Burnt out – Overwhelmed, Overloaded and Overworked.

My client glared at me and I was not sure if they were going to hit me or sob on my shoulder. Their face was contorted with stress and their words were so fast paced I’m not sure even they knew what they were saying. Welcome to the overwhelmed, overloaded, overworked.

The first thing they said to me was “I feel so overwhelmed I don’t think I can cope any more. I just want to get in my car and drive away, I don’t care where to, just away from here.”

This person has a career, children, a partner, a dog and a rabbit – all of which would suffer if they left.

If you have ever felt like you are about to meltdown. Scream something terribly rude in a bank queue or in the middle of the street or have poured a cup of tea in your handbag by mistake (yes, one client did that!) then you are probably facing extreme stress, like you need a holiday and are at high risk of burn out.

What can you do to pull back from the brink?

  • To restore the balance?
  • To not feel like you need a holiday every other week?
  • To get everything done and not stress about work all of the time?
  • And actually start loving the life you already have?
  1. Start saying No.

It’s such a small word, and yet one so many of us fear using. Why is this? Think about a time where you said yes and regretted it. What was happening? It’s highly likely that;

  • You always say yes.
  • It’s just something you do.
  • You don’t want to let someone down.
  • You don’t want people to think you don’t care.
  • You would hate people to think you can’t do it and aren’t capable.
  • You are worried people think you aren’t coping.

Guess what? You aren’t coping!

We fear saying no to people because we fear what other people are thinking and if that’s not it, we are fearing what we will start thinking of ourselves! Some of the things my coaching clients say are things like;

  • If I say no in my head I feel like I’m failing.
  • If I say no to someone I feel like they are judging me and then I judge myself in the same ways.

And the results of this are it impacts on how we feel about the task, the person and ourselves and that them impacts on our own emtions, feelings and actions and that in turn impacts on our results. I often get clients to use this sentence to move forward “If I keep saying yes then what am I agreeing to that will impact on me and my own success?”

It’s usually enough to bring their mind back to the focused accountable coaching and they learn to use that powerful little word. If you need more support, check out my book Fight the fear – there is a whole chapter on learning how to say the word No – often without ever having to use that word.

What were you thinking!

We face burnout when we have these completely skewed views of the world we live in, its people, and what is expected of us.

We make assumptions that add unnecessary pressure to our lives and we over perform in the hope it will some how magically get us what we want. (It won’t!) Recently I was working with a team of passionate dedicated leaders who obviously cared deeply about each other, the company they worked for and their teams and yet they were adding an impossibly long list of tasks to their working week that just didn’t need to happen.

By looking at what they were thinking they realised (as above) that they were over thinking what other people would think about them. A great little idea that they decided on was the thumbs up emoji. On Facebook you have the option to reply with this emoji and the group decided that that meant to them “Thanks, I’m up to date, now with love and respect can you go away I’ve got work to do.” This made them all laugh and they could see that it would stop any more emails being sent and they could get on with their work.

However had that coaching conversation not happened the email pingpong would have continued and a team of leaders could have kept on feeling ready to rip their hair out and scream in the corner. Take the time to look for the things you think that aren’t true and how they impact on your actions in a negative way. What are you going to do about it?

You let them do that to you???

In my book Fight the fear I talk about “Can you Justers.” They are the people far less likely to suffer from overwhelm because they are very good at moving tasks on to someone else. Look out for these Can you Justers in your life. They take advantage of those nice people who are true team players and want everyone to succeed. They also can be hiding their lack of skills of fears around tasks and so instead of dealing with them, they get someone else to do it for them.

Quite clever really, but deadly for you. You never have to be rude or confrontational however there are some great ways to be able to get the Can you Juster to take responsibility for themselves and give you back some much needed space.

Boundaries – so few of us have them. It is not illegal to say;

  • I’m sorry I can’t help you this morning, however I’m free this afternoon.
  • Is it okay if you don’t call me between 9 and 11 tomorrow because I have an important document to work on. Thank you.
  • I’m sorry however unless it’s an emergency I don’t answer work calls or emails after 9pm or at weekends.

Boundaries help define how you work, how you live and what people can expect from you. Where we lack boundaries people often feel put upon, overworked, stressed, unrespected and like they should quit.

It’s not a weakness to set boundaries, it’s a strength. If you fear this, then talk to the team, customers, suppliers, etc that you work with and ask them what would work for them and you. Not one or the other.

Steer clear of that!

When you are on the brink of falling off of your world, check out what you allow into your head. Ever really listened to the news or the weather?

Years ago the emotional words and words with hidden meanings weren’t used. So you didn’t get the weather presenter telling you it’s a dreary day out there. They’d say “wide spread drizzle.” Or “prolonged rain” Not “It’s going to be a miserable day out there.”

There’s plenty of countries in the world that would happily have a big downpouring. Water is the sustainable force in our world that we are all reliant on. And it’s not just the weather that falls foul of this. News presenters will often add words in that are there to make us feel an emotion about what is being said. Listen for them and it becomes quite shocking how the news is skewed.

Remember that nothing sells like bad news so you aren’t going to hear the kind of stories that The Good News Network shares;

US Cancer Death Rate Has Fallen by 27% in 25 Years – Study
Stranger Drives 2,300 Miles So He Can Reunite Beloved Dog With Boy Recovering From Surgery
India Has Saved Thousands of Lives by Increasing Sanitation Coverage from 40% to 90% in Just Four Years
Surgeons Successfully Implant World’s First 3D-Printed Rib – and They Plan On Doing Even More in the Future

All of these have happened (and a ton of other things that will make you smile, feel reconnected to the beauty, kindness and love in the world) and remind yourself that you are not alone. There are so many external influences that we allow into our head.

I was working with a client recently who said that other people’s driving infuriated them. I asked them how driving to work impacted on their day and the client told me how if they’d been cut up or had a tailgater trying to get in the boot of their car that their work colleagues knew because they didn’t walk into the office their coat tails were literally flapping and their feet could be heard across the office booming like giant foot falls. And yes, their whole day could then escalate into a day of things not going right and “idiots wrecking their day”

We often experience overwhelm that leads to burn out when we feel that we have to control everytnhing. The simple truth is that you can’t control everything in life. (That client certainly control the millions of drivers on the roads!) And yet they were enabling the world of cars to impact on the day, every day! You have to make the decision and ask the question “If I can’t change this how do I wish to feel about this that will enable me to keep positive?”

Get the junk out of your head.

Your body – the computer – yeh right!

Have you noticed that just before you go on holiday you feel like just getting out of bed has become hard work?

Or that you seem to pick up every illness there is?

That’s your body giving you a physical sign your body is not coping and it’s one you ignore at a high risk. Trust me the body eventually shouts at you “You didn’t listen to me when we got that bug, so now here’s glandular fever, the flu, a heart attack, adrenalin fatigue.”

The list is long and if you don’t listen to your body you will start hearing from it. I think some people feel that they are more successful and diligent if they work ridiculously long hours. Like it is something to be proud of. Assuming it’s some warped badge of honor.

As one business woman proudly replied to my announcement that I was popping out for lunch “Lunch? Lunch is for wimps!” I couldn’t believe anyone in the 21st century could have such a ridiculous idea of what was good for success (and health and happiness for that matter.) So much evidence points to the benefit to having a break. It’s not just good for your body it’s good for your creativity, problem solving skills, productivity and even IQ! I will stick with my lunch break thanks.

Are you really a procrastinator?

I was working with a client who wanted to deal with their procrastination because it was making them stressed. And stress out of control is well on the way to burn out. Interestingly while there were elements of procrastination impacting on them they discovered that when they put off writing a report to do the washing up (which cleary wasn’t as important as getting the report in before the deadline) they realised that they were actually creating a few moments for their brain to process what would be needed. The reframing of their actions enabled them to see that this was in fact a useful way of ensuring when they started that they got the job done.

Look for the procrastination in your life. In my experience there is usually a fear hidden there.

Find the fear.

Fight the fear.

And “magically” the procrastination disappears. And if your plan to deal with the procrastination is complicated it’s highly likely you will fail. As I said on social media the other day – if there was a tiger chasing you it wouldn’t take you many seconds to work out you needed to run. Keep it simple.

Not all things can be changed, fixed or controlled.

I read a great book that enabled me to bring polarity management into my leadership, performance and life coaching with awesome results. Polarity management. Identifying and managing unsolvable problems by Barry Johnson Ph.D is a great book that I highly recommend because so many of my clients want complete control and that is just impossible. You are setting yourself up for failure, impossible to achieve tasks, stress, feelings of inadequacy, anger, sadness and more and more grief.

However appreciating you can’t fix everything you can choose to see those things differently. Ask yourself this “If I don’t change how I feel about this and what actions I take when I know I can’t change or control this what will I be agreeing to?”

Really feel the pain here and then you will be able to create a new way of thinking with new actions so that you relinquich your need for ultimate control, because let’s be honest no one has that (or should have it!)

My clients know that by owning what is happening they can choose to take responsibility for it and change. You can’t change what you don’t accept to be true.

Now, what’s the plan going to be?

I’ve tons of advice here in my blog, and if you want a detailed structured approach my courses and books could be ideal for you.

And if you benefit from this article a quick click on the PayPal button makes this author and coach smile. Let me know how you get on.

  • February 26, 2021