Episode 279 Navigating burnout


Explore practical tips and insights for navigating burnout and prioritising self-care with host Anna Lundberg in this thought-provoking episode.

In this episode of Reimagining Success with Anna Lundberg, we delve into the important topic of navigating burnout. Anna shares her insights into recognising the signs of burnout, the importance of self-compassion, and the need to slow down in order to ultimately achieve more. With a holistic approach to success and wellbeing, Anna offers valuable advice on how to address burnout and the significance of seeking support. Whether you’re currently experiencing burnout or want to be prepared for the future, this episode provides crucial guidance on prioritising self-care and creating a sustainable path to success. Tune in and discover how to navigate burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

00:00 Recognise burnout, seek support, prioritise self-care.

04:50 Neglect leads to migraines, affecting life balance.

09:53 Prioritise activities that bring you energy.

11:37 Rest and compassion are crucial for recovery.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring – If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

Navigating burnout in high-achieving professionals

When people come to me wanting help with redefining success, developing their personal brand, improving their work life balance, successfully transitioning out of corporate into working for themselves, by definition, there is something about what they’re doing today that isn’t working. These people are usually high achieving people who have achieved a lot and have ambitions to achieve more in the future. But inevitably there are some people, and it happens quite a lot. And as I say that, I think actually there are many reasons why this happens, but some people are just not ready to change. And the reason I want to focus on today is when that reason is burnout or being close to burnout, because there are other reasons why we might not be ready for a change. But now I’m really talking about, okay, yes, you want to and even need to make some significant changes if you’re in that place of burnout, but you’re not going to succeed with those substantial changes at this point because you won’t have the clarity on what it is that you really want to do next, how to navigate that, and certainly you won’t have the energy and capacity to do so. So let’s dig into how you can navigate this phase.

And if you’re not there, then it might still be an interesting episode for you because you’ll hopefully reflect on, oh, I could get to that point and then the damaging effect that could have on your continued ambitions, not to mention, of course, your health and your family and so on. So let’s dive in. So, look, first of all, I’m not a medical or mental health expert, so of course my biggest advice to you is to seek the right kind of support. But I hope, if nothing else, I can give you a little bit of awareness, give you that nudge to do so, to be compassionate with yourself, most of all to slow things down a bit, and then really, if necessary, and probably is necessary, get the right kind of support. And again, to be honest, even without a diagnosed medical burnout, I’m going to put out there that anyone who’s been in corporate, who’s been in a high performance environment their entire career, let’s face it, and before with university and school and so on, will need a break before starting the next challenge. And if you’re relatively well balanced and you take care of yourself and you haven’t been uber stressed, then perhaps that break is a long holiday or a sabbatical. But if really you’ve experienced, you’re experiencing serious burnout, then it will take much longer. And that’s really frustrating.

But here’s the thing you need to go slow to go fast. So, yes, it feels like you’re taking a step back, you’re putting your foot on the brake instead of accelerating. And that’s especially difficult for people like us. But please understand, counterintuitively, that slowing things down is actually going to allow you to then hit your goals faster, if that makes sense. So let’s look at some of the signs of burnout. Again, I’m by no means a medical expert here, but you might be feeling super drained, really extreme fatigue, not having the energy for the things that you would usually manage. And these things can creep on, right, these symptoms, and they can start relatively benign, but then grow and grow as they grow, you’ll feel less able to cope. You might feel really helpless and trapped in the situation with no way out, unfortunately.

And ironically, we end up not being able to sleep, which of course makes us even more tired. We’re lying, anxious and stressed about the next day. Emotions can really be quite extreme, right? So we might be sad, it might come across as being angry, irritable or even indifferent. And we will often get physically ill as well. A lot. So lots of bugs and things because we’re not taking care of us, because we’re really drained, maybe don’t want to go out and see people and so on. But of course, this will be really personal to you and to share my own experiences of when I know I’ve pushed myself too much. I talk often about the fact that I get migraines.

I got my first migraine halfway through my university finals at Oxford. So that was wonderful. Great timing there. And I’ve managed them better or more and less over the years. When I was single and carefree and travelling and not working so much. Of course, naturally it was easier to manage it. And with newborn babies and young children not sleeping so well and business taking off and so on, of course the pendulum can swing back, so it’s something I’m really keeping an eye on. And of course seeking medical help with as well, looking at food, I’m eating and so on.

But anyway, migraines is my kind of medical sort of result of not taking care of myself. And it’s certainly a clear sign that things aren’t quite right. I also, of course, have difficulty sleeping. I find myself snapping at my partner, my kids, which of course is horrible. And I just don’t want to really go along with or agree to any plans or adding more obligations to my plate, even where they’re really nice things, right? So it’s something I’m very, very conscious of, again, of course, with the migraines, but all the time. And if you listen to my podcast, you’ll know that this is at the core of my philosophy. I like to think I believe, and I shall die on the hill of flying the flag, whatever. The metaphor is that we can absolutely achieve amazing things in work, have those ambitions, make a difference, make an impact, earn a lot of money, if that’s what we want to do, and take care of ourselves, take care of our families and pursue other interests and so on.

Right. So that’s sort of my underlying philosophy. And as a result, I have to role model that because that’s what I believe, and I want to role model that for my clients. So that’s really important to me, which, of course helps me then also do so. So I’ve mentioned compassion. I cannot overemphasise the need for compassion, self compassion, and of course, that’s very difficult. And so I again reiterate that you need to seek support, whether it’s from your partner, from McAuley, from your boss, from medical professional. We can’t cope by ourselves.

That’s the whole point in this moment. So we need to look for that external support. It’s just not sustainable to go at this pace again. Even if you’re not, you don’t think you’re actually at the burnout stage. If there is such a sort of neatly defined black and white phase, you will crash at some point, if you haven’t already. Right. The example I share, and it’s to do with physical health, which I think is more easy to sort of get to terms with, I suppose it’s more tangible years ago, and it’s my mum who tells me this story. So, sorry, dad, to keep sharing this, but I think it’s an enlightening moment.

Enlightening anecdote. He was very senior CEO of a big organisation, got a cold, couldn’t possibly not go along to work and go to these important meetings. So of course he flew over and went anyway. What happened? He got pneumonia and was off for three months, let’s say. So we have this perspective that, no, there’s no possible way that we can stop and take a break, because our family needs us, our colleagues, our team, our business, whatever it is we need to pay the bills and so on. Of course, unfortunately, if we don’t proactively drop those balls again, the metaphor of juggling all those balls, if we don’t proactively choose which balls to drop and slow things down, then at some point, that choice will be made for us. If I don’t stop when I’m pushing myself too hard and super stressed. And, of course, I might need to, if I’ve got a big workshop to deliver, I’ve got some, of course, childcare responsibilities and so on, I’ll do it.

But afterwards, I’ll feel much worse for much longer than if I’d actually stopped and rested. It will only get worse and it will take longer to recover. How can you address this? How can you actually, in this moment, get what you need, I e. Prioritise the rest and relaxation that you need to recover from burnout. And I think it starts with being honest with yourself. So, of course, having the awareness that this is happening, being honest, there’s a whole host of difficult things caught up in this. From a mindset perspective. I don’t get burnout.

I’m strong and I can cope and I thrive on busyness and high energy and I’m amazing at what I do and I’m this superwoman, superhuman person. And that can really get in the way of recognising and admitting that this is an issue and something that needs to be addressed. Now, this is a whole sort of Hornet’s nest we could get into. But the truth is, we all experience this kind of stress, right? It gets too much for all of us. It is in no way a weakness to experience stress, to admit that things are too much. And in any case, it’s a medical condition. If we’re actually burning out, then that’s something that is no more our fault than having a cold or whatever, the medical condition, the physical health that’s being affected. So awareness and honesty with yourself.

And then, of course, we need to identify what’s contributing to your stress, what is pushing you over the edge, and then how you can reduce it. Now, this is tricky, so I’m not talking about long term things. Again, career change and changing boss and moving and evolving your business model, whatever that is. We’re really talking the immediate short term. How can you reduce your workload? Can you take time off work? Can you hire someone else? Although that’s more of a longer term strategy as well. You need that time off now and I’m not going to add a long list of things for you to do. We could list yoga, meditation or even job search. Right.

We don’t want to add those things to your plate. If you’re doing something, doing an activity, do it because it makes you feel good, do it because it’s bringing you energy, it’s making you feel less drained, not because you feel you should or you’re told you should by other people. Right. I think that’s really, really crucial in this phase, that you’re not obliging yourself to do all these things again. You’re just living up to some ideal that you have where you’re supposed to be taking a sabbatical and doing yoga every day and breathing and whatever it is. Again, it’s very individual for you and you need to see what you can do to take the time you need and to really take care of yourself, to nurture yourself again. It comes back to asking for help in whatever form. And to be honest, when it comes to practical tips, I actually don’t want to get into that now, because if you are at this point, you need to be present.

You need to focus on taking care of yourself right now. Now, once you’re recovered, of course, we need to look at how you can better manage your workload. Talking to your boss, changing roles, hiring people, changing jobs, creating boundaries in the short term and then making more significant changes in the long term. Perhaps. But that’s not something that you should be worrying about now. And that comes full circle to the beginning of the episode where I said some people just aren’t ready to launch themselves into that new thing, whatever the new thing is, whether it’s a new business, a new job perhaps, or a new challenge in your organisation, you need a break and to take stock and take care of yourself again, even if you’re not experiencing a medically diagnosed burnout. Most of us in today’s world are overwhelmed and stressed and so on. So it’s only a good thing.

You can’t rest too much. So don’t worry about overdoing this. Again, not a medical professional, I’m not here to give you nutritional advice or any kind of medical advice at all. The reason I wanted to cover this episode, before I go into sort of other pivotal moments in your career and other things you might be experiencing, how you can change it is just, again, to have that awareness that if this is you, then the rest of the stuff doesn’t matter. Don’t worry about it. You need to take care of yourself now, whether you’re heading that way or already there in this phase of burnout, before you can possibly hope to sort of get out of there. And I know, again, that’s frustrating and disappointing to hear, but I just want to be honest with you to say that there’s no list of strategies and tactics and mentoring I can give you if this is where you are, because you really need to take care of yourself. So rest and compassion is my prescription for you at this moment.

So I hope that’s helpful. I hope it gives you either a little warning, a reminder of where you might be headed, or that final step that, yes, you do need to do something about this, and you need to ask for help to manage that. Then I hope that has been valuable for you. And we’ll talk about some other stages that you might be experiencing along sort of the career development path, where there are more concrete things that you can and should, within quotation marks, do in order to get to the next level. Take care of yourself. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.


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1:1 Coaching & Mentoring

If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring.


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