Feeling burned out at work? You’re not alone.
The APA’s stress statistics in 2021 showed how a whopping 79% of employees experience work-related stress. While stress is usually normal, nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts from cognitive weariness, emotional exhaustion, and even physical fatigue.
This affects productivity, and is overall detrimental to yourself and your organization. With that, prevention is always better than cure. So, here's what you can learn from certified busy people across different in-demand industries when it comes to mitigating burnout.
1. Prioritize your mental health
Our article on 'Why You Should Take a Step Back' talks about stepping away from your business when the grind starts to take over the passion. This isn’t giving up, instead, it’s a chance to regroup and recalibrate, creating healthy boundaries for yourself with work.
This can be easier said than done, especially for jobs that require a certain level of emotional investment. A study on Californian social workers highlighted emotional exhaustion and the need to find ways to cope with it. This exhaustion can manifest in profound ways, such as decreasing the ability to empathize.
Helping others requires you to help yourself as well. According to the child welfare social workers in the study, self-care and a good work-life balance is key — you should be sleeping 8 hours a day, exercising to increase endorphins, eating your favorite meals, and engaging in outside hobbies.
Meditating and living with mindfulness has also been noted as a great way to stay fresh and sharp. This keeps your goals in mind, allowing you to perform every action with purpose.
Action Step - Find a Mindfulness exercise that you would like to start practicing and work with an accountability buddy to do it daily for 30 days. Choose an activity that doesn’t feel like a big undertaking. This could be 5 mins of journaling before bed or when you’re waking up, 10 minutes of meditation first thing in the morning, or 5 minutes of deep breathing at lunch time.
2.Celebrate every victory
When you live with purpose, every small step is one step towards success. Give yourself a mental pat on the back each time you accomplish a goal, or an action step towards a bigger goal. We often get burned out because we get stuck in the striving mode, and in taking a moment to celebrate and reward ourselves, we can continue our tasks with more motivation and energy. In addition, recording and celebrating even the smallest of goals boosts your self-esteem, making it easier to attempt new tasks outside of your comfort zone and minimizing the effects of impostor syndrome.
As and example, many successful entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs and Tim Ferriss swear by the practice of making your bed once you wake up. It’s a simple procedure that takes less than a minute, but will provide a sense of accomplishment that affects your attitude for the rest of the day.
Action Step - Write down the goals you would like to accomplish in the next 3 months, and as you complete a task that moves you towards them, take 60 seconds to celebrate! This could look like a mini dance party, looking yourself in the mirror and praising yourself, or taking a conscious moment wherever you are to close your eyes and steep in the feeling of success. The more you celebrate your success, the more success you attract.
3. Tailor your work schedule
When you feel rested, assessing your decisions with a clearer mind becomes much easier. A flexible working life is often the best way to meet both personal and professional responsibilities.
This is why demanding jobs, especially ones in healthcare, have been taking it a step further and shifting to a work-from-home set up. Telemedicine physicians in California are making use of these virtual care opportunities to help deliver even better care to their patients. A remote set up ensures that they still perform at the highest legal, regulatory and clinical standards, while maintaining flexibility in their work schedules. If you work in a role that isn’t actively promoting remote work, check out The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. This book came about before the WFH movement started and helps people convince their bosses to help them work from home.
As international demand for better service increases, many experts claim that remote offices and flexible schedules are the future of work. More big companies are adopting a permanent hybrid or work from home model after acknowledging an increase in productivity and employee welfare.
Action Step - If you’re an entrepreneur, take a moment and write down the times of day that you are most productive, and activities you notice help you destress and feel more centered. If you have a 9-5, block off time during the day to give to yourself. That may look like 10 minutes of reading, a 15 minute jog, 20 minutes of stretching or a 30 minute workout. Create a schedule that incorporates these aspects, and schedule in solo time, social time, and do nothing time weekly.
4. Talk to your supervisor, therapist, or your business buddy
Transparency is important to productivity because this sets and adjusts the working environment for all. Your supervisors are human and are likely to sympathize, especially if you're open about your struggles. We often set standards and expectations for ourselves that are obviously too high, and need the reflection of a trusted friend or professional to bring us back down to earth.
Experts recommend creating a productive conversation by focusing on what you believe is causing you stress and more importantly, what specific adjustments you think can help. HR Exec Brandon Chreene says that the environment that you're working in will dictate how you escalate the situation, but ultimately, "There's nothing wrong with having an open dialogue, so really remember there are more humans available to you than even just HR or your manager." When working more independently, having people you respect and trust help you with creating a system of checks and balances helps you have a realistic idea of how you’re doing, poke you if you’re not living up to your full potential, and keep you on task if you’re not staying of top of your tasks. This by itself will help you eliminate a plethora of anxiety and help you regulate the feeling of not-enoughness.
Action Step - Take time to write out what you would like your work day to look like, and how you would like your day to feel. Make cues like an alarm at certain times of the day to check in with yourself to check in with yourself and make sure you are embodying that feeling. Join a mastermind group, grab a coach/therapist or trusted advisor and make sure you check in with them, share your goals, wins and any difficulties that you’re having. Remember, you’ll get to your goals quicker if you’re not trying to get there on your own.
With the universality of the burnout phenomenon, mental health is slowly moving to the forefront of the national conversation. Be part of the movement and take initiative in controlling your work life as well. By doing so, it will not only benefit you, but also it creates a healthy discourse that translates into better practices for all.
Article contributed by Ruth Janes