The consequences of burnout can be severe and impact not just on you and your career but on your team and organisation as well. It can also affect your personal life, your well-being and your relationships with friends and family. When feelings of burnout start to occur, many people focus on short-term solutions and, while this can certainly help, the relief is often only temporary. So what strategies can we use as individuals to avoid burnout in the longer-term?
Be more sociable. At lunchtime or on breaks try talking to your colleagues rather than directing your attention to your smart phone, Having strong ties in the workplace can help relieve stress, improve your job performance, or just get you through a rough day.
Avoid negative people. Spending time with negative-minded people will drag down your mood and outlook. If you have to work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend together.
Take time off. If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from work. Use up your leave or ask for a temporary leave-of-absence just to get away from the situation. It is more likely to be a temporary ‘fix’ but use the time to recharge your batteries and put more long-term recovery plans in place.
Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself and learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. Remember, saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things you want to do.
Get away from technology. Schedule a time each day when you put away your laptop turn off your phone and stop checking your emails.
Be creative. Creativity is a great antidote to burnout. Choose something that has nothing to do with work or what is causing your stress.
Exercise Regularly. Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing, exercise is a great antidote to stress and burnout and also helps to boost your mood. As well as alleviating stress and creating a sense of well being, you will also experience increased energy and productivity. Exercise also helps promote restful sleep but it must be done several hours before you go to bed as it stimulates the body to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps activate the alerting mechanism in the brain.
Sleep well. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. You can help get a good night’s sleep by making your bedroom a quiet, dark, and cool environment which is well ventilated with a comfortable mattress and pillows. Computers, TVs and work materials should be kept out of the room and you can ease the transition to sleep time with relaxing activities such as taking a bath or reading a book. A regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, get up and try a quiet, restful activity like reading or listening to music. Keep the lights dim as bright light can stimulate your internal clock and when you start to feel tired go back to bed.
Eat a healthy diet. What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day so try to minimise sugar and refined carbs and reduce your intake of foods that adversely affect mood, such as caffeine, trans fats, and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones. Eating more Omega-3 fatty acids helps boost mood (the best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts) and Nicotine should be avoided, as it is a powerful stimulant that can lead to higher levels of anxiety. This is also true of alcohol, which should be kept in moderation.
When looking at ways to deal with burnout, the need is to focus on strategies that will have a deeper impact, and create lasting change. The rise of wellbeing apps and stress management guidance are all helpful tools that enable us to build a culture where we as individuals can take decisions about our own stress levels.
Listen to our latest podcast to hear Dr Russell Thackeray on Burnout and Resilience where he talks about the expectations and responsibilities that managers and individuals have about it, how it develops and what needs to be done to alleviate it.
Alternatively visit our Burnout page to find out more!