The Coach is Burned Out: It Happens & How to Handle It
by Salma El-Shurafa
To many, coaching appears as an incredibly fulfilling career – and it is. It’s something that you can be an established expert on, and this gives you an opportunity to contribute to the improvement of others.
However, constantly giving can definitely be depleting. When you’re the repository of solutions for a myriad of issues, the routine can take its toll on you – physically, emotionally and mentally.
When Burnout Happens
Burnout for coaches is no rare occurrence. Despite the unchanging desire to help others, coaches can feel exhausted and frustrated with what they do, too, especially if the people they are coaching struggle to achieve their target results.
Exhaustion and frustration aren’t the only manifestations of burnout. Other examples are the lack of motivation to do anything at all on certain days, cognitive difficulties, failing health, and tense relationship with co-workers and the family. Moments of self-doubt due to poor performance on the job can be experienced frequently as well.
Perhaps the worst thing that happens when coaches are burned out is the constant worrying about their career and what to do with it to keep it going. When this happens, the stress and unhappiness further build up because there’s no moment to regroup and restore a sound perspective of things.
How to Handle Burnout
The first thing that you need to do is to admit that you are experiencing it. Don’t think about what other people will say because you’re a coach – someone who’s expected to have things of this life figured out better than everybody else. It’s imperative to recognize that you’re human and there are situations in life that you cannot transcend even with your vast know-how.
Other strategies that can help include:
Taking a vacation
Get away from it all even for just a few days and make sure that you don’t bring anything that will connect you to your coaching career. Focus on yourself for some time so you can give more to others when you come back.
It’s ideal to travel to a new place and experience new things. The newness of everything may overwhelm you, but this can be a good neutralizer for the burnout you’re experiencing due to your demanding career. For some time, you can just forget about your routine and focus on the moment.
Also, the new experiences can increase your coaching “treasure chest;” you can go back to work later on inspired by new ideas that you can use to help others.
Create a clear distinction between your professional life and your personal life. Your coaching career is just one aspect of your life and you need to manage it well to restore life balance. One of the most effective ways to do that is by preventing your professional life from crossing over to your personal time by “unplugging.”
When you’re done with work for the day, leave all of your work concerns at the office and make sure you’re out of reach until you go to work the following day or past the weekend. Turn off your phone and don’t check your email – you’ve already devoted eight to ten hours for five days of the week to do what you need to do as a coach, so the rest should be used for your growth and satisfaction as a “person.
Getting Coaching for Yourself
It’s usually difficult to have a complete view of the situation you’re in when you’re in it; therefore, an outsider’s perspective can help a great deal. Another of the many benefits of coaching and mentoring is that you can increase your resources in overcoming the burnout because you will not just be using your own know-how; you score access to the proven effective methods of another expert. This is one of those career success tips that nobody should overlook. It’s logical: If one solution tanks, you still have many more to try.
Journaling What You’re Experiencing
This will allow you to pent out the negative things you’re feeling, and to see them with your own eyes so you can better analyze them and brainstorm for ways, simple and complex, that can help you climb out of the rut.
The simple act of putting things in order and ridding your physical surroundings of dirt and clutter is actually quite powerful. In Japan, tidying up and working toward minimalism are seen as effective methods in getting back on track. The little things everybody holds on to can reflect one’s values and joys; tidying up presents the opportunity to take a step back, evaluate what truly matters in life, and regain joy in the things one does.
Countless studies prove that meditation is particularly effective in helping people extract themselves from what’s causing them anxiety, stress, and even emotional overload from helping others (what coaches do all the time).
Take time to slow things down and mellow out. Hold a comfortable seated position. Breathe in and breathe out. Listen to calming music. Free your mind of worries. Doing this will have a soothing effect on your nervous system and it will reinvigorate you for your career.
Doing Something Creative
Creative pursuits will let you tap a part of your mind that’s removed from the stress of burnout. When you’re burned out with coaching, it’s essential to prevent that from dominating your life, thus minimizing its impact by making space for other productive things in your mind.
Take up painting, enroll in a writing class, learn how to bake, or even study how to make a bento box you can bring to work. These distractions can put a rein on the effects of burnout.
Take Rest Seriously
If you find yourself expending much of your energy feeling bad about what you do, catch some zzzzs. Getting adequate sleep puts a halt to negative thoughts – even a short nap can slash stress hormone levels. When you wake up, you’ll feel refreshed and in a much better disposition to take on a new day of doing what you do as a life commitment (and income-generator), and to come up with ways on how to overcome obstacles you’re experiencing with work.
Burnout happens to everybody. Don’t be ashamed of it because you can be a phoenix that rises from the ashes by taking proper and timely action.
Salma El-Shurafa is an experienced Executive Coach and founder of The Pathway Project. She is a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and a graduate of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program.
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