Stop Trying to Beat Burnout in Isolation

By the spring of 2021, over half of American workers reported feeling burned out – absolutely no surprise! After coming out of over a year of a pandemic, with the shift and blending of work and life and additional workload so many felt. And look, burnout is not to be dismissed. It is an officially diagnosable condition in which there is workplace stress that is not being successfully managed. Now, you maybe have experienced burnout, you’re experiencing it now, or maybe you will in the future, but burnout is bound to hit.

So I encourage you, that burnout cannot be solved in isolation.

When I was going through the 13 months that led to my burnout, to where I said, “I have to quit my job,” thankfully I didn’t – but that was my belief, is that I had to quit my job. That was my solution to the burnout, because I hadn’t figured out how to manage that workplace stress. And during those 13 months, I was trying to solve it completely in isolation. The only person who knew remotely what I was going through was my husband, Matt.

I didn’t talk to anyone, I had such a fear that if I shared the struggles I was going through, the stress that I had, with my colleagues or with my manager, that I would be looked upon as weak; that I would have been looked upon that I wasn’t capable of achieving the next level, which I wanted to eventually be there. I didn’t want to tell friends and family, because I felt like I was just bitching and moaning about my job – where I had lots of really positive things going on, but it was killing me at the same time. And that burnout in isolation never got solved.

It wasn’t until I hit that absolute moment where I then reached out for help. I got out of my isolation and I literally texted someone and said, “I need help.” In those beginning months of working with my coach, I began to actually share my story; I started opening up with my colleagues about what I had been going through. And shocker, so many of them had gone through the same things!

Or I heard, “Colleen, I wish I knew you were going through that. I would have been able to jump in and help in this way, or have supported you in a different way.” So, don’t stay in isolation; have conversations about it. I also encourage you to approach your manager.

Don’t assume that your manager has any idea that you are currently burning out, or that you’re on the verge of it.

Now, look, it is not about going in and just complaining. It’s about stating the facts, stating how it’s impacting you and others, and offering ideas for collaboration on a solution. When I was ready (which I should have done much sooner, I didn’t do it until about 15 months later), I went into my manager and said, “Look, I have this workload, I’m traveling approximately this percent of time per month, which means I am now only sleeping about four hours a night. I’m only seeing my family one or two nights and the weekend, and I’m starting to notice that the productivity and my quality of work is going to suffer, and I don’t want that to happen. So here’s an idea..” I had an idea that I would work from home on Fridays, which was almost unheard of for most companies 7-8 years ago.

But that was my recommendation, and my manager, without hesitation, said, “Absolutely, I’m good with that! If it means keeping you here at our company and continuing to have the same, if not better productivity and quality, that, I’m willing to accommodate that.” I was so scared to have that conversation when I was in the middle of burnout.

So I’m encouraging you today, don’t wait! Schedule the time, prepare yourself, stating the facts, how it’s impacting you and the organization, and ideas for collaboration. Start preparing that today, and have the conversation. Again, burnout cannot be cured in isolation – have the conversation, ask for help, and get it solved sooner rather than before it’s too late!

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