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Five Tips to Avoid Burnout

Burnout has become so ingrained in our culture that in many ways it’s synonymous with being busy. It goes unnoticed for so long because we write it off as, “I have a lot of work today” or “I am just really busy this week.” I’ve had clients describe years of being overworked and burnt out as one “busy week” after another.

So what does burnout look like?

According to this BBC documentary, these are the tell tale signs of burnout:

1. Walking around all the time feeling under pressure or angry

2. Waking up with a pit in your stomach or feeling nauseous

3. Physical manifestations like IBS or gastritis

4. Constantly checking your work phone or email

5. Thinking about work when you are doing things in your personal life

Five tips to avoid burn-out

1. Boundaries: One of the biggest mistakes I see with employees is a lack of boundaries. Knowing when to turn off the work switch. This applies to the folks who are thinking about work when they are at home or out with friends. Reading emails before bed or working on vacation. There MUST be a separation of your work life and personal life. A good employer will ensure that you are doing this by encouraging you to have reasonable boundaries. For example, not emailing or calling you while you are on vacation.

2. Get a hobby: Whether it’s knitting, a music club, writing, an intramural sports league, bridge class, or cooking find a hobby that excites you outside of your job. It’s great to love your job, but that’s not enough. You have to foster skills and hobbies outside of work and have something outside of the work environment that stimulates you.

3. Community: You must engage with people who fulfill your time in a positive way outside of work. i.e. people who make you happy. Who do you feel good around? Who leaves you with a happy high after you’ve spent some time with them? Identify these people and integrate them into your life. Recently I had a conversation with an older woman who described her women’s church group as this. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a group. The key is having people in your life who make you feel a part of something.

4. Healthy lifestyle: This is straightforward. Sleep, Eat, Exercise, Vacation. My favorite example is of a busy CEO who a few years ago told me he gets as much as he gets done because he works at his optimum at five hours of sleep. I challenged this notion but he remained sure that according to his personal research, five hours is all he needs. I saw him again one year later after he had crashed and burned a few times, neglected his physical and mental health, and made some poor decisions. He said that the biggest change he had recently made was sleeping eight hours a night regardless of how much work he needed to get done. He understood sleeping only five hours a night had taken its toll and he was never fully able reset until now.

While these seem like basic self care activities, folks who are nearing or on the path to burnout often go into survival mode. They are just trying to get the most done. It becomes very easy to neglect habits that will keep you healthy and actually enhance performance. Create a framework of self care and work your butt off within the realms of this structure.

5. Professional development: Stay ready so you never have to get ready. If you are really lucky you work for an organization that invests in their employees' professional development through resources, time off, and monetary reimbursements for employees to stay active in their industry.

But since we can’t always count on our employers to empower us, most people have to invest in their own development. This can be as simple and cost effective as subscribing to a professional journal to stay up to date on the latest news in your industry or attending a quarterly mixer or roundtable discussion in your field. It can even be as simple as reaching out to peers on LinkedIn and meeting for one on one coffees once in a while to share experiences and ideas.

Another benefit of engaging in professional development: keeping your resume up to date to help you readily take advantage of new opportunities.

Lastly, be friendly. Make friends in your industry and have a community within your field that you can go to. It’s great to network but even better when these people are friends, or friendly at the least. Often times people say, “I’m not the networking type” or “ I just don’t have it in me to talk to people just to make connections.” Well, it doesn’t have to be so transactional. Stop seeing it as “making connections” and start seeing it as “making friends.” It's less daunting and the more you do it, when you do need to tap into your network you have friends to reach out to and not formal connections to request favors from.


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