The struggle is real
It’s Monday and I’m struggling to get out of bed. It’s not that I have difficulty waking up, or that I’m not a morning person. I’m usually awake well before my alarm rings. I’m lucky enough to be one of those unicorns that can sleep for 4 hours and wake up feeling like I got 8 hours in. It feels like I’m on the edge of a 1/3 life crisis. I’m dreading facing the chaos the day will bring and would rather not leave the warmth and comfort of my plush duvet and a weighted blanket. I know this feeling. It’s called burnout. I’ve experienced it before, and yet it’s so hard to prevent it from happening again and again.
What Is Burnout?
Two definitions of burnout are:
"A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations." – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.
"A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward." – Herbert J. Freudenberger.
Everyone experiences burnout in some form throughout their schooling and career. Burnout can lead to depression, unhealthy habits, negative self-talk, and even heart problems! Anyone can feel exhausted, and yes you can overcome exhaustion with rest, but an inherent part of burnout is a sense of disillusionment. This is why burnout typically strikes those of us who are devoted to our work. So, how do you prevent it?
How To Prevent Burnout
1. Increase Your Self-Efficacy. Self-efficacy is the belief we have in our abilities and competencies. People who have a stronger level of self-efficacy experience less stress when difficult situations occur. Here are 5 ways you can increase self-efficacy:
Stay in the Stretch Zone. There are 3 personal zones of achievement: the comfort zone, the stretch zone, and the panic zone. In the stretch zone, we are more willing to push ourselves, make mistakes, and be resilient to failures. You can enter the stretch zone by setting goals, trying new things, facing new challenges, accepting failures and criticisms with an open mind, and approaching goals mindfully and not over-stressing about the results.
Set reasonable simple goals. One way to sustain self-efficacy is to break down your vision into reasonable goals. You can break those goals into sub-goals, and then map out the steps to reach them. In doing this, your goals become more accessible and manageable. Your self-trust will be at a stronger level.
Take a step back and look at the big picture. Do not get bogged down in the short-term losses. Looking at the big picture helps you clarify your priorities, focus on them, and make better decisions and plans to achieve them.
Reframe obstacles. Identify your obstacles and reframe them with positive interventions. Reconstruct the way you perceive failure and instead try to find ways to handle it positively. Increasing self-efficacy helps you realize that failures are inevitable. This self-belief in your abilities can help you achieve fulfillment.
You can build self-efficacy by finding a “model.” Find a friend or coworker and observe them accomplish meaningful goals. Seeing this can be contagious and boost your self-efficacy.
I know. You’re tired. It’s been a long day. You’re mentally and emotionally drained. Exercise is the last thing on your mind. Don’t let that stop you. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It can even be an effective way to meditate. To maximize your stress relief, let go of your anxious thoughts. Focus on your body and how it feels as you exercise. For example, the pounding of your feet on the treadmill, or the cold air hitting your lungs.
3. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.
When you give yourself a chance to recover, you actually become more productive and you spend far less time being distracted, or doing whatever else you would be doing because you’re more focused. This is why more and more companies are investing in corporate wellness. For example, an internal assessment by Johnson & Johnson found that the return on their wellness programs resulted in cumulative savings of $250 million. Try to create recovery rituals, like taking effective breaks, or using “if…then” phrasing. This is how I use “if…then” statements: “If it’s 6 am in the morning, then I’m going on a run.” This helps build good habits that put you at an advantage in the long run.
4. Practice Sleep Hygiene.
You never really realize how important sleep is until you start missing out on a couple of hours. Try to develop a sleep routine that allows you to sleep for 7-9 hours. Sleeping at the same hour at night and waking up at the same hour in the morning can help boost energy levels, lower depression, and decrease anxiety. Feeling exhausted can accelerate burnout by causing you to think irrationally.
5. Ask For Help.
If you’re not sure how to handle burnout reach out to friends and family for support. You might feel inclined to withdraw…don't. It’s important to reach out for help when you’re going through stressful situations. Opening up to others won’t make you a burden, in fact, they’ll be flattered you trusted them enough to confide in them.
6. Start saying NO!
Start to check in with yourself every once in a while to make sure you’re treating yourself kindly, and not overloading your schedule or your stress levels. Don’t be a ‘yes’ girl. The more you take on the quicker you’’ burn out. Set some boundaries and only accept projects that are important.
7. Reconnect With Your Values.
You need to do some deep thinking to understand why you’re burning out. Why are you in your career? Is it your dream or your parent's dream? Are you doing it because it makes you look great? Is it because you are a people-pleaser and scared of judgment if you follow your dream as a painter? In order to be truly happy and avoid burnout, you need to reconnect with your values and figure out what you are truly passionate about.
8. Have A Creative Outlet.
If you’re not able to flex your creative muscles at work, find a creative outlet that keeps you engaged and motivated. Maybe take a ceramics class, start a creative side gig, or maybe buy a fun coloring book.
9. Identify What You Need From Your Work.
Are you and the company you work for doing something meaningful? Are you appreciated by your supervisor? Do you find your daily work rewarding? Do you feel like you’re achieving self-actualization? Is it a toxic environment, rampant with office politics? Do you feel like yourself? Are your strengths magnified or belittled? These are some questions you need to ask yourself.
10. Learn To Manage Stress.
When not managed properly, even short-term stress can lead to burnout. You can manage stress by keeping a stress bullet journal, meditating, and other relaxing activities. It is also important to practice positive self-talk. How you talk to yourself matters. Be kind to yourself. This can help you manage your emotions during stressful situations.
Burnout can feel overwhelming, but that feeling of being overwhelmed is a signal. If you acknowledge this signal you can practice the 10 ways of prevention, and build a roadmap to recovery. This can be a pivoting point for you that launches you towards a happier and more sustainable career.
How do you prevent burnout?
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