Posted: 7th May 2019 | Written by: Karine Rayson
Burnout is commonly seen among high achievers. We can be so determined to excel in a chosen area that we neglect our wellbeing needs whilst doing so. If this lack of balance continues for too long, it can lead to feelings of overwhelming exhaustion - both physically and emotionally.
Unfortunately, burnout is a term often associated with the yachting industry. Not only do crew work excessive hours with minimal rest, but they face a unique range of stressors in these demanding roles.
Burnout occurs when the mind and body are in a state of chronic stress for an extended period of time. In daily life, it interferes with an individual's ability to function and effectively manage even minor stressors. Reaching a point of burnout is a gradual process, and I can say from personal experience that if you are unable to recognise the early warning signs and address them, burnout can creep up on you when you're not expecting it.
I think it's really important as crew to familiarise ourselves with the warning signs so that we can help ourselves, help each other, and reduce the probability of burnout occurring.
Chronic fatigue: Low energy, lack of interest in activity and exercise. An overall sense of tiredness and heaviness which contributes to mental and physical exhaustion.
Low immune system: You may find yourself at the doctors more often than usual as you become more susceptible to colds and infections.
Mental health issues: You may find yourself worrying more than usual which can lead to a state of anxiety or panic. If not managed in the early stages it can negatively impact your relationships and your ability to carry out your daily tasks. If it gets to this stage I highly encourage you to seek professional support.
To highlight the difference between anxiety and depression in the simplest way: Depression is commonly associated with thoughts about the past and anxiety with thoughts about the future.
Decline in overall attitude and motivation: You no longer look forward to activities that you previously enjoyed doing.
Negative thought cycles: Your thoughts may be more negative than positive which has a negative influence on your behaviours and feelings.
Disconnection from your values: You might find that you disengage from the areas in your life that bring you meaning.
Isolation: You may find your self reluctant to participate in social activities and choosing to spend more time alone. (See symptoms of depression here.)
Adverse effects on performance: Chronic stress can be detrimental to your performance at work.
Forgetfulness and poor concentration: Stress interferes with our ability to stay present and focused, as such you may find that you are not able to retain information as well.
Exercise: Working as crew is physically demanding, but it's important to engage in an exercise routine that positively influences the mind and body. An example would be incorporating grounding activities within your work day where possible. This could be a quick dip in the ocean (if permitted) or doing a yoga routine in your cabin. Choose what works for you and makes you feel good.
Positive support network: Energy is contagious surround yourself around people who uplift you, however, be mindful of your energy and how that can impact their energy too. Don’t engage in gossip or activities that sow discord and distrust.
Relaxation exercises: Deep breathing exercises, yoga and guided meditations are fantastic tools to self manage stress.
Unplug: Manage your time on your devices. Don’t use social media as a means to “wind down” from your day. Fill your precious time with activities that are going to nurture and rejuvenate you.
Get enough sleep: When working onboard sleep is precious. Use your free time wisely.
Manage your work and personal stress: Write down the things that are currently worrying you or causing you stress. You’ll find that they are thoughts that occur repeatedly throughout the day. Once you have gotten them all out on paper, prioritise them along with a step by step action plan.
Ask for help: Reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed or if you notice any red flags popping up. Asking for help or talking with a mental health professional will only benefit you.
Burnout can have severe consequences on your personal and professional life; make it your priority to regularly check in with yourself and use the signs and strategies identified above to combat burnout early.