As mentioned in last week’s article How Wisdom and Passion Can Win Out Over Burnout — Part 1 of 2, I confessed that I was “at severe risk of burnout” and I better “do something about it—urgently”.
This was the case even though I had had an extremely rewarding quarter where I:
- got an exceptional and satisfying start to delivering my consulting services for my client.
- continued to write articles for consultants.
- continued to post useful content related to my craft.
- kept up, relatively, with reading and listening to various influencers.
- participated in networking events and continued to mentor and coach.
- also launched a consulting business course.
- oh…and I was diligently present for my family and close friends.
I should have been celebrating my first quarter. Instead, I found I was seeing indicator after indicator that I was running the risk of burning out.
Instead of running over the cliff head first, I applied some wisdom, put on the breaks and course corrected.
I followed through with my plan to reward myself for my first quarter and booked a trip to see my parents in Panama. And to make sure I took care of myself and recharged, I checked in with my business coach and asked for help to adjust my plans for the next quarter.
That’s why I decided to share others’ articles this past month, rather than creating my own.
I also foresee some other changes for both me and my business regarding my 2018 and 2019 goals. I’ll let you know what those are in future articles.
Until then, I am happy to share with you the remaining indicators I watch for to help me avoid full-on burnout. These too act as warning signs and, like driving, they help me navigate towards my goals and avoid various dangers along the way.
The Last 5 Leading Indicators You’re About to Walk Over the Cliff into Burnout
Indicator 6: Withdrawing from responsibilities
Responsibilities can be exciting. They can also be heavy.
As successful independent consultants, we can’t afford not to be responsible. We’re responsible for our craft, for our business, to our clients, and to other stakeholders like business partners, investors, and family. I rarely find a successful independent consultant who doesn’t have a high sense of responsibility.
So this indicator is a special one to watch for.
What I noticed was I was fulfilling all the responsibilities I had to everyone else—first. But when it came to me, I withdrew from taking care of myself. I started missing journal days, I struggled to get to yoga, and I wasn’t eating well or meditating. When I did meditate, I treated it as more of a chore than something I looked forward to and I wasn’t feeling recharged afterwards.
Postponing care of myself works for the short term. But in the long-term, it hurts my ability to help others. And I’ve learned from experience—that’s the most irresponsible thing I can do.
Indicator 7: Isolating yourself from others
Have you found yourself declining social events? Or hate the idea of going out for a coffee and talking to the barista you usually enjoy chatting with? Maybe you can’t even bring yourself to engage virtually. You don’t look at your emails or reply.
You likely have a good reason. You’re tired (Indicator 1), not feeling well (Indicator 3), or frustrated with others (Indicator 4).
Like Indicator 5 (feeling detached and alone in the world), there can be times when it’s healthy to isolate yourself from others. Maybe you’re sick and don’t want to take down others around you, or you’re an introvert and need the downtime to recharge.
These are all valid reasons to change your behaviour.
But if you’re changing your behaviour because you just can’t bring yourself to do the social things you used to enjoy—that’s when it’s time to take notice.
Take a moment and honestly check with yourself and ask why you’re declining the social event, not looking at your email, or barely stepping outside doing the bare minimum.
This time around, this indicator didn’t come up for me, thankfully. I adjusted my behaviour because I knew I needed the rest and was more selective about where I was socializing and who I was socializing with.
Indicator 8: Procrastinating, taking longer to get things done
We all procrastinate. And there are even times when this can be beneficial.
However, in this case, I’m looking for the items I’m procrastinating on which I know are critical to my goals. I usually work under the rule, if I don’t like it, I do it first. So when I move these items further down my priority list, it’s a sign to me that things aren’t sitting well.
It could be as simple as my subconscious telling me it’s actually not important. Or it’s an indicator I’m heading down the path to burnout.
Regardless, it’s a sign I need to check in with myself and ask, “Why I’m procrastinating?”. Which is exactly what I did. And to be honest…I had no good reason, except that I was overtired and feeling overwhelmed.
Another check in the box towards my score of 54/75 indicating I am “at severe risk of burnout” and I better “do something about it—urgently”.
Indicator 9: Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
Do you enjoy the occasional delightful dessert? Or maybe you like pairing that perfect wine with your meal.
That’s all good and well. It’s when we use food or alcohol to help us manage a stressful day, day after day, that this becomes a problem.
I didn’t get this indicator this time either. However, in the past, I used both. And coming from a family with addiction tendencies, this made for a scary time in my life. Because I have personally experienced this indicator and ended up weighing far too much, endangering my life and marriage, I am VERY AWARE to apply healthy methods to help me with stress.
Instead, I have meditation and yoga practice. I go for a walk with my husband and dog. I chat with my trusted advisors, etc.
Indicator 10: Feeling a sense of failure and self-doubt
Remember I mentioned in Part 1 that I had a great first quarter and I stopped to ‘celebrate’ and reflect?
The striking thing about this was I didn’t feel like celebrating. In fact, I had this overwhelming feeling I hadn’t done enough, that I didn’t deserve to celebrate. And that was the moment I positively knew I was in trouble—I could actually see burnout on the horizon.
But thankfully, I gave myself a serious shake and tuned into my perception of my effort and results. I realized my first perception was DEAD wrong. In fact, I had not only delivered exceptional value to my current corporate client, but I had surpassed my first-quarter goals. I absolutely deserved to celebrate, and I earned every ‘congratulations’ I was offered.
And even more importantly for me, the following bonus indicator gave me a shake and tipped me off before number 10 came up. As a result, I was already well on my way to course correct and avoid burnout.
Bonus Indicator: Warnings from trusted advisors
Do you have one or three people you fully and positively trust?
They understand what you are striving for, why you’re doing it, respect it, and are positioned to help you? Then you are rich!
These people are essential. They can help you keep track of your energy level. And if you have a mutually valuable relationship on multiple levels, they will know how to bring your attention to your situation.
I have a handful of trusted advisors who care enough about me to not only express concern, but to call me out on my bullshit. They know the lengths I can go to get what I want. These are people that I respect, who I am absolutely confident in. I know they mean well and want me to reach my goals—without hurting myself.
And when most of my trusted advisors say the same themed message to me—that they see me showcasing many of the indicators above, and pretty well within days of each other—I owe it to them to listen, to be curious, and to check in and do something about it.
That is exactly what happened during the last month of the first quarter of this year. I listened, I took time out, and I got away on holiday. I sat back and reflected. When I returned, I began to take massive action to adjust.
Thanks to my trusted advisors and my wisdom to listen to them and see the indicators for what they were, I avoided full out burnout.
We need vision, passion, and a burnout radar
I have had life-changing dreams since I was a little girl. And being excited and acting to reach my goals has been vital for me. I don’t know how else I could be where I am today.
But I’ve learned over time that making decisions and taking action can, in turn, not only burn me out, but if I continue, can truly hurt me. And this doesn’t serve me. In fact, it’s downright counterproductive for fulfilling my purpose.
So instead, I look for the indicators, the signs on the road to reach my goals and live my purpose. And that purpose is not only to help, but to arrive safely.
Are you watching for your signs?
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Thank you for reading.
Founder and President
Stand & Deliver Inc.