Rust out and burnout?

When I was training to be a social worker I was acutely aware of ‘burnout’. I now also know about ‘rust out’ which is when you are getting fatigued, stressed and close to burnout.  I didn’t know why was I so interested in ‘burnout’. I now know that what we see through our own eyes is based on the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, so I was clearly in fear of burn out for myself. During my training a long time ago, I chose the subject of social work stress for my dissertation. At that time, I didn’t have the courage of my convictions to develop the ideas that I had further.

Social work stress and was a phenomenon at that time, it is now an epidemic. The average social work career now lasts just three years. Burnout is rife. Rust out is prevalent. This has huge implications for the sector. This is not unique to social work and you may resonate with this in your sector, your company or just in your role.

Workplace stress

There is so much written about stress and most organisations are aware of it however some are less able to recognise the signs and know how to support someone. And the employee? Well who wants to admit that they are stressed? Doesn’t this mean, that they can’t cope, that they are weak, that they are not as good as their colleagues? Does it put their career prospects or even their job at risk? There are so many inbuilt fears around sharing that you feel stressed.

Signs of stress and anxiety

Do you recognise stress for yourself? I can remember saying often, “I don’t get stressed” and believing this. Now this was because I have had a number of good strategies for some time, however stress has impacted on me and I have had to take stock of where I am at to realign myself. Some physical signs of stress and anxiety may be not eating well, lack of sleep, lack of exercise or weight gain as well as symptoms such as stomach ache and diarrhoea. Changes in behaviour as a result of stress and anxiety may be wanting to take time off, working excessive hours, changes in mood, including irritation, tearfulness and short temperedness. It could also manifest in a lack of motivation, zest, loss of creativity, humour and enthusiasm.

Stress as an opportunity

Can stress can also be a wonderful opportunity to slow down and take stock. Now before you throw the laptop out of the window at the suggestion……. Think what can you learn about yourself during this time? It may be an opportunity to reflect on your incredible resilience, how much you have coped with and handled up until this point. It may help you to understand your tipping point. It may show up for you some underlying limiting beliefs that are stored in your neurology or a past trauma.


What do you know about your resilience levels and where you draw your resilience from? Does it matter that you are an introvert or extrovert? Reflecting on your natural tendency towards extroverted or introverted behaviours may help you to gain awareness on where you draw your energy and ultimately strength. Introverts may want to draw on their energy reserves by spending time alone and doing contemplative things, such as reading, relaxation, yoga, walking etc. Extroverts may gain their energy from being in crowds, seeking the company of others and doing something more high energy. Know yourself and know your loved ones so that you can best support each other.

If you want to understand more about your resilience check out and follow the simple test.

Simple steps to avoid stress now

  • Start your day well – set your intention! Start the day with something calming and focused on your well-being before you get into the busyness of the day. Try yoga, meditation if you know how, breathing exercises or walking the dog. Avoid devices where possible until you have completed your self-care routine and you are set up for the day.
  • Make a to-do list at the beginning of the day and set 3 must do’s and be satisfied when they are done. Anything else is a bonus.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that is planned to avoid impulse eating. This will balance blood sugars throughout the day.
  • Avoid caffeine where possible and certainly after 2pm to avoid spikes and crashes in mood and energy and to support good sleep.
  • Set and maintain some boundaries. Switch off from work and the laptop in good time and put it away out of sight. Turn off the phone and be unreachable.
  • Do not use any device with a blue screen at least one hour before bed and have a good relaxing bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities.
  • Use your support networks and delegate where you can.
  • Spend time with people that light you up and give you perspective.
  • Practice gratitude – this is such an incredible tool to feel joyful! Write down 3 things that you are grateful for at the end of each day.

Take as many moments as you can in the day to reconnect with you, whether that is sitting and breathing, taking a walk, asking a colleague how they are. Stop and smell the roses as often as you can.

If you feel that there is something underlying the feelings of stress or it is a reoccurring feeling then there may be other factors that are influencing this or exacerbating this and it may be helpful to consult someone independent such as a coach.

With great respect and gratitude