Burnout is a term we hear and see a lot these days especially since COVID-19 has blurred the previously thin line between work and home for a lot of us.
Now recognized by the World Health Organization as a legitimate diagnosis, burnout is very real and can be detrimental to mental health. Here are a few ways to avoid burnout in your own practice.
Before we get into it, I’ll confess that I had a full-blown burnout last year, which impacted my physical and mental health. No shame in admitting, right? Now, it’s a lot of the usual symptoms you will see when you google a burnout. For several reasons my efforts and perhaps my skills were not a good fit with my workplace at the time, and so there was an expectation mismatch. After realising this, I mentally, emotionally, and physically checked out of the environment.
When I look back, I find it astonishing that despite the mental and physical toll that I was already paying I also felt ashamed to disclose it to people. Perhaps because I felt I had failed to match up to a workplace surrounded by strong and unaffected people. My hope would be to contribute to removing the stigma at workplaces associated with talking about problems.
So, here’s my account of all the things I think I should have done, but did not, to avoid the monumental burnout that I did face.
1. Start Your Day Slow
When you anticipate a busy day ahead, wake up well ahead so that you’re not running in your head at 1000 miles per hour. Make sure to meditate, enjoy your breakfast and bathing rituals as per normal and to really think about how you will manage your day best given the finite time and seemingly infinite tasks you may have. This will help avoid feeling stressed as you will have a clear idea of what you can realistically achieve that day.
2. Mental Wellness
Checking in with yourself daily is super important to know where you’re at in life. Spend your morning coffee thinking of where you’re at, how do you feel and what can you do if you don’t feel good. This will go a long way to avoid bottling up feelings that cause anxiety and depression in the long run. A great way to tackle this is through maintaining a journal or having regular therapy or just having an outlet of expression like art. Personalise your outlet to your needs.
3. Just Breathe
Breathing is the simplest thing you can do to change your mental state. Breathing techniques are known to boost mood and create clarity of thought process. As per Yoga, pauses in between breaths help to develop moments of stable consciousness that are important as we grapple with our ever-oscillating attention span. Whether you prefer Wim Hof or Sadhguru it’s your call.
4. Explore Your Passion
All work and no play will make you a dull person. There’s no kidding here. We all have hidden passions that must be explored outside of work. This could be any activity that will differentiate you from feeling like a zombie on repeat mode. The reason it’s important is because it helps you to access parts of yourself that foster creativity, stimulate happiness hormones as it’s an outlet without any stress or expectations. If done in a community setting like a painting class this will also foster friendships too. Win-win!
5. Daily Nutrition & Reset
Following set routines such as a set waking / sleeping time, eating and break times are very important. If you have a very volatile day it is even more important to have fixed, non-negotiable windows that offer your body the fuel and rest it needs. Rest time should also include 10-15-minute breaks all throughout your workday so you can refresh your mind and come back with renewed energy.
6. Sweat it Out
Working out – either high-intensity or power walking or running or dancing or yoga – whatever be your pick – just do it. No matter the style, I have not come across a person who has not benefited from working out. To share my example, when I had time to do yoga 7 days a week post work I was at my happiest. Being an overthinker it was such a great way to put a pause on my ever-moving thought process. A bonus is that it also serves as an outlet for all the things you feel but couldn’t get around to saying.
7. Speak Up
If you feel differently about an issue at work politely let it be known. If a colleague is being petty, sort it out. If you’re a sensitive people-pleaser like me, you will worry about looking foolish. I’d say be foolish than have bottled up feelings that will fester like unwelcome pimples on a very important day. Communication is key for your existence.
Think of this practically as workplaces can be difficult to navigate as they often have a set mould of appearance, accepted practices, and cultures. By fitting into that mould you’re not helping yourself. By airing your differences, you could also contribute to creating a more equal workplace for others too or alternatively you could equally realise that you were being petty. Regardless there is personal growth there.
8. Love, Friendships & Socialising
We are humans and we often crave attention from one another. It’s easy to get into that spiral of not seeing your family or close friends or not dating because you’re too busy. Try to break it because our close people are our sounding boards and seeing them gives you a chance to listen and talk. It opens your world view and gives you a chance to air your grievances. Unconditional love, attention and friendships keep you grounded and loved.
I honestly felt super old when I didn’t have any energy or time to go out and see people. Being a social creature, I wanted to be Carrie from Sex & The City post work strutting in a very short cowl-neck dress with strappy sandals on. But here I was feeling dowdy in boring work clothes. Go out, be social, plan adventurous trips when COVID is no longer a threat. Let loose every now and then.
9. Green Time
Having spent the majority of COVID cooped up at home, it is not a strange phenomenon that we are all growing whatever greens we can in our miniature balconies or sizable gardens. Technology and fast-paced lives can make you feel disconnected. Take time out to take a walk, feel the sun, sand and the water or the greens. Whatever is around you. Just go feel it.
10. Set Your Boundaries
This is so important but also a hard one to implement. Boundaries help you to be yourself in any situation. Boundaries seem harsh and rigid, but they are quite helpful because you can over time learn to do what’s right for you without hurting anyone’s feelings. It’s kind of like learning what is important to you and others and respecting it. No nastiness involved. Initially there is a lot of discomfort when you get around to setting them but over time you will feel relieved to not have to pretend on your likes and dislikes.
Hope these tips were helpful. Obviously, we can’t do all of these things every day. Do what you can when you can. Ultimately the whole point is to have an outlet to be able to let go of stale energy and thoughts. Stay safe and happy!