As we explained in our last post about How to Recognise Burnout, feelings of exhaustion, and alienation at work, coupled with a reduction in performance, are having a disastrous effect both on our mental health, and the economy. According to the Lancet, poor mental health is predicted to cost the global economy a staggering 16 trillion Dollars by 2030. It’s a sign of the times we’re living in. Our work culture seems to constantly demand more for less, while expecting us to be available 24/7, 365 days a year. The pressure is relentless, and without the right sort of release valves, things start to go south. Add to that a global health pandemic, working from home, homeschooling our kids, the removal of most of the things we used to do to relax, and you’ve got a perfect storm of stress. Today we’re going to be looking at ways in which you can avoid succumbing to this very modern malady. 

Act Early

Burnout doesn’t just suddenly arrive in your life fully formed and ready to wreck your head. It’s a result of the combination of all sorts of negative work-related feelings over time, amplified by our inability to switch off, relax and recover. Imagine yourself like a bath filling up with negative feelings. As long as you pull the plug out every now and again and relieve the pressure, everything can carry on as normal, but left for long enough, the sides start to overflow, rotting your floorboards, undermining your structural integrity, and eventually the whole lot will come crashing down. It’s no exaggeration, burnout can ruin years of your life. Catch it early, look out for the signs. If you start to feel like work is getting on top of you, if you feel like you:

  • You can’t keep up
  • You lack control
  • You’re being unfairly treated
  • You’re undervalued
  • Your work is out of sync with your values
  • There’s no sense of community in your work environment

It’s time to act. Don’t wait it out and hope that things will get better. Do something about it. These are red flags. These are the warning signs that burnout is around the corner. 

But what can we actually do to avoid burnout?

But what can we actually do to avoid burnout?

Be Good To Yourself

You can’t expect to deal with the pressures of modern work life if you’re not looking after yourself. The nicer you treat yourself, the better you will perform. Remember, burnout is a result of stress and pressure at work MULTIPLIED BY our inability to manage it, and how do you manage pressure??? By taking the pressure off.

Sleep properly

According to research done in 2012, sleeping less than 6 hours a night was the number one risk factor for developing burnout.(Söderström et al., 2012). Lack of sleep messes you up.  Go to bed early enough to get enough sleep. No phones or tablets just before bed. You know this stuff already but here’s a good one; take advantage of the morning light to synchronise your body’s circadian rhythm. Expose your eyes to at least 10 minutes of sunlight as soon as you get out of bed (don’t look right at it obviously!). Even on a cloudy day, the blue light will trigger the neural circuit that controls melatonin and cortisol release, which affect sleep. Similarly, get some of the good yellow light from the evening sun in your peepers to set your mind to evening mode. 

Get outside and exercise

Don’t even bother thinking about why. Just do it. You know it’s good for you. Physically and mentally. It’s also been proven to help prevent burnout. 

Learn to manage stress

There are plenty of good stress reduction techniques. Breathing exercises are very simple to fit into your day. We’d suggest learning to practice mindfulness. It’s clinically proven, it’s a break in itself, and it’s completely free. You can find a whole load of guided meditations in our app. There’s even one designed to teach you the absolute basics (incense and long white beard entirely optional).

Do something you love

Get stuck into a hobby. Creativity is a great way to ward of burnout. Just don’t go too far and develop hobby burnout. Yes, it’s a thing!

Find Purpose in your Work

Maybe you don’t like your job. It might feel drastic, but maybe the most important thing to look at if you want to have a fulfilling work-life is how much you actually feel like doing your job in the first place. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa, but when there’s a deeper reason for showing up at work than simply paying the bills, when we are emotionally invested in our work, when we feel that it serves some kind of purpose in the world, we become far more resilient to pressure and stress.

Think about your job. Does it align with your core values? Does it give you a feeling of purpose? If not, is there anything you can do to change your role? Could you take on responsibilities in an area you care more about? Can you shape your role at all? If you really can’t see any potential for purpose in your current position, don’t do anything rash, but it’s definitely not a bad idea to start planning and thinking of a way to switch to doing something you can find meaning in. Your older, more fulfilled self will thank you for it.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

But what if you’re perfectly happy with what you do, there’s just way too much of it? Planning your time better has a dramatic effect on the time we have to get work done. We have some great time management exercises in the App which can teach you all sorts of techniques for getting more done with less effort, in less time. The Pomodoro technique, for example, which has you splitting your work up in to 25 minute chunks, followed by strictly enforced 5 minute break after each, with a longer break after every 4 work sessions, not only increases your productivity, but forces you to take the breaks which help prevent you from burning out in the first place.

Planning Your Day Backwards, which you can try out for free in the app, is a great way of organizing your work around what time you actually have, rather than how much you need to get done, and can save you a whole load of heartache and self-recrimination. 

Delegation is a work super power. There’s a lot of pain and stress tied up in the idea that you  have to do everything yourself. Your colleagues are there to help. 

Discuss Problems

And last, but by no means least, keep up with your friends. 

We are social animals. We have evolved to rely on each other for emotional and social support. Call a friend. Go for a walk together. Tell them how you’re feeling. Chew the fat. A problem shared is a problem halved. Yadda yadda yadda. It’s cliché because it’s true. 

Another massive cause of burnout is the feeling that our work life is unfair. If you feel like you are being underpaid, or overworked. If you feel like something at your work is severely at odds with your core values, then it will eventually eat you up inside. If it’s a big issue, reach out and talk to someone about it. We know from psychology, repressed feelings just pop back up to trouble us later, often when we least expect them.

So there you go, the Mindshine guide to avoiding burnout. We hope it helps. If you’ve tried our suggestions and you still feel constantly down, there’s no shame whatsoever in reaching out to your boss, or HR department, or to your doctor for professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of courage. 

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Download the Mindshine app (iOS or Android) for more mindfulness and happiness exercises that help you find out what you believe and who you are.