Burnout Warning Signs For Wellness Professionals

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Ironically, many wellness business leaders struggle with work/life balance.  And sadly, we’ve seen quite a few who found themselves burned out on the very work that they were most passionate about.

Burnout can affect anyone: individual health and wellness professionals, managers, executives and owners.

Are you experiencing any of these five early warning signs?


1. I’m running a bit…well, a lot…late

The issue: look at your personal time commitments for a pattern of frequently late arrivals, last-minute cancellations or simply not showing up.

Pull out your calendar and ask your friends and family to check your answers to these questions:

  • Are you always the last person to show up at a family event?
  • Do you arrive so late that lots of other attendees have already come and gone?
  • Do you call to say you’ll be 30 minutes late…then you call again in an hour and half to let them know it’ll be another 45 minutes?
  • Do you often cancel at the last minute, even if the event’s been rescheduled before due to your lack of availability?
  • Have people stopped including you in activities because you’re rarely available?
  • Do you repeatedly not show up for something where people are expecting you?

What you can do:

  • Micromanage your calendar. You’ve probably got your Friday dinner plans on your calendar.  But is the drive-time from your office to the restaurant on the calendar?
  • Make realistic commitments that you can honor. Study your pattern of cancellations, late arrivals, and the like.  If you’ve been late for an 8:30 movie five times in the last two months, don’t keep agreeing to do it.  Instead, you could say “I’ll call you when I’m free” or agree to meet Saturday afternoon when you’re sure to be available.  If you know that you’re always late on Monday because you need to get ready for Tuesday’s client meetings, don’t schedule anything Monday evening.
  • Set yourself up for success. For example, are you likelier to be ready to go (and therefore on time) if someone’s stopping by to pick you up?  Are you likelier to be on time on weekends, rather than weekdays?  Plan accordingly.
  • Commit to personal reflection. Changing your behavior in this area may require serious thought about what’s really important to you and where you’re willing – or not – to make tradeoffs.  A therapist, life coach or executive coach can help you clarify your short-term and long-term priorities.

2. I’m stuck and I can’t get out

The issue: you feel swamped by the demands of your current role, yet unable to make a change.

Do any of these scenarios describe you?

  • You feel stuck because you’re so swamped by work that you don’t have time to make a change
  • You feel stuck because you believe that you couldn’t match your current income elsewhere
  • You feel stuck because you love the people you work with – but not the job
  • You feel stuck because you don’t know how to make a change to something significantly different or new
  • You feel stuck because you no longer enjoy the work you’re trained or experienced in doing, but you don’t know what you could do instead

What you can do:

  • Find a coach or mentor. Get help from someone who can work with you to take an objective look at your experience and qualifications, your situation and options at your current company and elsewhere.
  • Update your resume.  You never know when a headhunter might call! Plus, even if you’re not open to a new position, nothing feels as good as updating your accomplishments.
  • Discover how to change mental gears. Find ways to free your mind from a constant focus on work. For example, physical activity or exercise helps many people switch mental gears.  Yardwork or doing something creative does the trick for others.  And new ideas and possibilities often emerge during or after these periods.
  • Take real vacations – not just long weekends. And plan vacation activities that make it difficult, if not impossible, for your mind to drift back to everyday worries.

3. I can’t believe they did that!

The issue:  you spend most of your waking hours on work.  And you spend most of the time with friends and family venting about work frustrations.  If the conversation heads in a different direction, you usually bring it back to your work dissatisfaction.

You may also feel that you don’t respect most of the people you work with, or that they don’t share your values.

If you’re in this situation, statements like these will sound familiar:

  • I can’t believe they still haven’t fired him…
  • You won’t believe what they want me to do now…
  • If it were up to me, I’d get rid of that whole…
  • I do everything for everyone in that department, but I never get…
  • I’m so sick of….
  • Our board just doesn’t understand the issues…
  • These idiot customers just don’t get it.  All they need to do is…

What you can do:

  • Consider whether you’re in the right job.  We often see these reactions when people are in jobs that are simply a poor fit for their temperaments, personalities, and preferences.
  • Venting may simply be a bad habit.  Ask your friends and family to help you break it.  For example, they can ask you “Is this really what you want to talk about?” whenever you head down the “gripe and moan” path.
  • Lead by example: start a good habit. Actively look for the positive in what others do – even if it seems like a small thing.  Make it a point to smile and greet others cheerfully, even if your internal voice is a bit cynical or pessimistic.  When others ask you how it’s going, have an upbeat answer ready.
  • Evaluate your situation. When you first started this position, did you enjoy your workday and respect the company and your coworkers?  Have they changed or have you changed?  If they’ve changed – for example, new management or ownership, a high level of staff turnover, huge budget cuts – it may be time to look at other companies.  If you’ve changed, switching companies may not help…at least, not for long.

4. Long time no see.  Did I tell you about my new work project?

The issue: you’ve become one-dimensional. You have few personal interests or activities outside the workplace.  If you lost your job tomorrow, you’d have a huge void with nothing to occupy your mental and creative energies.

What to watch for:

  • Your only topic of conversation with friends and family is what you’re doing at work
  • You’re out of touch with what’s going on in the lives of non-work acquaintances
  • You’ve dropped old hobbies or other activities that you really enjoyed
  • You only read material (print or Internet) related to your business
  • All your vacations are tacked onto the end of business meetings, trade shows, or other work commitments
  • Virtually all of your social interactions are with people you know from work
  • You know more about your clients’ and customers’ personal lives than you know about what’s going on with your friends and family

What you can do:

  • Build the habit of outside interests and interactions. Pick the first thing that comes to mind – whether it’s an art class, going to a ballgame, lunch with non-work friends.  Go ahead and take the next step, right now: sign up for the class, buy the ticket, set up the lunch.  It doesn’t have to be a lifelong interest.  The key is to get started, and repeat every couple of weeks.
  • Start your conversations with a focus on the other person.  Don’t talk about yourself unless you’ve asked, and ask say, three to five open-ended questions about what’s going on with THEM.
  • Schedule true vacations – not just long weekends.  The mental break’ll do you good, and you also need time to actually DO something other than work.
  • Deliberately expand your horizons.  Read, watch or do something you wouldn’t normally make time for.  At a loss?  Check the event listings in your newspaper.  Then, make it a point to tell someone else about it within 24-48 hours.

5. Why don’t they love me?

The issue: you’re pouring all your energies into your job.  You feel that you’re highly effective – more so than other people.  Yet you feel underpaid, overlooked or otherwise underappreciated.

Typical examples:

  • You didn’t get a promotion you felt should have been yours
  • You got the same raise that everyone else got, despite superior results
  • You’re never singled out for special recognition, even though you believe others are
  • You feel that your exceptional performance is never recognized or rewarded
  • Clients never seem to appreciate your efforts

What you can do:

  • Stick to your circle of influence.  Worry only about what you can control.  Turn your attention away from others’ performance.  Plan to improve and strengthen your own results.
  • Check your communication.  You may be accomplishing miracles – but if no one knows, it doesn’t count.
  • Ask for career guidance.  With an open mind (that’s the hard part!), ask for advice on how to improve your chances of promotion, more responsibility, or a raise.  You may get specific advice – or you may find out that no raises are in the cards due to a tight budget.
  • Could YOU actually BE the problem? Sometimes folks who feel consistently overlooked aren’t performing as well as they’d like to believe.  It’s a red flag if you find yourself blaming everyone else when you don’t get what you want.