Last year’s lockdowns restored work-life balance for many. Liberated from punishing commutes, newly remote workers spent more time with their families and even exercised from home. Yet for some the sudden shift had an insidious side effect. Boundaries between work-life and home-life evaporated. Returning emails from employers on Sunday afternoons became the norm as did midweek schedules that stretched toward midnight.
As the World Health Organization helpfully explains, burnout happens because of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Does that sound familiar? How about these symptoms? They include,”energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” If you are teetering on the edge of the exhaustion cliff, step back slowly. Then take a look at how to avoid burnout at work.
Take Care of Yourself
This is vital. Have you ever tried printing a document when the printer is low on ink? The result isn’t pretty. Even before many offices went paperless, you were way more valuable than a piece of equipment. Yet it’s unrealistic to expect optimal performance from anyone or anything that isn’t cared for properly. The first step is making sleep a priority. We love to brag in this country about how little sleep we need –– yet few celebrate the fact that not getting enough sleep has as many long term risks as overeating or smoking. Neglecting those ZZZZZZs can also harm your creativity and focus –– two fairly essential elements. Develop a pre-bedtime routine that includes abstaining from all electronic devices, soothing herbal tea, and a warm shower or bath. Before you go to sleep, try reading a diverting novel (ideally in printed form) rather than binging TV shows.
Regular exercise and a healthy diet are also proven ways to avoid burnout at work. When you elevate your heart rate, you also elevate your dopamine levels which immediately improves your mood. Yoga can calm your mind and stretch your body –– a good class can help you forget about work completely. And if you aren’t comfy with in-person classes, there are a ton of awesome free online options.
I’m also a huge believer in the value of mindful meditation. By being fully present and taking on one task at a time you can not only mitigate burnout but also improve creativity while reducing overall stress and anxiety.
Unhealthy eating habits and burnout go together like warm pie and ice cream. So stop scarfing those greasy carbs in the afternoon and opt for a banana or an apple. Prepare a salad the night before (with the dressing contained separately) rather than eating lunchtime fast food at your desk. In fact, stop taking meals at your desk. Instead, leave the building and savor some fresh air during an invigorating nice stroll. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as well.
Spend Time With Others
Another great way to avoid burnout at work is to make sure it isn’t the center of your social life. Workplace chums can be great sounding boards and provide invaluable support. Yet if the only people you see in your off hours are the ones you see when you’re working, you’ll have a tough time unwinding and letting go of your job. Reconnecting with college buddies or making new friends at a meet-up is like following a map to mental health. Most of all, make the time to laugh –– it has proven benefits for both your mind and your body. If you are having difficulty connecting with anyone, it could indicate deeper issues. Speaking to a qualified therapist is a good idea.
The goal is to take on enough added responsibility that you get a promotion. It isn’t taking on so much you get a hospital room. Although yes is a powerful word, if you’re suffering symptoms of burnout, I recommend embracing the word no. When a co-worker asks for assistance with a project, it’s not rude to remind them of your deadlines. Just because your boss works until eight p.m. every night doesn’t mean you have to follow their lead. In fact, winnowing your projects to a manageable number will not only help you feel better but it will also improve your overall performance. That’s how you get promoted!
Burnout is no joke. So take it seriously before it cuts short a promising career –– yours.
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