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Midlife Burnout – Are You on the Edge?
Post Pandemic Burnout Amongst the Fifty Somethings
A recent article in the Sunday Times claimed that figures show Brits in their fifties have been dropping out of the workforce in record numbers. The cause is increased stress that’s driven, in part, by the recent Covid pandemic. Apparently, latest figures show nearly a quarter of a million Britons aged between 50 and 65 have left paid work and are not looking for new jobs.
Why are we Stopping Work?
There are a number of reasons why people have been making the change. Many people have experienced a change in priorities since lockdown and are considering a new career or focusing on other parts of their lives. Whilst some are seeking a new direction, others are feeling compelled to seek refuge from the stresses and strains of post pandemic life. This pressure is causing a massive increase in psychological and emotional burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a term used to describe the experience of reaching your limits after being subjected to consistently high levels of stress.
The Times article mentioned three types of burnout.
Frenetic Burnout: peaks of intense stress become too much to bear.
Worn-Out Burnout: becoming worn down by long-term high demands.
Boreout: being consistently under-challenged, bored or under-worked.
It’s easy to see how the pandemic could have contributed to all three of these.
Burnout Signs & Symptoms
Burnout has both physical and emotional symptoms. Physiological signs include chronic fatigue, headaches, aches and pains, digestive problems, sleep issues, anxiety and depression.
What Does Burnout Feel Like?
Burnout can creep up on you. When we are under stress we function in a haze. We don’t always feel our own stress response altering as we are always functioning in a reactive state. The first symptoms are usually extreme tiredness or chronic fatigue, irritability and cynicism. It’s easy to see why burnout spirals so easily.
We start to feel increasingly tired which causes problems with us meeting the demands placed on us. Irritability causes problems with our relationships and can destroy our support systems. It can also cause even more problems at work. This is equally true of cynicism. It can destroy our last hopes of positivity and being able to dig ourselves out of the burnout hole. Social isolation is very common with people experiencing burnout.
Burnout is caused by consistently high stress levels. The trigger for the stress can be anything but work is a very common one. During the pandemic people have also found that caring responsibilities (for children or parents), working from home and home schooling played a big part.
Burnout from Work
Work is the most common cause of burnout symptoms and stress in general. Our jobs are becoming more and more demanding as competition increases. Modern digital technology allows us to do more and more in less time but also removes much of the human contact. Many people are seeking to avoid burnout with jobs that have much more human connection, a greater sense of team and a clearer or more meaningful purpose.
However, changes that happened during the pandemic have made this even harder for many of us with home working, online meetings and reduced contact still being common place.
Burnout can result in physical illness such as heart problems, obesity and addiction so it’s important to deal with the issue. For less severe stress, self-help methods such as exercise, meditation, healthy eating and other lifestyle changes may work But once you are experiencing severe burnout these may well not make much difference alone.
For some people struggling with burnout the only option eventually becomes dropping out of work and removing some of the sources of stress altogether. With help from an outside party you may be able to find ways to do this that leave the door open for return or perhaps find a work/life balance that works well for you. It’s all too easy for people under immense stress to suddenly disappear off the radar feeling unable to navigate the complexities of the situation.
Sometimes there is another answer. You can deal with the stress without having to change your entire situation. You just need some help. I help people work out practical solutions such as being more flexible at work, setting boundaries and shifting schedules. I also help people address the cause of their burnout in terms of their own personalities and behaviours. Often changing mindsets and developing coping mechanisms can help. As well as building our resilience and understanding of our own personal stress responses and contributing behaviours.
If you are seeking to avoid or treat burnout please do get in touch. I am an expert in stress management and published author of ‘The Stress Management Kit’. I would be pleased to help you overcome burnout, manage stress more effectively and develop powerful new coping mechanisms.
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