impact on the number of interruptions which reduce your productivity and the ‘always’ on mode which prevents that much needed digital detox. It puts you back in control.
Now I hope that these tips help you to address feelings of burnout and overwhelm before you reach breaking point.
I really want to invite you to send me your questions to help with your career progression, apply for a new role, or generally around your career in IT or data. Connect with me on linked in or email email@example.com
I will catch you again next week, until then sty safe & well.