Burning out absolutely SUCKS. It's that time of the year where the weather is colder and work is busier. And this week, a lot of people have been asking me what I do to avoid burnout. To be honest, I'm not immune to it at all! I actually went through a period in my life where burnout had a hold on me and I was stuck for a few months. I was drained, exhausted, emotional - just doing what I had to do to get through each and every day. I brought more health issues physically and mentally upon myself too. And let me tell you, if you are burned out....you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
Burnout typically happens at work (and by work I mean as a professional or executive in an office, an entrepreneur or even at-home parent), but the time outside of work is where burnout can be prevented. I've seen it personally - burnout prevention is about living out what is true about your body, your personality and your reality. You don’t need a dream job (although we all tend to strive for it), but in your life, you DO need to find time to take care of your health, do things you find refreshing and have a sense of purpose. The closer you are to living your truth, the less likely you are to burnout.
Something to think about is that around 40% of what distinguishes the crazy intelligent people of this world is environmental. Like it or not, our daily habits have a powerful impact on our brains, shaping their structure and changing the way we think.
I can’t guarantee that if you follow these strategies that you will never experience burnout. I can guarantee, however, that you’ll significantly reduce the likelihood of it, and that you’ll get back to work faster if you reach a burnout state.
Your body is absolutely amazing and is designed to repair and restore itself. So when you’re feeling the impact of burnout — ongoing, never-ending exhaustion, detachment from your job and perhaps even weight gain and illness from stress — it’s a sign that the demands on your body exceed its ability to keep up. Now is the time to give your body what it needs in order to prevent or avoid burnout.
Sleep - oh don't we all wish we had more?! (I'll raise my hand to that one with our three little boys!). Sleep regulates our moods, clears waste from our brain and re-energizes our cells. So how much do you need to reduce the possibility of burnout? I don't believe there is a specific number (although if Einstein committed to 10 hours each night, shouldn't we try too?!), but at least be consistent between 6-9 hours. The goal is to get to the point where you feel alert and happier most of the day, which can reduce your chance of the cynicism associated with burnout.
What you put into your body also has an impact on your mood and energy. Avoid foods that make you feel tired or too full. I'm big on living a grain-free, dairy free lifestyle - focusing on grass-fed meats and TONS of veggies (veggies have fiber in them which fill you up for longer). I'm also big on superfood shakes for quick nutrition and ease.
Many clients have told me over the years that they forget to eat (how?!) and then they would grab coffee in the afternoon and be starving at dinner. You need to be eating small nutrient-dense meals throughout your day. Be honest with what your body needs and plan ahead. You'll be AMAZED at how much better you feel (protecting against burnout) - and then you don't have to think about meals when you have a plan!
Finally, taking time to move provides another opportunity for our bodies and minds to recalibrate. I highly suggest having a workout routine - nothing crazy intense, just something that is a meeting scheduled in your calendar every day. Making time to take care of yourself (bonus points if you can do it outside!), especially when you are stressed, significantly improves your overall mental health. So for example, when you start to feel stressed, step away from where you are, and go for a short walk or turn on a workout on your tv or laptop. Get moving! This time can be used to completely remove focus on the stress or to think through difficult situations.
In addition to living our truth about our health and our bodies, to prevent burnout we need to honor the truth around our personalities. I've been big on learning and fully understanding your personality, leadership and enneagram styles in order to better take care of yourself, your family, your career and be the best YOU.
When you operate outside of your natural state, you end up consuming MORE energy because you are trying to be someone you are not. You aren't in alignment with who you were created to be. You need to know what restores you and invest in those activities to prevent burnout.
For example, if you are an introvert, social activities drain you - so typically, introverts need time in silence and away from people after such activities (for me I truly enjoy turning on classical music and cleaning my home). Extroverts need the opposite - they need to be around a bunch of people to buffer against the burnout.
Another set of styles to understand is your Enneagram, which helps us identify our own and other people's patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, and describes the underlying motivations with great accuracy.
Your work reality
A third element of burnout prevention is to live the truth of your work situation — what you can actually change, and where you will need to find alternative sources to meet your needs.
As humans, we need to feel supported, appreciated and safe. I rarely suggest jumping ship in your current role unless you have exhausted all your options. There are a handful of alternatives to try before leaving:
1. Modify your expectations. You may prefer that your boss verbally affirms you every time you complete a large project, but that's opposite of his style. Perhaps you can appreciate that they give you exceptional performance reviews and always respects your opinion in meetings.
2. Stop expecting your job to fully satisfy you. You need to seek opportunities outside of work that fulfill your core needs. For example, I'm big on family - invest time in your family or friends to cultivate a feeling of belonging and fulfillment. When you’re “filled up” by how you invest your time outside of work, and you feel supported by people who know and care about you.
3. MENTALITY trumps everything. Tell yourself when you have nothing left that you actually have 50% more left. Our minds have the ability to create a false reality - we are what we think!
You may not have the ability to change EVERYTHING you don’t like about your job or life, but you do have the ability to improve how good you feel about yourself and your life. You truly CAN prevent and overcome burnout.