Beyond Stress: Executive Coaching & Psychotherapy for Work-Related Overwhelm and Burnout in London
There’s no doubt that a small amount of stress at work can be focusing, it can help you to meet project milestones and deadlines and give you an edge. However, when there is no boundary setting and stress is ongoing and relentless, the shift along the continuum into overwhelm can easily happen and this can seriously hamper your professional capability. Overwhelm is when you feel less able to cope, you are emotionally drained and mentally exhausted – when even the smallest things feel big. If overwhelm continues unaddressed, the next stage on the continuum is burnout.
No-one is immune from feeling overwhelmed. The highly charged working environment of the City of London with its profile of high achievers means that the chances of professionals reaching overwhelm and burnout are higher than average. Executive coaching with psychotherapy can help you to manage stress and overwhelm by:
- unravelling how you have arrived there
- setting boundaries
- identifying your internal and external resources
- building greater resilience
- forming strategies so that you cope with work and life in a more robust and healthy way.
“All the top sports people use sports psychologists to ensure peak performance. Imagine if the things in life that stress you didn’t catch you unaware but instead you saw them coming early and swatted them away like Ricky Ponting to a bouncer.” Andre, former client.
Stress = when you are revving the engine too hard.
Overwhelm = when you’ve run out of fuel and keep stalling.
Burnout = when the spark plugs fail, the head gasket blows and the battery is flat.
Overwhelm gives us pretty clear signs but ones that many of us tend to normalise and ignore. You may find yourself constantly feeling under pressure and rushing; getting upset and frequently in tears; disproportionately irritated and angry; have a repeated sense or feeling that lets you know that you are at capacity, overloaded and unable to cope as well as usual. You might find that you have digestive or a bladder issues; tightness in your chest or throat; headaches or palpitations and bouts of dizziness. You may be having panic attacks and hoping that they will just go away. They don’t.
We get overwhelmed when life throws too much at us. Frequently the demands of work alone can take us into overwhelm and when work collides with other factors such as commitments, expectations, health issues, relationships, family demands or bereavement the propensity to reach overwhelm will increase.
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing certain hormones. When we are stressed they release adrenaline and cortisol to create energy in order that you can run, fight or freeze. A small amount of cortisol is very helpful, it metabolises glucose, regulates blood pressure, releases insulin for blood sugar maintenance and helps with immune and inflammatory response. Between adrenalin and cortisol we get a quick burst of energy, heightened memory function, lowered sensitivity to pain and a burst of increased immunity – all perfect for a swift reaction.
However, when cortisol is regularly pumped into the bloodstream it creates adrenal fatigue producing weakened cognitive ability, being ‘tired but wired’ at night and unable to sleep; blood sugar imbalance, raised blood pressure, lowered immunity; heightened inflammatory response, suppressed thyroid function, decreased bone density and a propensity towards raised cholesterol. It will lead to emotional responses of helplessness, hopelessness, anxiety and panic.
Burnout doesn’t happen suddenly, you don’t wake up one morning with it. It creeps up on you when you have been ignoring the signs of stress and overwhelm for a considerable time, probably years.
If you reach burnout you won’t be able to function properly – professionally or personally. You will have to stop work and have a prolonged period away from it – maybe a year or more. You will find yourself dealing with at least some of the following: physical illness; immune system dysfunction; appetite, weight and digestive issues; anxiety and depression; anger and hopelessness; detachment; sleep and memory problems; chronic fatigue or ME. I do not say any of this to be alarmist but to be clear that it is extremely important to address the signs of overwhelm as burnout is renowned to be a very challenging place from which to return.