Burnout. Learning to Handle Pressure is Key

Burnout. Learning to Handle Pressure is Key

Burnout. Learning to Handle Pressure is Key

There’s been a lot of attention on burnout and the ability to handle pressure in recent years and for very good reason and learning to handle it is key, before it happens.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

It seems to be increasing in numbers of people affected both in the US and here in the UK. According to Statista, in 2017 in the US, more than 37 percent of people stated their stress levels had increased over the past year.

I’m not sure of the figures here in the UK, but little would surprise me as I read a lot about burnout and many people I see have signs of overload in certain areas.

And at what cost?

As Virginia Satir the author and pioneering Family therapist noted “Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It is the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference”.

What You Can Control

There are some things you can control and some you simply can’t, but one thing you can control is your attitude. Choosing to rise above certain circumstances and choosing to not let negative situations affect your values or beliefs is down to us.

Hard as it may seem, but I found out the hard way that it’s true.

I know from my own personal experience that burnout can creep up on you unless you are aware of the signs and are equipped to handle pressure. It caught me unaware in my early thirties, in a particularly challenging time working in a new company with a very demanding client.

Handling Pressure – A Big Mistake

It didn’t help having no backup support, I was doing everything on my own. A big mistake. We’re expected to be autonomous, which is all well and good but without a team or support, it only increases the workload and pressure.

I failed to notice the signs and the warnings, both physically, mentally and from my wife, that I was doing too much. 

The ego was running the show. Not in an arrogant way, but in a quiet and determined way which meant I had to succeed no matter what. It’s what was expected of me and what I expected of myself. 

Too often though, we don’t let up and think it won’t happen to us or that we’re weak if we don’t carry on being ‘tough’. 

Another big mistake.

The Proverbial Hit the Fan

Late one afternoon though the reality kicked in. I was on overload and had been for several months, working up to twenty hours a day. I was reading a newspaper on the desk whilst on hold for a client and all of a sudden, I noticed the lines on the paper started looking out of focus and misplaced.

It was a very uneasy and unpleasant feeling to say the least.  When I lifted my head to have breather, I suddenly felt light-headed and anxious. My breath became short and a pain appeared in my chest.

“Holy sh*t” I said to myself, I thought I was having a heart attack. 

After being carted off by ambulance and a few hours in hospital, I was released, without a heart attack thank goodness, but suffered a panic attack. Thankfully my first and only one.

The Discovery

The reality was I didn’t have any idea how to really handle pressure and performing under pressure for any length of time without knowing how to counteract the affects, only exacerbated a challenging situation.

In order to do that, I had to know what to do, when and how to do it in order to continue in working in a very pressurised environment. The mind and body have to work together; there’s no point going to the gym working out and working on your body, being fit, if you still put crap into it.

The same applies with the mind. The mind cannot go at full speed all the time, as we’re often expecting it to do, without a healthy break to unwind and relax, often referred to as ‘renewal’.  Sport was one of my saving Graces, which allowed me to clear my mind.

We also need to fuel the mind properly, especially in pressurised environments, where negativity can be rife and expectations run high, as it can have a much greater impact on our ability to perform to our best,  as the saying goes “Healthy plants don’t grow in toxic soil”.

Only by changing could things be improved.

A Final Thought

There are many factors involved and this was not an in depth look at the problems and challenges many of us face when we have to perform under pressure, but a quick insight into my thoughts and experiences. A final thought to ponder though if you are experiencing overload or feel you’re getting close to burnout. 

Ask yourself if you are really enjoying what you are doing or if you are doing it because you feel you have to. True enjoyment rarely comes from being forced to do something and eventually I came to realise many years later, getting out was the best thing I ever did as it saved me from serious health issues.

If you are struggling with panic attacks or severe anxiety/stress, seek professional help.

If you feel you want to know more about how to handle pressure and performing under pressure or how you can improve your mental strength and prevent getting to burnout stage, get in touch to see how I may be able to help you by clicking here