You have stayed late at work all week to finish a report. You have pulled two all-nighters in a row to prepare for the GRE. You finally got up the courage to leave your job and are now pulling 16-hour days to get your business off the ground.
Can you relate to any of these scenarios? If so, then you are a candidate for burnout. Burnout is when you experience a physical or mental collapse as a result of overwork or stress in a home, work, or school environment.
Whether the stress comes from your self-motivation to do better and achieve more in the time that you have, or from your superior telling you what you need to turn in and when, no matter the time it takes, burnout is a real thing. And it can be dangerous to your health and wellbeing.
Are there ways that you can prevent burnout? There are some things you can do to help you manage stress and maintain your calm, even through the roughest storms.
Signs of Burnout
First, what are the signs you should watch out for that are indicators of burnout? Well, be sure to look out for the obvious signs like heightened stress/anxiety, fatigue, low energy, and disinterest at work. But also be aware of signs likes increased physical illness, distracted or forgetful behavior, diminished physical activity (and perhaps weight gain), and increased self-criticism or negativity.
These signs are not conducive to productivity, and much less, a healthy mental and physical state. Productivity can drop dramatically, impacting your career and your team; your creativity can be dampened, and you will find excuses to miss work. This often spills over into your personal life, affecting your friendships, relationships, and family life.
5 Tips to Prevent Burnout
So what can you do to keep yourself from burning out? Below are 5 tips that you can start putting into practice.
1. Remind Yourself of Your Purpose.
Why did you take this job? What skills does this job help you develop? How are you improving others’ lives through the work that you do? If you cannot find the answers to these questions, you may want to make shifts in your role so that you feel more fulfilled. If this still isn’t the case, you may not be in the right career or company for you.
If this is the situation you’re in, take some time to develop a career strategy and to think about what motivates you and search for a job that fits you better.
2. Find a Creative Outlet.
Getting out of a set rhythm and allowing yourself to think out of the box could help you become more creative at work and take new approaches to problems. This may be painting, knitting, writing, or dancing.
3. Take Time for Yourself Every day.
No matter how busy you are, take at least 20 minutes of every day to focus on yourself and something that makes you feel good, without the pressure of feeling productive. Whether it is painting your nails, reading a book, or doing your favorite yoga poses, taking time for yourself will help you unwind and help cultivate a sense of worth, self-bonding, and self-esteem.
4. Build Your Support System.
Take a moment to think about the people in your life, and identify those who are emotionally supportive and can understand what you are going through. Take time every week to reach out so that you can be there for each other. Avoid calling them only when you are about to break down – spend quality time with them doing things you all love. You will find that those experiences and conversations are often the best antidote to burnout.
5. Build an Exercise and Diet Routine.
Some of the first things to go when you get overwhelmed at work are a healthy, regular diet and exercise routine. Make a commitment to yourself to take your lunch away from your desk every day, and find a gym that is on the way from the office to your home. Once you do this, give yourself three weeks to keep up the rhythm (three weeks is the estimated time it takes to build a habit). If you don’t trust yourself to do it on your own, find a gym and food buddy who will help keep you accountable.
When you have a long list of never-ending to-dos and pressure from all around you to get them done, it is hard to think about making the necessary changes to alleviate stress and prevent burnout. But, if you get your priorities in line (hint: you cannot effectively help others until you are in a state to do so), you will feel better, more motivated, more rested, and more creative to do a better job.