“People experience burnout as a gradual erosion of their spirit and zest as a result of …too many pressures, conflicts, demands.”[i]
Doing your best and “giving your all” is what many of us strive for on a daily basis. In our workouts, we are encouraged to push through burnout rounds and work to exhaustion. Outside of our workouts we often try to give that same “all out” effort. But what happens if we start to function in a burnout state for a prolonged period of time rather than a short burst? We can experience burnout in our personal lives and in our careers. Working mothers, for example, are particularly susceptible to burnout due to the demands of simultaneously maintaining a career and raising a family. Burnout can lead to increased depression, anxiety and alcohol dependence. If you are approaching burnout (or you are already fully burned out) and you can’t just take a sabbatical to de-stress, there are a few things you can do to control the situation.
- Be realistic about what you can and cannot fit into your schedule. Use a weekly calendar and fill in all the appointments and tasks that you have for that week. If you feel stressed and burned out just looking at the schedule, start eliminating things. Turning down a work project may be difficult, but it is the right choice if it protects your sanity. Identify which commitments generate the most stress and think about how to eliminate or revise those commitments to be more manageable.
- On a daily basis, keep a log or journal of burnout triggers. If there are particular aspects of your job or tasks that make you cringe, make note of what they are and try to delegate them. At the very least, try to tackle them early in the day so they don’t bog down your thoughts throughout the rest of the day.
- Control and protect your personal resources. Your self-efficacy, self-esteem, and optimism are valuable resources that you possess. Build up your self-esteem by focusing on all that you have accomplished in your professional and personal life and all that you accomplish each day.
- Try to avoid negative spillover from your job to your family and from your family to your job. It’s not always easy to separate the two, especially if you work from home, but a clear transition can help control spillover. In the morning develop a transition ritual that symbolizes the beginning of the work day. Similarly, at the end of the work day develop a ritual that kicks off the transition to family time. This can be a simple as playing a particular song or lighting a candle.
- Take time to refuel your emotional energy. Take part in leisure activities, especially in green spaces, in order to increase positive emotions. Studies have shown that individuals who participate in more leisure activities in green spaces experience more positive emotions.[ii] The best types of leisure activities in green spaces are personal activities that are not related to work or family obligations. By immersing yourself in a natural environment it is possible to temporarily leave stressors behind, relieve stress, and increase positive emotions.
Burnout can come on gradually or it can hit you all at once. When you realize you are experiencing burnout you can take steps to overcome its effects. Realizing that burnout is normal and common can help to make it more manageable. Sometimes small changes are enough to get things back on track and other times it takes a whole new direction or career change to get out of the burnout rut. If you have any suggestions on how to deal with burnout, please share in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading!