How to Avoid Burnout

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Burnout Metaphor

In recent years, the effects of burnout have been increasingly recognized, and it has now been included in the eleventh edition of the DSM-5. The term was first defined by Freudenberger in 1975 as being a ‘state of being inoperative’. According to the World Health Organisation, it is a condition caused by the workplace, and it is perpetuated by the increasing pressure that we place upon ourselves. Burnout and stress are often interrelated, but the latter is more of a short term issue whereas burnout takes place over a much longer period.

Although peoples’ experience of burnout may differ, classic symptoms include:

  • Disengagement,
  • Feeling unmotivated,
  • A sense of disillusionment,
  • A sense of failure,
  • Lowered immunity,
  • Difficulty sleeping,
  • Having a negative or cynical outlook on life,
  • Social Isolation
  • Having a negative attitude towards work.

Avoiding burnout is ultimately about listening to your body and responding accordingly. However, there is not a one size fits all approach to addressing the issues that we face, as ultimately we are all individuals who respond to things in different ways. Yet, as always, prevention beats cure, so check out our top tips for avoiding burnout and ensuring that you have the motivation needed to live your best life.  

Set Targets

In today’s world, work is an essential part of our everyday life, and it can be a lot; especially when you are often working on repetitive tasks with no clear end goal in mind. Many of us have adopted unhealthy work patterns in a working environment that promotes long hours, consistent productivity and unnecessary pressure. However, setting achievable targets and making a clear plan for your career can ensure that you are working towards achieving your goals. Keeping your future aims at the forefront will mean that you will always be able to remember what you are hoping to achieve. This can then be broken down into monthly goals and transferred to your daily to-do list. However, do not overload your plans, be realistic about the amount of work that you are able to do and prioritize the most important tasks. With regard to this, it is also important that we remember the purpose of what we are doing. Consider your role at work and your overall aim, with the intention of finding value in your everyday actions.

Reach Out

They often say that a problem shared is a problem halved, and turning to those close to us in our times of need is important for our mental health and wellbeing. If you are concerned that you may be on the road to burnout, speak to those closest to you about how you are feeling. As social beings, we often rely on comfort from others and seeking help can make all the difference if you are feeling overworked and undervalued. This does not just apply to support from family and friends. Speak to your colleagues, supervisors and human resources department and explain how you are feeling and how they may be able to help.

Diet and Exercise

We are all aware that a healthy diet and regular exercise can have a significantly positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing. We are told that we are what we eat, and so it is not a surprise that taking a healthy approach to life can help to prevent burnout. It is advised that we try to eat a nutritious well-balanced diet will that will help to boost your energy levels and maintain focus. As well as keeping our bodies fit, exercise can help to relieve stress whilst boosting our natural endorphins. This does not necessarily need to be a heavy session at the gym, with gentle cardio being just as effective. In fact, evidence has even shown that just by walking for 10 minutes, you can boost your mood for up to two hours.

Switch Off

A great day starts with a great night’s sleep and we are all aware of the importance of getting those eight hours a night. However, lying awake thinking about your to-do list can make achieving this a challenge. If thoughts about work or just the stress of modern life are keeping you up at night, try having a notebook and pen next to your bed and write out your thoughts onto paper before you sleep. Switching off also refers to the importance of turning off electronics. Place limits on your screen consumption, especially if you spend most of the day staring at a computer. Add downtime to your daily ritual and always turn off your screens for at least half an hour before bed to give your body time to wind down after a long day.

Know your Limits

Although it may feel like a particular work-related task is a life or death matter, it really is not that important and it is the act of setting boundaries that should be described as essential. There are times in life that we need to take a moment to stop and ask ourselves whether we are taking on too much. This point is about getting better at saying no and trying to avoid overwhelming situations where you have too much on your plate. Ultimately, pushing yourself to the level of burnout is a false economy, as this can later mean significantly reduced productivity and drained energy levels. Try to share the workload and delegate tasks wherever possible. If you feel like your workplace is placing too much pressure on you, raise concerns with those at the top and clarify your company’s expectations of your role.

Prioritize Self Care

Self-care has become a bit of a buzz word recently, and it is used to refer to the actions that we undertake with our personal health or wellbeing in mind. We often talk about the work/ life balance yet regaining the equilibrium can be a challenge in the modern-day. Schedule your free time, and treat it as you would any other appointment, reclaim your lunch break and ensure that you make a point of doing what you enjoy at the weekend. Whether it is getting lost in a good book, time with family, having a pamper day or just hit the golf course, take time to do the activities that you enjoy. As part of our self-care mission, it is also important that we change the record and address our inner dialogue. We are often significantly more critical towards ourselves than others and a focus on perfectionism can serve to speed up the burnout process.

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