I dove head-first into the shallow end when I started my coaching career in 2013. I thought that building my business meant being available 24/7 for speaking engagements, college career days, and for my clients. I traveled around the country to speak – for free – in exchange, I hoped, for clients.
I got clients – lots of them. And then, eight months into my brand-new business, I crashed. Hard.
Job burnout is real. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It slowly builds as you demand more and more of yourself and put in longer and longer days. You may not even realize that take-out and caffeine replaced home-cooked meals until you look in the waste bin to find wrappers from In-n-Out Burger.
Recognize the signs of job burnout: forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, lackadaisical, frustration, and irritability. Burnout is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Ignoring burnout can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression. Not to mention keep you from engaging in your everyday life, enjoying hobbies, or spending quality time with family and friends.
Burnout is different than stress.
With stress, you see a way out. With burnout, you’ve lost hope. It is over-engagement verses disengagement. While both stress and burnout can lead to health problems, burnout gets there through despair.
The sooner you recognize the signs of burnout, the sooner you can begin recovery, and take control of your life again. Burnout won’t just go away if you ignore it.
Here are 5 simple steps to take on your path to job burnout recovery.
- Identify your sources of burnout at work and home.
Burnout can come from your professional or personal life, or both simultaneously. Often one leads to the other. Work-related burnout comes from loss of control, lack of recognition, demanding job expectations, monotony, or high-pressure environments. Personal, or lifestyle, burnout results from not enough time to relax or socialize, unsupportive relationships, too many personal responsibilities, or lack of sleep. “Type A” personality types are also susceptible to burnout as well as perfectionists, pessimist, and people who are overly excitable.
Take time to identify your sources of burnout. This is the first step to identifying how to change what you’re doing so you can eliminate burnout.
- Identify immediate and long-term changes you can make to reduce or eliminate burnout.
Once you’ve identified your sources of burnout, see what you can do to eliminate or reduce those. For example, one of your sources of burnout comes from lack of control over a specific project at work. Talk to your employer and ask to set up accountability measures for the project. These are small achievements, or goals, on the way to conquering the overall goal. Celebrate each achievement. It can be incredibly rewarding to hit mile markers along the way to the overreaching project goal.
Another really easy change to make is learning to say “no.” If your life is running you, try the word “no.” It’s incredibly empowering and can free up some of your time for more important things like meditation, yoga, or forest therapy.
Take action today by looking at your sources of burnout and making the immediate changes you can today. Look at all your options – keep in mind that some options may create short-term stress for long-term gain.
- Set boundaries and take back control of your life.
OK, this may be easier said than done. Think baby steps. If the source of your burnout is coming from your job, you might not be able to sing: “Take this job and shove it, I ain’t workin’ here no more.” But you can begin the process. Set small, meaningful boundaries. Many states require employers to provide a 30-minute meal break for every so many hours of continuous work. If you work in one of these states, set a meal boundary. Eat off site or in your car. Turn off your cell phone. Or, better yet, take 10 minutes to eat and 20 minutes to listen to relaxing music or meditate.
Practice that “no” word again. Taking control of your life includes being selective about what commitments to make. “No” allows you to take time for yourself. Get some rest. Or play.
Take a daily break from technology and engage your creative side. Purchase an adult (or kid’s) coloring book and some colored pencils. Pick up an old hobby or start a new one. Go for a run in the woods barefoot!
- Practice self-compassion and honor “me” time.
Eating right is a big part of self-compassion. Ditch the burgers and snack on fruits and veggies. Reduce your sugar intake as well as mood-altering foods like caffeine, unhealthy fats, and foods loaded with preservatives. Eat mood-boosting foods including fatty fish, dark chocolate, and nuts and berries.
Get moving. Exercise is one of the easiest things we can do to boost our mood while honoring some “me” time. Instead of focusing your attention on goal-oriented exercise, exercise for the fun it. Take a walk by the river or on the beach at sunset. Sign up for a ballet class or croquet. Exercise doesn’t have to be challenging in order to reap its rewards.
Give yourself some time to make adaptations to your work and personal life. Then, reassess. What’s working? What’s not? What other changes can you make along the path to job burnout recovery?
Stepping off the treadmill to burnout and on the road to recovery takes time and dedication. You’re an overachiever with the-sky’s-the-limit aspirations. It will take work to find common ground between taking care of yourself and taking over the world. But what I realized was that when I stopped – more of a forced halt – and took control of my life, I was not only happier but a whole lot more successful.
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