The hardest part of the burnout process is all the unconscious behaviours exhibited. The internal dialogue inside someone who is burning out is devastating, it’s cruel and it’s so self-critical you could burst with all that sadness.

Studies have shown that relationships are a key factor in ones’ wellbeing. “Feeling disconnected from the people you serve often disconnects you from yourself, especially for the many of us who are motivated by a sense of mission and purpose” – Dr Jeremy Nobel for Psychology Today. During the burnout process – it’s a process, it creeps on over time – the person puts more and more of their time and energy into work because in work, they can get tangible results. You work on a project, you work hard, you can measure its success. At the same time, they are for-going social time because they are so tired from all the work they are doing and from creating a self-destructing cycle of wake, work, sleep and repeat.

Relationships are the easiest place to start to create space in a person’s life when things are going bad. The process of retreating from those close to us soon becomes a need because your internal dialogue has decided that you’re a bore and that you don’t want to share your sad feelings with your friends/family in case you bring them down or worse – that they won’t know how to help and support you.

It’s all well and good to raise the awareness of mental health but no matter what, when you’re the one going through the challenges, when the negative self-talk starts, it becomes harder and harder to be able to open up and oftentimes, this is happening at the point where it’s essential to seek some treatment or more simply, to reach out to someone you know.

When I was burning out, I remember that socialising was one of the first things that I let go of. I’m naturally a social butterfly, always loved to be out and had lots of people to socialise with. When it all started getting worse for me, probably about 2 years into the burnout process, I saw my friends less. I called less. I answered calls less. I was avoiding the friends who I could open up to. I was scared that they wouldn’t be able to handle my sadness. I had decided that they wouldn’t be there for me. Now, to some extent, I was right. When I had my breakdown, I only told a few friends who I was sure would be supportive. I was 100% certain they would come to my rescue and help. I was wrong. A few did and I will be forever grateful to them but others didn’t.

Over time, I have lost more friends as I change and grow myself. I review my relationships all the time and if I feel like I’m giving to much and not getting much in return, I start to retreat and box that friendship into its appropriate category: true friend, acquaintance, energy vampire. Further reflection of my breakdown, burnout and depression has shown me how my behaviour caused some of the challenges I faced with friendships. I had expectations of my friendships where I wanted them to be there for me in the same way I would. During counselling and coaching for my depression, I took stock of how much I was giving to others and within that, was able to see the lack of support I was getting from the friends I wanted support from. With some time, I have learned to not give as much as I used to and this in itself has led to break-ups in long-standing friendships. Because I have done so much work on myself, I know not to fight it when it happens. I will defend myself once, I will apologise if I was wrong but if the friend can’t accept that, I accept that the relationships is over. I’m still hopeful that we can fix it over time and will remain open to it but I don’t push it – mainly because I know I can never be that old me ever again – so if that’s the person they want, then the break up is the right thing to do.

When the burnout process starts affecting the way we view our relationships and how much time we give them, it’s an important time to really take stock of what’s happening with us. It may be that you’re not burning out, just that you’re growing but if you’re exhibiting other signs of burnout then this will definitely be one to watch.

Seek solace in people who you can trust, these may not be the people you think will be your main supporters and truly if you feel at a loss to talk to people you know, call the Samaritans and speak to a stranger, even if just for you to get through your day/week. Avoiding relationships can have a massive affect on the burnout process which can be easily managed with the right knowledge.

To learn more about mental wellbeing at work and how you can help support your teams, please schedule a call with me here.


Self Care 101 Podcast Puja K McClymont NLP Life Coach

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