Don't get burnt out before you've time out

Lessons from Formula 1 – How to spot warning signs of burnout and how you can help yourself and others.

It’s often the last person we expect who burns out and comes crashing down, their mental and physical health pushed to the limit and causing a breakdown in their personal or professional life. It can happen to anyone at any time. It could be your boss, co-worker, a supplier, best friend, son, daughter, partner, but what if it’s you?

There’s nothing wrong with being busy and juggling lots of tasks. As humans, we thrive on mental and physical activity. We perform our best when we are happy and fulfilled. We can take on a variety of different things at once, but if we don’t allow ourselves the capacity to rest, relax and recover, we can miss the warning signs of burnout and become detached, withdrawn and potentially seriously ill.

The good thing is if we can spot those signs early, in ourselves or other people, the better prepared we can be and the more positive steps we can take. Just as you would carry out a service and MOT on your car, it’s important to do the same for yourself.

If you think of your mind and body as a high-performance Formula 1 car, you’ll know choosing the right fuel is as important as choosing the right parts, the right tyres and the right people to have in your team. These are key ingredients to long term success, finishing the race and taking home the trophies and prizes.

Don't get burnt out before you've time out
Don’t get burnt out before you’ve time out

Top 3 Causes of Burnout

Just as in motor racing, our lives run on time, money and energy. If we’re low on any, or all of these we can suffer. Perhaps it will only be for a short term, but if the problems with time, money or energy are prolonged, they can compound, and become harder to solve as your resources are depleted and eventually run out.

Symptoms of Burnout

Going back to spotting the warning signs of burnout, do you feel more tired than usual? Are you sleeping well? Do you have frequent colds, or loss of appetite? Have you lost a lot of weight, or gained a lot of weight? Do you feel trapped, hopeless or helpless? Have you cancelled plans with friends, or lost interest in a favourite hobby? Do you dread answering the telephone, checking your email, or even going into the office?

On their own, these symptoms can be easily overlooked or dismissed as “not a problem” or “something to deal with later”, “I’ll be ok”, or “everyone goes through this”, but this isn’t true. Unlike a car, you won’t have a bulb light-up on your dash to say something needs fixing, however learning to spot the symptoms and warning signs is the first step to getting back on track.

Effects of Burnout

As well as your own mental and physical wellbeing, burnout can affect those around you, perhaps even without you realising. You may feel more cynical or critical than usual. You may be sarcastic, irritable or quick tempered, raising your voice, becoming angry or violent. Feeling detached and withdrawn is equally common. Cancelling plans. Arriving late, or not at all. General apathy towards yourself and others.

Even the simple act of closing your office door or screening yourself from co-workers with paperwork or desk debris, can be the beginning of cutting yourself off from others, including those who haven’t already given up asking you to join their activities.

Tips To Avoid Burning Out

Keeping track of your time, money and energy are three effective ways to look after yourself and can greatly reduce the time you are “off the road” or out of action. Just as in Formula 1, always check the warning signs on your dash, take the time for regular pit stops, and make time for repairs earlier rather than later. Find the best people to be on your team, those who will have your back and those who want you to succeed.

These are things I help my clients with every day. Working with you on an individual basis I can help analyse your time and tasks and make recommendations for software and processes to give you more time, more money and more energy to be in pole position for success.

If you’d like to find out how this works, please book a 15-minute exploration call with me and I’ll get you to the front of the grid.