I'm writing this post today because it's been RIDICULOUSLY busy here at HeadStart HQ the past few weeks. Loads of exciting stuff, but day-to-day admin has fallen by the wayside and I was due to film the weekly Facebook Live Workshop today.
When I realised I didn't want to.
I didn't have the same enthusiasm, I was struggling for 'decent' topic to talk about and I simply couldn't be bothered.
That's when I knew it was time to have rest. Because for me, apathy, lack of drive, and generally teenage style attitude to life is one of the early warning signs of burnout.
What is burnout
Fatigue, apathy, depression, overtraining syndrome, adrenal fatigue, nervous breakdown - whatever you want to call it burnout is that state where you've literally used up all of your reserves. You'll all experience it in your own ways, for me its being very emotional, taking things personally, complete lack of energy and loss of appetite. What you're actually experiencing is a change in your physiology. When we push things too hard for too long you start to disrupt your hormone balance, it creeps in and then one day you realise something is wrong. You're simply not yourself but you don't know what to do about it.
With that in mind, I thought I'd share with you the 5 ways I use and teach out patients to prevent burnout
1. Know your warning signs
It's the age old thing, no smoke before fire. If you've ever experienced this before then you know full well there were little signs but you chose to be the eternal optimist and ignore them! To be fair, the signs are normally small to begin with, but the key is that they are different from normal AND persistent. Examples of warning signs could be:
- Increased irritability
- Disrupted sleep (too much/little)
- Fatigue, lack of energy
- Increased messiness around the house
- Plateau in training
- Increased aches & pains
I could go on! But notice how it's ALL areas of life - there will almost definitely be small early warning signs in a variety of areas. Learn what yours are, and when you see them do something about it. And if you really really aren't sure on your signs - ask your partner or best friend - they'll be able to tell you!!
2. Drop the optimist attitude!
This is a polite way of saying stop being so stupid!! Listen, if 2 years ago you overdid it at work, lined up 3 competitions in a row and moved house and that caused some burnout. Which would have taken a good few months to recover from, why on earth do you think you can do it again this time??! In reality we put our bodies through a lot, and we are getting older. You can of course learn how to manage stress more effectively but fundamentally if you struggled last time doing it then why do you think you can get away with again this time? BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF! Is it actually realistic the training plan that you have put together? Now you have kids and are travelling regularly do you really think that niggly knee is going to cope with a marathon when you haven't run in 3 years?
Be realistic not optimistic - you'll achieve so much more by taking things slowly over 6mths than burning out/injuring yourself in 2mths and spending 6mths recovering.
3. Take control
When you do notice that you're feeling overwhelmed, overworked or overtrained then take control. The last piece of advice warned against optimism. This warns against pessimism. YOU WILL FEEL DOWN when you're burnout and injured. This leads to negative thinking, 'victim' style mentality. Why does this always happen to me? How come everyone else can do it? This is just as dangerous. Focus on yourself first and what you CAN do rather than what you can't. People who seem to manage a busy lifestyle make compromises when they need to and also give themselves a kick up the backside when they need to. If you're feeling burnout and tired, then make a change to your life, training schedule. Remove any unnecessary stress immediately and begin some self-care.
4. Create an emergency action plan
Once you've spent time working out your warning signs you can then work out your emergency action plan. A 3 day plan with just 3 things to focus on. In my case; sleep, exercise, gluten free. Without fail these are the easiest things for me to do but that also give me the quickest improvement. From having implemented this a number of times now it also gives me the reassurance that THINGS WILL GET BETTER! I always recommend keep it simple, and think of nothing else over the next 3 days than these 3 things. Any decisions you have to make ensure they follow this plan. Does it get me more sleep? Does it make me move more? Does it contain gluten?
Examples of other things that you could include are:
- No refined sugar
- No alcohol
- Increased water
- Vegetables with every meal
- Turn phone off after 7pm at night
- Say thankyou as much as possible (gratitude practice)
- Use the foam roller
- Call friend/family etc
And obviously the final piece of advice is prevention. You now know your signs, what things are effective in your emergency action plan so you can start to weave these into your daily life.
Supporting your body is absolutely key for preventing burnout. We often focus on psychological stress, but I've found that if you nurture the body, continue with clean eating, balanced exercise, moderate sleep, gratitude, self-care in general for the body then your mind is less stressed, more rational and can detect burnout from a long way off.
Think about what was in your life when you were at your happiest
Those are the factors that you want in place EVERY day to prevent burnout and shift the scale to health and happiness!! Boom!!!