I have suffered burnout a couple of times in my life. I need to stress that I lay the blame of my burnout completely at my door. I adore my work and my charity time. And because of this, I throw myself completely into what I do. The downside is, without something or someone to monitor your activities, you can make yourself very ill.
It is my hope that this page will not only help you recognise the symptoms of burnout, but help you to know when you need to take that break.
My first burnout experience happened in 2008. At that time my life was fairly unrecognisable to what it had been a few months before. The contract to a job I loved had ended. My fiancé and I broke up, which led me to moving out of the home we had just bought together. I had an operation on my back, which laid me low. And my beloved Nan passed away. I desperately needed a distraction.
This is when I threw myself into supporting a charity (CamSAR), to help me avoid facing my current circumstances.
I loved my time at CamSAR. I was deeply passionate about everything to do with the team. I enjoyed so many different experiences and made some amazing friends.
My new job was not enjoyable. Very shortly after I joined there were staff changes and I was cut adrift from my department with no focus and little work. I was earning the highest wage I had ever earned but had gone down a career path I was struggling with. I just didn’t know which direction to go next. With very little to do in my working day, my struggles with depression and burnout were starting to overwhelm me.
So, I filled that time finding CamSAR related work to do to take my mind off all that appeared to be going wrong in my world at that time.
However, I became so engrossed in the charity, I failed to notice that I was waking up early, spending a full day at work, often taking CamSAR calls or carrying out a bit of admin for the team. I wasn’t going to bed until very late, often eating my dinner sat at the computer. I was busy every weekend and every evening, just so I didn’t have to think all the “losses” I had endured.
Then one day, looking at CamSAR email, I realised I was extremely anxious. I started to avoid opening my mailbox. I just couldn’t face one more demand on my time, even though it had been me who had offered it so willingly.
I was getting agitated. I couldn’t sleep as my brain was constantly wired. I was irritable with people around me. The banter of the team annoyed me. I had lost my sense of humour. And I no longer looked forward to the events I had worked so hard to setup. It just wasn’t fun anymore.
This is definitely how I was feeling:
In 2013, I was made redundant so I took the opportunity for a new start. I went to work for the University of Cambridge which meant I had to reduce my time spent at CamSAR to focus on my new role.
To start with, I was working just a few hours a week, but this gradually built up to full time as I took on two part-time roles. The benefit was that I had fixed working hours, so initially didn’t work any overtime.
But again, my dedication to the role overtook my sense of self. By the time I left, I was running from one job to the other without any real breaks. I found that walking from one site to another (a matter of 10 minutes) was exhausting. I was struggling to sleep again. All the old symptoms of burnout had returned. Recognising that I needed to slow down, I changed jobs. Whilst I was still working across two sites, it was only one per day.
But the damage had been done. Unbeknown to me, I was also in the throws of menopause.
Despite my inability to recognise burnout until its too late, I am a firm believer that when you get ill, rest is vital to recovery.
If I get a cold, as soon as I feel the aches and shakes, I go to bed for 24 hours. I let the body do what it has to to fight the bug. If I try to battle through it by working, the bug always lasts longer. My body doesn’t have the reserves to do both. I also noticed this when I hurt my back. I was bedridden for 2 weeks, only able to crawl. Getting to the bathroom would be so exhausting, I would sleep for 30 minutes afterwards. It could move or it could repair. But it couldn’t do both.
During Menopause, the body is going through a seismic change. And unlike many of our mothers and grandmothers, most of us are probably working full time or still rearing children. So our poor bodies are going to struggle to fix itself and carry on with our rigorous daily routines.
So it is important to learn to take care of ourselves. To recognise the signs of burnout, and intervene before your body gets beyond repair.
And so it is that all of the symptoms below for Burnout, you will find listed in my Menopause symptoms page.
- *Mood swings
- *Loss of joy
- *Anxiety^Brain fog
- ^Poor concentration
- ^Poor memory
- Difficulty sleeping
- Tired/lacking in energy
*I have put all these under the one hood of Depression.
^ I have put all these under brain fog and poor memory