Ep. 31 – Burnout Defined
What is Burnout and why is it important in relation to Intentional Productivity? This episode defines burnout, and introduces some of what causes it. You’ll also hear more about Mich Bondesio’s personal experience of extreme burnout.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 31
Have you ever lost your enthusiasm for the work you do to the point that you can’t muster yourself to do a good job?
Have you ever felt too mentally or physically exhausted to come up with the creative ideas you are usually known for?
In this season of the podcast I’m talking about burnout.
Hi and welcome to Creating Cadence – a podcast for life and work in motion.
I’m your host, Mich Bondesio, a writer, coach, consultant, and the founder of Growth Sessions.
And this is episode 31, the first episode of Season 6, recorded in June 2022.
I have a it of an issue with my throat at the moment, so please excuse my slightly croaky voice.
In Season 5 (which was episodes 26 – 30), I focused on the concept of Intentional Productivity. This is a phrase that I coined 4 years ago when I first started Growth Sessions. And this year I’m writing a book about Intentional Productivity. So I’d wanted to introduce my listeners to the topic.
But this season, I’m looking specifically at burnout, because it plays an important role in why Intentional Productivity is so crucial for our wellbeing.
So in the next 5 episodes I’ll be covering what the term actually means, how to recognise the symptoms and stressors associated with burnout, and what causes it and how to avoid it. We’ll also look at methods of prevention and remedies you can use to help break the cycle of burnout so that it doesn’t keep happening to you.
If you’re ready, let’s dive in…
Part 1 – Background
First, a disclaimer …
I studied psychology as part of my under-grad degree, but I’m not a psychologist or a trained mental health professional. And I’m not some wellbeing guru either.
So you may be asking why am I qualified to talk about burnout?
If you’re a long-time listener you’ll know that I have a personal, lived experience of extreme burnout.
I’ve spoken it specifically in Episode 1 of the podcast, but I’ve also touched on it briefly in episodes 26, 27 and 28 of Season 5.
Based on my experience, I’ve since invested a lot of time and effort in learning. So I could understand how our brains and bodies work. And I could implement practices that support my health and wellbeing, particularly around how I work.
My experience and learning has led me to transition into work that helps others to develop more mindful approaches to work, which supports their intentional productivity and helps them to create better work-life cadence too.
And I’m still on a learning journey. So what I’m doing today is sharing what I’ve learned so far.
As part of today’s episode I will talk a little bit more about my own experience. But first, let’s understand what we actually mean by burnout…
Part 2 – Burnout Defined
So what is burnout?
Burnout… depending on where you are in the world, you may spell it with a hyphen, but I spell it as a single word.
Either way, Burnout is an umbrella term which covers mental, emotional and physical fatigue that occurs as a result of a prolonged exposure to stress of some kind.
It’s mostly used in a work context but, as I know first hand, it can span the breadth of both our work and our life.
It can cause a host of physical, mental and emotional health issues, which means that often there’s more than one thing that needs fixing.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation recognised Burnout as a workplace phenomenon, but it’s not classified as a medical condition).
The WHO define burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
It’s characterized by three dimensions:
1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism relating that job; and
3. Reduced professional efficacy as a result of 1 and 2.
Now, besides work there are other aspects of our lifestyle and societal structures which can also increase stress and contribute to burnout.
While we’re all susceptible to burnout, it’s most common for women, Black, Asian and minority groups, and LGBTQ+ communities to be subjected to the stressors which cause it.
The amount of time we spend online whether that’s for work or play or procrastination, also overloads our minds. The pandemic has been another major stressor contributing to burnout. Pollution and the climate crisis are also causing physical and emotional stress, so they can also contribute to burnout.
A society which dictates what we wear, how we should behave, who has more power, the patriarchy, people pleasing syndrome, systemic racism …. all of these thing create stress and can contribute to burnout.
And finally, for those of you listening who are entrepreneurs like myself, there are particular challenges that we face, which can increase our stress and cause burnout too.
I’ll talk about these factors in more detail in future episodes.
But for now, I’ll share a little bit more about my own story…
Part 3 – Mich’s Story
Like most of you, I’ve experienced small bouts of burnout throughout my working life. For me, this was primarily because I’d always worked in very high-pressure deadline-driven environments.
Then, seven years ago, I crashed and burned really badly when my burnout forced me to check out of life for almost two years.
The seeds of my epic burnout started 3 years before it actually happened. And it was a result of a period of prolonged ongoing stress on both the work and home front.
I had tried to just keep going, but when it all got too much, my body finally called time out. I was incapable of working for 18 months and it’s taken me a lot longer to rebuild my life with a stronger foundation after that very difficult time.
For me burnout manifested in lots of different ways.
It looked like depression and anxiety, crying and panic attacks, gut issues, skin allergies, and food sensitivities. I also couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t focus. My memory was totally shot and I had brain fog. I couldn’t read more than two pages of a book at a time.
Nowadays, I joke about the fact that I went from being a very capable, multi-tasking spreadsheet queen that everyone relied upon, to being unable to tie my shoelaces.
There was a period of about 6 months during that 18 month experience where I cannot actually tell you how I was spending my time, because time just seem to disappear. The days melded into one, and I felt like I was stuck in a dark, grey hole with sludge at the bottom.
The great news is that I found my way out and I was able to once again become a well-adjusted member of society.
I was able to do this through a variety of holistic therapies and lots of support along the way. Through understanding better about how my brain and body worked, and through practising and developing new ways of living and working.
I got sick because of external stressors and personal decisions that I made or didn’t make at the time. But at the time, I also wasn’t equipped with the right knowledge or tools to support myself in the way that I needed.
For at least a year after I started working again, I tried to hide or downplay the big gap in my working life. It was embarrassing. I felt like a total failure and it knocked my confidence and my performance. But the end of my recovery finally came when I was ready to admit and share about my experience.
And do you know what … the world didn’t end. People were really understanding, and that gave me the confidence to keep going.
Through this journey, I’ve developed better ways to live and work.
It’s why I decided to start my coaching platform called Growth Sessions and this very podcast, so that I can help other people do the same.
Now it isn’t all hunky dory. I still encounter the threat of burnout or experience small doses of it when I work too hard or too long.
It’s something I have to take very seriously now, because my body was affected so badly when I got sick that it now has a weak points.
But now, I know how to recognise the signs when I might be approaching burnout, and I have the appropriate tools, skills and foundations to help me stop, rest or make changes, so that I don’t go down that road again.
And you can do the same.
So I’m hoping that this season of the Creating Cadence podcast will help you to think about how stress and burnout affects your life and how you can take steps to help you break the cycle.
Part 4 – Conclusion
I had to learn the hard way that there is a better way to live and work. So I hope that you’ll come with me on this journey of learning so that you don’t have to experience the same.
In the next episode I’ll be looking at stress in general and the specific stressors that influence burnout. I’ll also cover the specific burnout symptoms to look out for, some of which may surprise you.
If you’re not already subscribed, do sign up to the fortnightly Cadence newsletter on the new CreatingCadence.co website to get more resources that help you to create momentum, work with purpose and live with intention.
And you’re welcome to drop me a line with your questions or comments, please write to hello @ creatingcadence.co
So, thanks for listening. Until next time, be brave in making change, be open to new things and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
Bye for now.
World Health Organisation – Definition of Burnout