Business Woman Media: 5 Steps to avoiding burnout

In this article featured on the Business Woman Media website, Michelle offers five steps on how you can avoid burnout.

In the face of shrinking job stability, mounting workloads, fewer resources to complete work and less work-life balance it’s little wonder that burnout is on the risk at work.  So much so that in May 2019, the World Health Organisation officially classified ‘burnout’ as a recognised illness.

2018 Gallup study found that of the 7,500 full time employees surveyed 23% felt burned out at work very often or always, and an additional 44% felt burned out sometimes. Knowing the warning signs and putting in place practices to prevent it taking hold is therefore critical.

Step one – Start noticing

Firstly, be alert to the warning signs of burnout.  This can include: feeling ineffective and more negative, having reduced energy, motivation, and efficiency, and being more frustrated and irritable.  You may feel as though you are working hard, and yet accomplishing less.

At this point, you may also find yourself drinking too much, eating badly, and relying on substances and other unhealthy mechanisms to get you through your day.  These practices will only exacerbate the problem. Once you’ve noticed the next step is to take action.

Step two – Take deliberate action

Get deliberate about how you spend your time and energy and recognise the choices you have about your day – wallow in it or find a way to move through it.  Everyone likes to see they are making progress; we find it motivating.  Whereas, a lack of progress and constant set-backs is demotivating.  Consequently, find ways to break your work into smaller, more bite size pieces of work so it is easier to see more regular progress.  Regularly take breaks during the day, and when you can set aside time to go outside your office or work environment and walk.

The key is to get away from your desk and shift your environment.  When you shift your environment, you shift your state and that can help to reset your mindset and get a fresh perspective.   You are also likely to find that the problem you were trying to solve is now easier to resolve.

Step three – Say no more often

Be upfront with your boss about your workload and what’s manageable. It can be very easy to say ‘yes’ when a request comes in, and yet, there will be times when you need to say ‘no’. It helps to set realistic boundaries about what you will and won’t do, and how you will respond to requests for work outside standard working hours.   If you don’t set boundaries that you are ok with, you’ll ultimately end up resenting the other person.

Step four – Build healthy habits

Build regular routines that are healthy and support you to be your best.  This includes:

  • Get physical – exercise and moving helps to shift your state, releasing the brain’s happy chemical
  • Get enough sleep, eat well and meditate – all of which impacts your mood and ability to cope with what’s going on around you
  • Find a furry friend – patting a dog, watching a dog run around the park or any other activity that puts you in touch with an animal can help as it’s proven to help de-stress
  • Breathe – remember to slow down and breathe. When you are stressed and anxious you typically take shorter and sharper breaths
  • Be grateful for what is – when you reflect on what you have it is easier to realise that the bad day is usually temporary, and you have so much to be thankful for

Step five – Stay connected

Tom Rath in his book “Vital Friends: The People you can’t afford to live without” outlines research which shows that employees who have best friends at work are 7 times more likely to be engaged in their jobs.  Additionally, if they have at least 3 vital friends at work, they are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

Connection is at the root of all human existence.  When you have connections at work, you have trusted friends with whom you can talk through your challenges and get advice.