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Acknowledging And Accepting Burnout – Creating Change

Written by: Britt-Mari Sykes, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Britt-Mari Sykes

Acknowledging and accepting our experiences of burnout can be challenging. Many clients I have worked with in Career Counselling feel anxious and discouraged that they cannot simply cope and carry on with the extreme physical and emotional exhaustion they are experiencing. I listen to clients who feel shame and guilt for not being able to work at their “normal level” or feel their skills and expertise have been diminished or tarnished because of burnout.

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Burnout may feel incongruent with how we identify as a professional, with the expectations we have of ourselves and how we work. Burnout is also complex: it differs in intensity, duration, and experience from person to person which can leave us feeling isolated.

It should be noted that burnout is always contextual: there is more to it than just the personal experience. We can’t ignore the work cultures, policies, and practices that play a part in contributing to it.

Let’s focus on the personal experiences, and on what we can control individually: acknowledging and accepting burnout, activating reflective practice, gathering information, and creating change.

Acknowledging and accepting burnout

While acknowledging and accepting our experiences of burnout can be difficult, acknowledgment can quickly reduce the energy we are expending to minimize, deny, judge, and/or fight against what we are experiencing and feeling.

When we accept our experiences of burnout, we give ourselves the internal space to “hold” the different emotions we are experiencing, we become more attuned to what we are experiencing physically, we can identify what kind of support we need, and we can begin to reflect, gather information, and craft possibilities for change in our day-to-day.

Activating reflective practice and gathering information

It may seem counter-intuitive but burnout has meaning. While we may have little control over the work environments that contribute to our experiences of burnout, our own experiences do contain valuable information about our relationship with work and career and possible avenues for change within our daily lives.

Consider the following sample questions for reflection. Think about your experiences of work, stress, and even burnout. Reflect on your thoughts, your feelings, and your relationship with work. What stands out for you emotionally, cognitively, and physically?

  1. Do I feel exhausted, numb, frustrated, or overwhelmed by my work? How often do I experience this: Weekly? Monthly? What context(s) or situations contribute to these feelings? How do I react (physically, emotionally, cognitively) when I have these feelings/experiences?

  2. What is challenging for me right now? What are the current stressors in my work – what consumes my energy? Am I aware of, and do I feel, the shifts from manageable daily stress to exhaustion and unmanageable stress?

  3. Do I like what I am doing? Do I feel personally connected to what I am doing? Can I describe the personal connection I have with my work or the lack of connection?

  4. Do I experience something meaningful, something valuable, from my work?

  5. Is the quantity of work too much day to day?

  6. Do I have a say in my schedule, and my work hours? How flexible is my work regarding medical appointments, mental health, childcare, and eldercare?

  7. Am I supported at work? Is there good support or little support? Do I feel isolated or part of a community at work? Do I support myself? How comfortable am I reaching out for support?

  8. Do I feel valued for the skills and experience I bring to my work/role?

  9. Are the expectations at work too little or too much? What expectations do I place on myself?

  10. Am I surrounded by good communication and positive and constructive feedback? What feedback do I give myself?

  11. What helps me manage stress? How well can I relax? What are my personal experiences of relaxation? How long does it take me to relax?

  12. What kind of boundaries do I have between my work and the other areas of my life? Do I set aside time to "digest" the work week, do I allow myself time to reflect?

This kind of reflective practice produces good information. What stands out for you from that information? Where are there possibilities for support, for change in your life?

Remember, change takes practice.

8 possibilities for change in our day-to-day

  • We practice self-compassion by not judging ourselves so harshly, by not minimizing what we are feeling and experiencing, and by being more flexible with ourselves.

  • We deepen our awareness by being more mindful of our naturally fluctuating energy and motivation.

  • We practice being more present in our daily lives and more attuned to our emotions and what we are experiencing.

  • We practice reflecting regularly on the narratives, expectations, and attitudes we carry about ourselves, our work, and our careers. This includes assessing our work environments and our interaction with those environments to determine what is challenging and where there are possibilities for change.

  • We practice creating personally appropriate and manageable boundaries between work and the other areas of our lives.

  • We practice integrating healthy and manageable strategies that benefit us physically, nutritionally, psychologically, emotionally, and relationally.

Experiencing burnout? Career Counselling can help at any stage of your career life. Start a conversation. Contact Canvas Career Counselling for more information or to book a consultation.

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Britt-Mari Sykes Brainz Magazine

Britt-Mari Sykes, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Britt-Mari Sykes Ph.D. is a Career Counsellor and founder of CANVAS Career Counselling working remotely with clients across Canada. Britt-Mari offers a reflective and strategic process to clients, one that integrates their lived experiences, values, and aspirations. This experiential approach to career counselling helps clients gain greater clarity and perspective and design practical steps towards a more meaningful relationship with work and career.



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