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What to do when its all just too much

By Ruth Tearle

Everything seems so difficult. It is all too much. There is so much to do at work, so much pressure. So you work longer hours. You start work earlier. You leave work later. There is no time for anything else. No time for friends. No time for exercise. No time for shopping or cooking healthy food. Your job has taken over your life.

Symptoms of burnout

burnoutAt first the job was an exciting challenge. But now it just seems to take too much effort. And you just don't have the energy. It is becoming harder and harder to get up in the morning. To drive to work. To pick up the phone to speak to someone. That is not you. You normally are fully of energy. But now you feel weary from the moment you get up in the morning, till the time you collapse into bed. And then, you can’t sleep. Your mind keeps churning. All night long.

You are feeling irritated all the time. You find yourself snapping at people who don’t deserve it. You find yourself on the brink of tears. It feels like you are holding your life together with a combination of sticky tape and paper clips, and if you let go, everything will fall apart.

You find you can’t focus on any one thing. People and problems keep distracting you. You are starting to make  unnecessary mistakes.

The final crunch is when your boss or client calls you in. Instead of thanking you for all your hard work, he/she points out a mistake you inadvertently made, or something you neglected to do. This is the final straw. You wonder if its all worth it, or if you should give up your job. You are burning out.

Deal with your burnout - before it is too late.


Stop - before you do anything rash, you need to take some time out!

Now, before you think of all the reasons why you can't take time off work - know this. It doesn't matter how much work there is, or how you are the only person who can do it, or even how much they need you. If you don't deal with your burnout now, you will land up in hospital. And then instead of taking a few weeks to get your energy back, it may take years!

There are 3 things you need to do right now, to get your life and energy back.

1. Organize leave - at least 2 weeks

Go right now to your HR department., or your boss and explain that you have to take 2 weeks leave - starting tomorrow. Tell him/her about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Explain that:

  • You are in the first stages of burnout, and unless you take a break right now, it will get worse – until finally you will land up in hospital.
  • For you to be fully productive, and to stop making mistakes, you need to get your energy and motivation back. The only way to do this it to take a break.
  • When you get back from your break, you want to talk to your boss about how to reduce your workload and stress – so that you can be fully productive, motivated and a pleasure to work with.

2. Tell the people in your personal life you are going on leave.

Text or e-mail your friends and family. Tell them you are going on holiday, and that no one will be able to contact you for two weeks. Tell them not to worry about anything, and you will phone them when you get back.

Don’t chat to them on the phone. Don’t discuss how you are feeling with them. If you do explain you have burnout, they will try to respond, make you feel better, give you advice or tell you they are worried about you. This will simply increase the pressure on you. So rather just say you need a holiday and you'll chat to them when you are back.

3. Take a real break. Make it "Me time."

"Me time" means time to do what you want, rather than what others expect.

Now take a break. Separate yourself from everyone you know. Take a break from doing everything you normally do and seeing what you normally see. Get away if you can. Make this 100% “Me time”. Time to do what you want, rather than what others expect. The aim of this break is for 100% stress free, selfish, me time.

Follow these do’s and don’ts for 2 weeks and come back feeling refreshed and full of energy.


  • Disconnect yourself. Switch off your mobile phone. Pack away your computer or tablet.
  • Hide your watch. Lose track of time. Slow down.
  • Let go of everything. Go with the flow.
  • Do whatever you want.
  • Sleep as long as you want to in the mornings. Take naps in the afternoons.
  • Stay in your pajamas as much as you want.
  • Eat whatever you want to eat and as much as you want.
  • Be spontaneous. When you get an idea that makes you feel good, follow it.
  • When you get bored, do things you haven’t done for a while. Things that pamper you. Things that aren’t responsible. Get a massage, Read a trashy novel. Window shop at the stores. Go on a picnic. Go to the theatre or to events, movies.
  • Don't be disciplined. Do things you don’t normally do. Do what makes you feel good. Walk slowly. Explore. Waft around.


don't push
  • Do anything responsible.
  • Hold on to anything. Hold anything together.
  • Think about what others want or need.
  • Expect anything.
  • Push yourself to do anything.
  • Watch your weight. Stick to a diet.
  • Switch on your computer, read the news, check your e-mail, log into face book, twitter anyone, phone your friends or listen to messages on your mobile.
  • Do anything that has a deadline.
  • Do anything that feels like an effort.
  • Analyze anything.
  • Worry about anything.

What to do when you get back from leave

When you get back, you should feel refreshed. Your next step is to ensure you never burn out again. Use the personal focus tools to help you organize your job better, so that you can achieve more, satisfy your clients or boss, and have time for your friends and yourself.

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