Career Fortitude



If you have identified the symptoms of burnout and acknowledged the need to make changes to improve your condition, you’re on the right track.  The most difficult step is the following step.  You now need to create an action plan to alleviate the drivers of burnout and develop new or healthier routines.

Accepting Burnout

Burnout impacts a rather high percentage of professionals.  77% of professionals have experienced burnout at their current job.  You should never feel guilt or shame for succumbing to burnout or any performance issues at work.  If you’re motivated, determined, and goal-oriented at work, it’s not uncommon to struggle to balance the workload with your personal life.  As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, in my experience with burnout the fear of failure and denying I was in a state of burnout is what exacerbated the problem in me.  Exhaustion and being on an emotional rollercoaster at work are not signs of success, but I accepted these states as normal and healthy.  In doing so I was failing to accept the burnout.  Instead of spending energy on tasks that were non-productive and exhausting, I should have been intentionally reflecting on my state to identify my stressors.  As Fyodor Dostoevsky put it, “The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.”

Seeking Support and Accepting Support

Seeking burnout support is an extremely noble and sometimes very difficult action to take.  Then there’s the call to action to actually accept the support that can stall people as well.  For me, burnout was a force that disconnected my emotional awareness from reality.  I was blind to the root causes of burnout and how it was compounding over time to become a heavy weight dragging me down.  I had therapists and peers speak to me about the negative impact that my struggles at work were having on my personal well-being.  Even after hearing that feedback, I was still determined to struggle forward without making any significant changes to battle the stressors.  Just the act of seeking support will not have significant improvements on your situation.  Finding the place where you’re vulnerable, aware, and action-oriented is where you’ll begin to address the core stressors and take action.  While some people can identify issues and proactively address them on their own, some people need guidance.  I am one of those people that needed guidance to move away from burnout, and I’m grateful for the support that has been given to me.

Identify Your Stressors

Identifying the stressors that cause burnout is an essential step in effectively managing and preventing its negative impact. By monitoring physical and emotional symptoms, reflecting on triggers and patterns, assessing the work environment and job demands, considering personal factors, and seeking feedback and support, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the stressors that contribute to burnout.  Physical symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, or changes in appetite are very common red flags that something is off.  For me, struggling with insomnia was something new that appeared while struggling with anxiety and burnout.  I would leave work every day feeling defeated and unaccomplished, and then obsessively ruminate on negative emotions I carried with me.  This would keep me from sleeping, which ultimately made the other physical and emotional symptoms even worse.

Additionally, be aware of emotional signs like irritability, cynicism, or a persistent feeling of being overwhelmed.  The key here is when these emotions become persistent.  Everyone has moments of irritability or other unbecoming reactions once in a while.  When these moments become common, that’s when you need to identify what’s triggering them and take action.  For me, the change in my personality was identified by others before it was obvious to me.  My temperament had changed, and I was no longer the patient and attentive leader I once was.

It’s critical to take time for self-reflection to identify triggers and recurring patterns of stress that lead to burnout. Consider situations or circumstances that consistently evoke stress or negative emotions. Reflect on the tasks, interactions, or expectations that tend to cause heightened stress levels.

Talking About Burnout

For me, talking about any performance issues with my boss or peers was an admission to failure.  Accepting failure was the hardest part for me because so much of my anxiety and stressors were driven by the fear of failing.  I wasn’t equipped to fail so the only logical response was not to fail.  This fear ultimately took the wheel and took me down a dark road through full-on burnout.  Instead of identifying the stressors early and attending to my well-being, the problem spiraled out of control.  My self-talk and expectations for myself played a huge part in that spiral.  I had worked so hard in my career to get to the place I was at, but I was no longer successful.  I was now failing at the job I loved and on a path to losing it.  The pressure I put on myself to improve was not realistic and clouded my vision.

As I mentioned, when people pointed out the changes in me and the connection to burnout it wasn’t enough to turn myself around.  I needed to actually talk about it….a lot.  Only when I invested the time, energy, and resources to truly become aware of my current state was I able to make positive changes.  For me, talking about it meant working with people that could support me and were invested in my success.  Identifying my values, stressors, emotional triggers, negative self-talk, and fears was the messy activity that got me on the road to recovery.  Having support from others along the way kept me going and held me accountable.

Through that process, I was able to center myself around my values and how they carried over into the workplace.  I was able to identify what satisfaction and fulfillment meant to me at work.  I acknowledged that my interests at work had changed, and it was okay to reevaluate my career path.  I became hyper-aware of the stressors at work that bring discomfort to me and how to manage them in the moment.  I worked on organizational skills, goal setting, and accountability to regain the confidence I once had.  Resetting my expectations for how many hours I worked, how I reached out for help at work, and regaining the patience I had with myself and others were critical in recovering from burnout.

It’s apparent how changes in our goals, interests, and expectations at work can lead to discomfort and confusion.  We dedicate ourselves to becoming an expert in our field by learning, growing, and shaping our professional persona.  We invest in education and make sacrifices in our personal life to pursue our passions at work.  So when those passions change and we find ourselves detached from our work or ourselves, it’s obvious how resisting these changes leads to physical and emotional stress.  For those of us who are stubborn and determined to push forward thinking devoting extra time and energy to the tasks without truly reflecting on the changes will make everything better….it’s time to seek out help.  Give yourself the grace and compassion to accept support from those that care and believe in you.

As I write this, I reflect on why I’m so passionate about work in general.  How I use that passion and what success looks like to me is what has changed.  Not knowing how to work through that change is what led to my burnout. I think about how doing a good job has always been something I value and am so passionate about.  I think of other people that have a desire to be successful but need some guidance to get there.  My hope is everyone can find that success.  I’m excited to be able to be that source of support for others and share my own past struggles in the hope that it can offer some hope and guidance.

Link to my FREE Career Satisfaction Worksheet

Philip Hilt – Leadership & Career Coach

Sign Up for the Career Fortitude Newsletter to receive more valuable information:

* indicates required

Leave a Reply