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"Doing Your Best" and Burnout

I saw this quote pop up on my social media feed today.

It really reminded me just how often people become so caught up in the importance of doing their best and reaching their potential that they lose sight of the fact that doing their best sometimes means stopping and doing nothing.


Taking some time out to rest and reboot is tougher for some people than others. I have a typical high-achiever personality and because I am so driven by my purpose to make a difference across our working community, I have to keep an eye out for the times when I am pushing myself too hard and recognise when I need to stop and put my own needs above that of my work.


Are you a fellow high achiever? Are you driven by a deep motivation to reach your goals, rejecting the prospect of failure and driving forwards with a dogged determination devoid of distractions?


If so, then chances are you might also need to keep an eye out for the signs of burnout. All too often it can become too easy to be consumed by the passion of your work and the desire to excel that you fail to see the signs bubbling beneath the surface. And because burnout occurs over a gradual period of time, it is not always easy to notice the pressure cooker getting hotter and hotter until it reaches boiling point.


So what are the signs?

Broadly the early warnings to look out for fall into three categories...

1) Negativity

  • This would include a lack of enjoyment, isolation and detachment and an inability to be positive.

2) Exhaustion

  • This can manifest physically or emotionally. Signs may include fatigue, a loss of appetite, insomnia, lowered immunity, anxiety and depression.

3) Ineffectiveness

  • This relates to mindset and productivity, with an increase in apathy and immobilising feelings. Performance and productivity crashes due to the impaired cognitive function which can result in irritability and frustration.

We all want to be our best and make every day count. But it is even more important to recognise when ultimately the best thing to do with our time is to rest. Our minds and bodies are not designed to be driven at top speed and sometimes the thrill of the ride means we can miss the signs of wear and tear until things literally start to break down. Be alert to the warning lights and take a moment to ease your foot off the accelerator and put the brake on. Refuel, let things cool down and then when you need to reach that top speed again, you will be physically and mentally raring to race off the starting line again.


For me, this week has been exceptionally busy. I have delivered a lot of workshops relating to stress management, resilience and mental health and had the honour of working with some amazing companies and incredible people. And although I have deep passion for my work, I am also acutely aware from both personal and professional experience that I need to practice what I preach and conserve my own energy to prevent burnout. So, today I will be finishing early and enjoying some down time. And I won’t be even thinking about work until Monday morning.


The key to avoiding burnout is taking action to manage your energy for sustainable health and performance; it is a marathon not a sprint after all.

Written by Sadie Restorick MSc MABP

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