Hi, lovely ones. Thank you for joining me in this episode as we continue our discussion on burnout. I’ve been there, and burnout changed my life change the entire path of my life.
It’s a big topic, and there’s a number of crucial elements to it. In this particular episode, I want to talk about the causes of burnout. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to listen to episode number 22.
The first episode in this four part series where I discussed the signs and symptoms of burnout. This episode follows on from that, and we’re going to explore how we come to be burnt out and what puts us at risk of it.
This episode is the second in a four part series on burnout. In the following two episodes, I’ll dive into how we recover from burnout, and also how we prevent it from showing up in the first place.
To start with, I want to shout out Taitime who left a review after listening to the podcast. Taitime says:
“Insightful and intelligent brilliant podcast back shares beautiful insights into the landscape of humanity, highly recommend.”
Thank you Taitime. Oh, so beautiful. And to everyone that takes the time to leave a review. I so value you so much.
Now before we go any further, I just want to say that if you’re feeling burnt out right now, I want you to go gently as you listen to this series of episodes.
As we talk about burnout, in my experience that can go either way:
You could breathe a sigh of relief and feel recognised and acknowledged.
Or you may feel tense and overwhelmed because you’d really love an answer to it all right now, thank you very much. I get it.
And we’re going to get to all your questions but in a measured way. So it was not to overwhelm me further and to honour the fact that burnout is complex, and develops over a period of time.
The causes of burnout are many and varied. There are intrapersonal factors. That’s things about us that make us susceptible to burnout, interpersonal factors, things about how we relate to others, environmental factors, and situational factors that all contribute to burnout showing up and getting in the way.
Let’s break these down into some of the common causes that you might have seen show up for you:
A lack of adequate social support, Taking on more than you can handle at work or in your business.
I’m talking to you business owners who try to do all the things. And I’m not saying this in a smug way.
I’m saying this as someone who’s done it and worked out, that doesn’t work. I’ve definitely worked out but if you do all the things, you are going to hit a ceiling and you’re going to hit it over and over again.
Other causes and risk factors for burnout are poor self care. You make your work your life.
So you actually live to work, you get so passionate and motivated about your work that it becomes all you do.
You’re an overachiever.
You use your work as a measure for your self worth and your perfectionistic. You compare yourself to others, you have high expectations for yourself and others, you have poor boundaries, you perceive that you have a lack of control in your work.
And by that I mean that you might feel that you can’t say no to your boss, or you just have to do as much as you possibly can.
Because your boss keeps on putting more and more on your shoulders. Or if it’s in a business case, you might feel that you don’t have a sense of control over your results.
Or you don’t have a sense of control over how you prioritise and structure your time and therefore you’re just chasing your tail if you’re in a toxic workplace culture, and you lack the support or community in the workplace that you need if you’re being bullied in some way. There’s inadequate rewards for you at work or in business.
Now, rewards at work are pretty obvious, you know, you know, perhaps you’re not given time off or you’re not given adequate pay for the work that you actually do.
In business, the rewards might be a little more subtle. So yes, you might be working for yourself, but you might be working harder than you’ve ever worked in your entire life.
You might not give you days off, you might have actually had more downtime when you had a job than what you’re doing business. And perhaps the financial results aren’t yet providing you with a sense of accomplishment.
And a sense that the business is sustainable. All of those things are awards. And if you don’t have them yet, time off the type of life that you’re trying to create that’s nice and spacious and has good financial reward, then that can be a risk factor to burn out in business.
You’re at risk of burnout, if you’re in a workplace that’s unjust or unfair.
You’re at risk of burnout if there’s a conflict in your values. So that is between what you’re asked to do at work, versus who you are as a person.
And I actually want to speak to this, because what just showed up for me, then, as I was talking about that particular point is I once worked for the government. And I worked, providing clinical services for veterans, military, veterans, and current serving defence personnel.
And I’d come so I just graduated as a fully registered psychologist. And coming into a government space was a whole new world for me, I just couldn’t understand why we spent so much time having meetings about forms, and then having forms for meetings, and oh, my goodness, that was just so much red tape.
And one day, I actually got called into the office of my, the director of my department. And I thought he was going to ask me about a complex case I was dealing with, at the time, a veteran who was very unwell.
But instead he said to me, Rebecca, I just wanted to point out your statistics for the last month. You’ve seen this many clients? And I said, Yes, thinking, Oh, my goodness, I haven’t seen enough clients, I’m gonna have to work harder.
And he actually said to me, your statistics are much higher than anyone else in the department. And I said, Yes. thinking, Okay, is this a good thing? Like, am I gonna get promoted? Or are we gonna get some kind of reward for this?
And he said to me, you’re making other people look bad. Yep, that’s what he said, You are making other people look bad.
And if you see more than four people in a day, then I’ll call her Jane, our receptionist, that’s not her actual name, but Jane can’t have a lunch break.
So we need you to not say that many people, because we need to make sure that Jane can have a lunch break.
So rather than accounting for the resources for each employee in the department to have their own lunch break, while the other employees continue to do the job that we’re paid to do, and to provide the services to the very needy veteran population that desperately needed the service services we were there to provide.
Instead, I was told to work less. And that was a huge conflict in my values. I couldn’t understand why I was being paid good money to sit on my butt and not see clients when I was there and available to see clients that don’t get me wrong.
I didn’t want to go and see 10 people in a day. But if I was available, and someone needed an emergency appointment, I wanted to know that I could be the person that could fulfil that.
But no, because Jane couldn’t have a lunch break. Now. I want Jane to have her lunch break. think that’s really important. I really value reception staff, and she did an amazing job.
But her lunch break was a resource issue. It was not an issue based on my clinical load. And yet, I was told by the director to work less so that I didn’t make other people bad other clinical stuff, and so that my resources could be used so that Jane could have a lunch break?
Ah, no, the answer to that is no. And so I lasted all of nine or 10 months there before I resigned because I couldn’t handle it anymore.
I couldn’t handle the disconnect between who I was as a person, and my value systems and the value systems that were being placed upon me by that government organisation.
Another risk for burnout is that you ignore the early signs of burnout. And trust me, I am an expert. In that particular area, I am an absolute expert.
I’m going to talk about that in a second. And also your risk of burnout if there are circumstances in your personal life that are draining your resources so that you become overloaded.
So you’re not taking the same battery charge in within yourself to your work or to your business.
And that might be that you’ve experienced illness or financial hardship or you’ve had a relationship breakdown or you’re caring for a sick loved one or you’ve had had a baby recently or you’ve got little kids at home.
Or you’re dealing with a pandemic, and everything that that brings when there are extraneous circumstances happening in your personal life, your risk of burnout at work if you continue to expect yourself to work at the same capacity.
Now, in my case, there were there were a whole series of things that played into the development of my burnout.
But I would have to say that what made it all the worse was that I ignored myself. I ignored the symptoms. I was so rigid in how I wanted my career and my business to be and who I decided I had to be my clients and as a psychologist overall, but I wasn’t able to see where I was headed.
Now, I’m naturally an overachiever. And I don’t say that with pride. I say that as someone who’s very keenly aware that my tendency to overachieve has damaged the quality of my life in the past, and rarely, if ever actually resulted in bringing anything good to my world.
Because the thing is, I was just usually too exhausted from the overachieving to appreciate the results.
My tendency to overachieve, particularly my 20s lead to burnout in my clinical career by my mid 30s. By my mid 30s, that’s 35 years before, I thought I would stop doing clinical work on my own terms.
I thought I would be doing clinical work until I was 70, 75, 80. Nope, 35. And I had to stop. I had to stop because I backed myself into a corner of ignoring the symptoms that had been building for years.
So instead of acknowledging the symptoms, here’s what I did. Instead, I worked harder to try and feel better.
I ignored the feeling of burnout because I was too young to be burnt out, and he can’t see me but I’m doing air quotes around too young.
I honestly believed that burnout was only for people that were older than me, or at least for psychologists that were far later in their career than I was.
That’s another reason why I ignored the feeling of burnout because it was just way too early in my career.
I ignored the feeling of burnout because I thought I should know better than to get burnt out because I’m a psychologist.
That’s bullshit, lovely ones. Let’s just get that clear. Being a psychologist does not inoculate you against anything.
Not depression, not anxiety, not severe mental health issues, not relationship breakdown, not grief, not any kind of life pain that can be presented to you. burnout included.
I ignored the feeling of burnout because I didn’t want to feel weak or like I couldn’t handle it.
I ignored the feeling of burnout because I didn’t want to be judged by my colleagues. I ignored it because of my training. In my actual training as a psychologist burnout was never addressed.
Can you believe that? As a helping professional when I trained, no one ever talked to me about burnout. It was actually implied that if you did get burnt out, then you were doing something wrong, and it was your own fault.
That’s also bullshit. And I ignored the feeling of burnout because I had no idea what I would do for money or a job if I stopped working.
And this was a major one for me. The idea that I couldn’t continue to do what I’d always done and what I trained for eight years to do, was horrifying.
For me. It was so scary. And so instead, it was just so much easier to pretend that I wasn’t burnt out and that I would be fine.
And I tried to carry by devoting all of my energy to work and having my personal life just shrink in response to that. The symptoms of burnout in your work, whether it be running your own business or in whatever employment you’ve got.
And then messengers, it’s your body and your psyche trying to communicate to you that your resources are running low and that you need to address the fact that your tanks are drying out.
If you do what I did, and you ignore those messages for too long, then you’ll have to stop because your body in your mind will stop for you.
And this is how we abandon ourselves. by deciding that we need to plough through despite clear indications that we’re not thriving by deciding that we need to keep going and I’m talking about continuing beyond great beyond courage and into the space that makes you unwell.
That’s not brave. It’s a betrayal of trust with yourself.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s easy to address burnout. I’m not saying that you can simply leave your job or take a break from your business and everything will work out fine. It’s never easy.
Stopping wasn’t easy for me, that’s for sure. Especially because I was self employed. I had income protection insurance.
But to be honest with you, I didn’t have the energy to justify myself to an insurer. So I didn’t use it, I just didn’t have the energy for what I anticipated would be a fight.
Because I’ve had so many clients go through the same process. So instead, I chose to live off the equity in my home. In a sense, I was eating my house in order to recover from how overwhelmed I felt.
And for a long time, I thought I’d failed. And I thought I failed my clients, my referrers. And my profession, because good psychologists shouldn’t get burnt out.
That’s bullshit. By the way. Good psychologists, good helpers, good people get burnt out for a whole series of reasons that have nothing to do with them.
Sometimes a little bit to do with them, but nothing to do with their worthiness for sure, and nothing to do with their capacity to do their job.
Well, in fact, it tends to be the people that care most that are also most at risk of burning out. It wasn’t an easy decision to make for someone who prided herself on making sensible future based financial decisions.
To stop, to stop my only income. And in making that decision, I set myself back a couple of years financially.
But the thing is, my health is priceless. And I do the same again, if I had to, although probably four years early, I would leave it so long. And because of what I’ve learned, I’ll never leave it that long again.
And I now Don’t look back as that money that I essentially took from myself out of the equity of my home as a waste because I learned so much from that. And what I learned was that self trust requires us to listen to ourselves and to trust what we hear in return.
Believe it or not, I don’t consider my burnout as a failure anymore. Instead, it was one of the most defining maturation processes for me.
Crossing my inner boundaries in that way and feeling the discomfort and pain from doing so will never happen again, because I won’t let it.
And not only do I know where my boundaries are now. But becoming burnt out also made my values crystal clear.
I will not lie in my deathbed and cheer for how much I worked and how much my work took from me.
I will cheer for how smart I got at working so that I could make a difference in people’s lives and leave a legacy and live an amazing life with my family and the people that I love and burn out like any difficult experience is a great teacher.
And my question is lovely ones. What is it trying to tell you? I hope this episode has been helpful in identifying the causes of burnout.
There are no perfect answers and I strongly encourage you to talk with your doctor or mental health professional. If you see burnout showing up within yourself. In the coming episodes.
In this series, we’re going to talk about how to recover from burnout and how to prevent burnout.
So please tune into those episodes for the full picture of the burnout continuum. If this is a topic you need more of, in a couple of weeks, I’m hosting a live webinar all about burnout and how to move through it.
You can register for that for free. Just go to Rebecca ray.com.au/free to register and if you can’t attend live, don’t panic. You’ll be sent a replay as long as you’re registered though, so please sign up.
And I will catch you back early next Tuesday morning when we look at the third episode in this series on recovery from burnout.
Lovely ones thank you so much for listening to Hello Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful from this episode, and the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes and leave a review.
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