About 2 years ago my husband and I were driving home from a kid free, care-free weekend away. We decided to take the coast road for our 2.5 hour journey home, instead of the main state highway. The petrol indicator suggested that at some point on the trip we would need to fill up with gas. "Perhaps we should just fill up now before we head off?" I suggested. "Nah, we'll have enough to get to Ngatea" he said. As we drove round the coast, I had one eye on the scenery and the other on the petrol gauge. "There's a petrol station ahead, shall we just fill up there?"... "Nah, we've got heaps", he said. The more we drove, the lower the 'km's remaining' number got, until it eventually flat lined. "It's flat lining!" I said, as we drove past another petrol station. "We're not far from Ngatea, besides, there's still gas in the tank, even when the reading says none" he said. I was now uninterested in the scenery, and more interested in the flashing petrol light. While it was mesmerizing, in my head I was still saying to myself "Please let us get to Ngatea, please let us get to Ngatea...." over and over again. My husband started shifting the gear stick into neutral when we were going down hills... a tell tale sign that he was worried too. We reached the turn off. Ngatea, 7km's said the sign. "We're not going to make it" I said. "Well be fine" he replied.....
How often do you run on 'empty' in your life? Be it at work, or at home? How often do you ignore the warning signs, the flashing lights of your body and brain telling you to slow down, stop, and refuel? Ignoring these signs leads to burnout.
Employee burnout is becoming a worldwide issue and the impact is overwhelming. According to one article, in 2019 there was an increase in stress and burnout incidents reported. The result had an impact on workplace cultures actually causing them to decline. The current climate of 'do more, with less' is often about doing more work with less staff, rather than doing more meaningful work, with less distraction. We are overloaded, busier than we have ever been, and something will eventually give. That something is often you and your wellbeing.
The key is to keep your 'life tank' as close to full as possible. My dad's rule when it came to cars was never let your tank go below the 1/4 mark. I apply this to my own 'life tank'. So that I don't hit empty, I have regular things in place to keep my tank as close to full as possible
Some of the signs that your tank might be nearing empty are:
- You become cynical or critical at work
- You have to drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started
- You become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients
- You lack the energy to be consistently productive
- You find it hard to concentrate
- You lack satisfaction from your achievements
These can be signs that your mind and body is giving you to stop and refuel. Listen and take notice of the signs.
1 Learning: No-one benefits from running on an empty tank. Do yourself and those around you a favour, and keep it about the quarter line at least.
1 Opportunity: Identify the things for you that fill your tank, that give you energy. Identify the parts of your life that might feel a little empty, that perhaps need some attention.
1 Action: Pick one thing on your list that fills your tank, and make time to do it this week. Whatever you do, don't say "it's nearly Christmas, I'll do it then...." or think "I'll be fine"..... because you might not be. We all need to prioritise our wellbeing, and keep our tanks full. As they say, you've got one body, so you better look after it.
And in case you're wondering, we did run out of petrol, 5 km's from the next petrol station, at which point my husband turned to me and said "Well, go on then, say 'I told you so'"....