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When Wellness Coaches Encounter Overwhelm: A Deep Dive into Mental Health Crisis vs. Burnout

I'm there. I'm so lucky I see what's happening. I'm blessed to be able to see the signs of my OCD acting up and my rage building again. Recognizing the signs is a mixed blessing; it's like being able to see a storm brewing on the horizon before it hits. Sometimes, it feels like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, watching the ground crumble beneath me.

And then Coach Ria steps in:

  • Am I taking care if myself?

  • Am i eating right?

  • Exercising?

  • Meditating?

  • Taking moments to myself?

  • Sleeping?

  • Socializing?

  • Doing things OUTSIDE of work?

  • Am I reading for pleasure?


Not as often as a I know I should. Then how can I truly call myself a Wellness Coach when I'm approaching a meltdown?

A wellness coach acts as a proponent of health and well-being, walking hand in hand with individuals towards their fitness and health objectives by promoting healthier lifestyle choices.

I'm no stranger to this feeling. I've been here before, the point where I take a step back and wonder if Im heading towards a crisis or just burnout.

What occurs when the wellness coach, a symbol of perseverance, feels overwhelmed? It is essential to distinguish between a mental health crisis and burnout. I talked to Rebecca Arroyo, LMHC, about spotting the difference between burnout and crisis, and what we can do to ensure we do not experience a mental health emergency.

Wellness Coaches and Overwhelm

What is overwhelm?

Let's define "overwhelm" for the sake of this post, although I'm sure we as a society feel comfortable enough identifying it. Overwhelm refers to a state wherein individuals find themselves swamped by the pressures and demands of their job, alongside their personal life stresses, to a point where it significantly impacts their psychological and physical well-being.

Overwhelm is characterized by an accumulation of stress, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion that surpasses one’s ability to cope or manage effectively. This state often results from the continuous effort to meet the high expectations set by themselves, their clients, or their workplace, without adequate boundaries, support, or self-care practices in place. Overwhelm acts as a precursor to more severe conditions, such as burnout or a mental health crisis, if left unaddressed.

As wellness coaches (personal trainers and healthcare providers included), we face the challenges that life presents on a daily basis. The accumulation of these stressors can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed without proper coping strategies. This could result in a rise in anxiety levels, a decrease in performance and productivity, or difficulty in maintaining a balanced work-life situation.

The wellness coach, guiding their clients' with their diverse wellness needs, may not always be the best at taking care of their own needs. Prioritizing their clients over their health and well-being is sometimes the norm, especially in our "hustle culture" and can simply trigger an overwhelming state of existence.

Burnout: A State of Chronic Exhaustion

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. This overwhelming condition largely stems from feeling unnoticed, overwhelmed, and incapable of meeting constant demands.

Wellness coaches experiencing burnout might feel drained, unable to cope or stay focused, and may often lack the energy to remain productive. Unlike a mental health crisis, burnout is not always a life-threatening situation but left unchecked, can result in severe mental health conditions like major depressive disorder or anxiety disorder.

Burnout consists of three major dimensions:

1. Emotional exhaustion- where one feels depleted and emotionally drained,

2. Depersonalization - demonstrating a cynical, negative, or overly detached response to other people's needs

3. Reduced personal accomplishment feeling ineffectual in accomplishing tasks or deriving a sense of satisfaction from work.

If these resonate with us, Rebecca recommends we “take inventory of what we are expelling our energy on and decrease the amount of daily responsibilities we are placing on ourselves. By doing so, it allows you to recharge.”

Mental Health Crisis: What Does it Look Like?

How can we identify a crisis is on the way? Rebecca Arroyo, LMHC states “Everyone has different warning signs that they are on the cusp of a crisis. For some this could look like, a decrease in motivation, changes in sleeping and eating habits, a change in typical routine, changes in hygiene, irritability, etc. I think pinpointing these warning signs is a crucial part of emotional regulation.”

A mental health crisis comprises scenarios where an individual’s behavior can lead to harm towards themselves or others, or prevent them from conducting everyday activities. These types of crises may include suicidal ideations, severe panic attacks, aggressive or irrational behavior, or severe loss of touch with reality.

Mental health crises require immediate intervention, either from mental health professionals or medical personnel, given the potential for immediate harm. As this is a crisis situation, it necessitates instant action. If you have any of these thoughts, please seek immediate professional help.

Diverse Intervention

Understanding the distinction between these concepts enables you to recognize and choose the right time to seek help.

For a mental health crisis, this could mean seeking immediate professional help, hospitalization, or urgent medication, whereas burnout demands a longer-term approach. This could involve implementing self-care strategies, adjusting workloads, counseling, and coping skills.

To learn more about Rebecca’s group healing journey Journey to Self Healing Program that is held in person in Miami, Fl visit her Instagram or click on above link to learn more.

You can also see Rebecca one on one virtually, from the comfort of your home, check out her profile on Psychology Today:

Wrapping It Up in a Neat Bow. Not really.

Ignoring the signs of overwhelm and not differentiating between a mental health crisis and burnout could lead to disastrous consequences.

As a wellness coach, I KNOW my mental health matters too, and taking care of it not only benefits me but also enhances my capability to facilitate others towards their wellness goals.

Real talk Coach Ria here is at a breaking point and I plan to prioritize self-care as much as I promote it and remind myself that seeking help is not a sign of weakness; it's the the pillar of strength and self-wisdom.

Just call me Obiwan.

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