The Burnout Kickstart Program: Step 1

Welcome!

You might be wondering if this program is really going to work for you. Well, let me tell you there are several reasons why you have every reason to be confident.

First of all, you’ve taken this step of registering for this program. This already puts you miles ahead of so many people who resist taking that first step.

You’ve realised that you’re struggling, and you’ve acknowledged that there’s a problem that needs addressing.

You’re ready for help, or else you wouldn’t be here. Humans find it almost impossible to make changes until they’re truly ready for it, so you’re in exactly the right place at the right time.

You’ve taken action getting to this point. And if you can do that, you can continue taking action. It might not be easy, but small step by small step, you will get there.

You can do this.

You are ready for this.

Let’s talk about how this program will work, and what you should expect.

It’s important to remember that the advice provided in this program is general advice for people struggling with burnout, and is not specific to you. Each person reacts slightly differently as they receive information and complete exercises, depending upon a range of factors such as personality, genetic predispositions, childhood experiences, and other health conditions. It is normal to feel some discomfort as you face challenges and try new things. But if you experience significant distress then you are advised to pause progressing through this program and seek professional advice.

Does this program replace therapy?
No. Because this program is general, and not tailored to you, this is a different type of support to direct professional therapy with a doctor or other mental health professional. For some of you, this program will provide all that you need to get through burnout. For others, it may form one part of your treatment program, alongside other sources of support.

If you have any significant concerns about your mental health at any time during this program, you need to seek individual professional advice and support. You will usually begin by seeing your regular doctor or general practitioner, and they can refer you to other professionals if necessary. If you wish, Australians can also book burnout counselling appointments with me, and within the context of those appointments you will be my patient and I can provide specific advice for you.

If you require urgent psychological assistance, such as if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please contact (in Australia):

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
  • Your GP or psychologist if they have an immediate appointment available.

International support may be available from:

In a moment, you’re going to complete a brief burnout checklist, to check in with how burnout’s affecting your life at the moment. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what ‘burnout’ actually is.

What is burnout?

‘Burnout’ occurs when people face prolonged periods of stress and end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and struggling to cope.

It happens as a result of someone not having adequate resources to meet the demands put upon them.

Usually these demands come from multiple areas of life – work, family, hobbies, societal expectations, study, or volunteer work.

The resources you have to meet those demands can be both external and internal. Your external resources might be provided by your finances, workplace, or social support. Internal resources relate to factors such as your health, energy levels, personality factors, and coping strategies.

If we examine those internal and external resources, there are aspects of both that are outside of your control. But there are also aspects that are within your sphere of control. And this is why it is possible address the imbalance of demands versus resources, and to overcome burnout.

It’s important to note that burnout is not a mental illness. It’s not something that can be treated with medication. But it can be serious, and impacts every area of life, so it needs to be taken seriously. Burnout can affect psychological wellbeing, physical health, career, finances, and relationships. We’ll take a closer look at some of these effects when you complete the burnout checklist in a moment.

I hope you can see that burnout is complex, and arises largely because of external pressures put upon you. Being burnt-out is not a sign of weakness.
You are not a failure.
This is not something to be ashamed of.

Burnout self-assessment

Go through the checklist below, and keep a simple tally of how many of these things you identify with as a change from your “normal”. Make sure you watch the above video first so that you can prepare beforehand.

After you’ve completed the checklist, you can continue below to work out what that means for you.

Now that you’ve completed the checklist, let’s take a look at what your results mean:

  • Score of 1-7: you may not be burnt-out, or you may be in the early stages of burnout. This is the perfect time to be looking at what you can do to prevent burnout and what strategies you can use to manage early signs of burnout.
  • Score of 8-18: you may be experiencing mild-moderate burnout. To prevent worsening burnout, you need to get support to address these issues. The Kickstart Program is ideal for people who fall into this category.
  • Score of 19-30: you may be experiencing moderate-severe burnout. It’s really important that you address burnout promptly, and you should seek professional support through your doctor.

Remember that whatever score you got, and however bad things feel right now, things will improve with the right support.

It’s good to keep a record of your current burnout score for future reference. Sometimes improvements happen slowly, and repeating this checklist can help you to realise there have been improvements you may not have noticed. You could record your score in your journal, or print the checklist out and keep a copy.

Seeing your doctor

Booking an appointment to see your usual doctor, or general practitioner, is the most important task in this step.

There are two reasons why this is critical:

  1. You need someone else to assess the severity of your current symptoms. We are very good at down-playing our problems and not taking things seriously. This applies even to people who are very good at assessing other people (such as doctors and psychologists). You need an objective assessment, from someone who is looking in from the outside.
  2. Burnout symptoms overlap with other mental and physical illnesses. You need to find out whether you have any other diagnoses that need treatment, such as depression or anxiety, which often occur alongside burnout. There may be physical illnesses contributing to symptoms such as fatigue, for example anaemia or a thyroid disorder.

So, no matter how bad things are, or how convinced you are that you’re suffering from burnout and not something else…

…you must book an appointment with your doctor!

Preparing

Before we move onto more specific tasks for this first step, I want to take a moment to talk about preparing for this process, both in terms of our mindset and gathering a few supplies.

You’ll need a few practical supplies to complete the tasks in this program. You’ll need:

  • A journal and pen to record your progress, self-reflect, and complete written exercises. A journal is a great way to keep all of this in one place. If you prefer to use a digital format, then by all means do. There is evidence that writing by hand can enhance the outcome of some written exercises, but it’s a personal choice that I’ll leave up to you. In the end, the main aim is to facilitate you easily completing the activities so that you can make progress.
  • A planner/diary so that in step 2 we can start looking at your schedule and assessing how you’re going to be able to shift things around to allow for recovery.

Step 1 Tasks

Step 1 Tasks:

  • Record your burnout score in your journal, or somewhere you won’t lose it and can refer back to it later.
  • Book an appointment with your doctor.
  • Write down what your biggest fear is in starting this program.
  • Write down your hopes. In the best case scenario, what do you hope you could achieve by the end of this program?
  • As you go through the next few days, consider what you need in that moment, and try to fulfill those needs if you can.

When you’re ready, move onto Step 2.