How to avoid burnout
July 29, 2020
Are you a WFHer (Working From Home)? Lockdown probably got you feeling super stressed? Right now, you may be taking strain and it’s not like you can escape with a quick weekend away from the “new normal”.
Striking the right work/life balance in an era of limited travel and strict social distancing is critical to your overall wellbeing. Not only can it contribute negatively to your outlook, neglecting your wellness during trying times can lead to burnout.
But what is burnout?
The term was coined in the 1970s to “describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in ‘helping’ professions,” NCBI notes. These were doctors and nurses, for example, who suffered exhaustion, listlessness, and the inability to cope. Today it refers to anyone from a stay-at-home parent to a corporate careerist and everything in between.
While the medical experts have not arrived at a single definition for the condition, its symptoms broadly include exhaustion, a sense of alienation, and a reduction in your usual performance. All three of these are enhanced by the measures taken to slow the influx of the novel coronavirus pandemic, so you can see why lockdown could be contributing!
Because burnout shares symptoms with other mental health conditions, it’s important to discern between burnout, exhaustion and depression. Determining this is a task for a medical professional, however. A doctor or psychiatrist can work out if you’re suffering from burnout, or if it points to an underlying condition like depression, anxiety disorders or even chronic fatigue syndrome, all of which deserve immediate and compassionate treatment from a qualified healthcare practitioner.
There’s a lot you can do to avoid burning out, however.
Six simple ways to totally avoid burnout
1. Put self-care first
Newsflash! Me-time is all-important. You can’t do much to help anyone else if you’re not coping, yourself.
“It’s essential to replenish your physical and emotional energy,” urges Harvard Business School (HBS), “along with your capacity to focus, by prioritizing good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, social connection, and practices that promote equanimity and well-being, like meditating, journaling, and enjoying nature.” We suggest scheduling them all in and honouring your commitments to your calendar.
2. Channel your energy wisely
“While rest, relaxation, and replenishment can ease exhaustion, curb cynicism, and enhance efficacy, they don’t fully address the root causes of burnout,” warns Harvard Business School. It helps to analyse your situation and recognise what you can and can’t change. Which stressors can you avoid? Would a shift in perspective help?
Maybe the eternal sunshine of social media is getting your down? You could scale back, or even try a digital detox (but alert your closest family, friends and colleagues about your temporary absence). It also helps to practise saying, “no”.
3. Take the focus off your frustrations by giving back
“Nothing brightens the soul or warms the senses like giving to another for no reason other than to give,” says Lifehack. You can inject new energy into your psyche by supporting a good cause. Volunteering is an amazing way to alter your sense of reality and invite positivity into your life. By contributing to the wellbeing of others, you gain invaluable perspective, may feel an increase in gratitude for the blessings you enjoy everyday, and have a renewed sense of relevance. We explore remote volunteering here. We aren’t just recommending it, we’re huge fans of giving back, ourselves. Read about our efforts to make a difference as a professional family and a brand here. And remember that every new dotsure.co.za pet policy sold online here, contributes to feeding and caring for shelter pets awaiting adoption.
4. Learn something new
It might be a new hobby or a new skill, and it will definitely make you feel more accomplished and creative. Taking on the challenge of learning a new habit or process can be a boost that really gets you smiling and might even open doors to new work or career opportunities. Always wanted to be a photoshop whizz? There’s a free online course for it. Curious about making kids’ clothes with all the time you’re spending at home? These pattern-making and tailoring resources are “sew” cool! There’s also LinkedIn Learning for the dedicated professional, and Coursera if you’d like an academic basis (and credits!) for your studies.
5. Make your own rules
It’s essential to recognise that avoiding or dealing with burnout is not a one-size-fits-all situation. You can pick and choose, try something, shelve it and take a different tack. Lotte Dyrbye, a Doctor at the Mayo Clinic, studies physician burnout and wellbeing. She explains to the BBC that we need to find things that work for us, whether it’s solo walks, meditation, or a Netflix marathon. “It really needs to be very individualised,” she emphasises, “and there’s not necessarily a right or wrong.”
6. Consult a professional
You may try all these tips and still not feel a change. You may give it some time and see nothing different in your unusually dour demeanour. Consulting a professional could be the next best step. Somebody who is officially and authentically trained to help guide others might be the helping hand you need to high five the world again. It might be a psychologist, a life coach, a mentor, or your trusted GP. If you’re not convinced about this one, reach out and see how you feel broaching the subject with someone who cares and is qualified to guide. There may be some awkwardness, but if it feels productive, you might have put your finger on the ‘prevent burnout’ button! It helps to know that you’re both there to help you feel more motivated and appreciated.
With steps like these, you’re well on your way to greater stamina, positivity and balance.
And remember, if burnout beckons, it probably isn’t permanent.
“The sense of being overwhelmed is a signal, not a long-term sentence,” Harvard Business School encourages.
Got a burnout hack that helps? Share your tips and tricks on our Facebook page here.
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