What burnout is and how to avoid it
Many workers experience burnout. But how can you recover, or even better, avoid burnout? Mailbutler is here to help.
Adam Fout is a recovery/mental health blogger at adamfout.com and a speculative fiction/nonfiction writer. He has an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication and is a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine.
Burnout and stress are unfortunately more common than ever. In fact, 52% of all workers say that they’re feeling burned out. It’s not just exhaustion that we’re talking about here — it’s mental burnout too.
Want to know the best burnout recovery out there? Don’t get burned out in the first place!
Easy to say, hard to do. Many of the same actions that help treat burnout are the same things that, if you’re doing them beforehand, can help you to avoid burnout entirely.
What Is Burnout? The Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout is a disease or “syndrome” according to the World Health Organization and is rampant among workers around the world. Here are some of the symptoms of burnout:
- Feeling tired or drained
- Frequent illness
- Sense of failure
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Feeling stressed and unmotivated
- Using food/drugs/alcohol to cope
- Lashing out in anger
- Skipping work
- Coming in late or leaving early
There are tons more, but these are some of the major ones to watch out for. Burnout stress is real and is even known as exhaustion syndrome. Clinical burnout can destroy a person’s health, personal relationships, and career if not dealt with.
How to avoid burnout
1. Take some time off
Perhaps the number one way to recover from burnout is to get away from the source of your burnout, which is usually working. That means taking a vacation.
Now for many people, that seems impossible — the time just isn’t there, or the job is too high up on the totem pole to allow for time off. And even when you have that time off, it seems like the emails and calls never stop.
Force yourself to take a vacation. Do the work you need to do to ensure things will be okay without you for a while. Figure out how to put someone in charge who can handle your responsibilities for a few weeks.
Taking a holiday, or even better, getting one without having to use up vacation days such as over Christmas or Easter, is a great opportunity to get away from work. But be careful — you need to have some time for yourself here.
Being around family, and even your kids, can make your burnout just as bad. Take that vacation somewhere other than home. Have the kids’ grandparents or aunt/uncle watch them for a week or two. Get out of town, and get the time you need to recover from burnout.
2. Exercise and eat healthily
Thirty minutes of exercise a day is a powerful antidote to burnout. It may seem like this is impossible to achieve when you’re already feeling overwhelmed, but taking those little breaks to work out can do wonders for not just your body, but also your mind.
And you don’t have to do those thirty minutes all at once. You can take little 10-minute breaks to exercise in your office, or in your home or apartment gym if you work from home.
On top of this, eating healthily can have an enormously positive impact on stress levels and your health in general. This is because many foods that are bad for you, like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, can cause your energy to spike and then crash.
This effect on your mood is very detrimental. High-quality foods like lean meat, tea, and foods with probiotics have the opposite effect — they support the healthy functioning of your body and brain.
When you eat these foods and fight stress and the chemicals that cause stress, you’re able to decrease your level of burnout.
If you do this regularly, not only can you potentially recover from burnout, but you can also prevent burnout from happening again.
3. Set clear, hard boundaries
Time is the only resource we can’t ever get more of. Your time is precious, and when you’re burned out, it’s often because your time is completely taken up with responsibilities, leaving you little-to-no time for yourself.
Hard, clear boundaries can keep you from getting into a place where burnout causes even worse problems, like heart disease, a potential symptom of burnout.
That means always leaving work at the same time each day, no matter what, or saying no to requests from your boss that you don’t have time for.
This also might mean setting boundaries with your family — and they may not like that very much. However, if they’re a part of the reason you don’t have any time to yourself to relax and take it easy, then setting boundaries at work may not be enough to help with burnout recovery.
You might have to hire a babysitter to watch the kids more regularly, or maybe you need to say no to some parties and meetups you get invited to.
Whatever the case, if you don’t give yourself time off, you’re liable to either lash out at those you love or silently cope, which could even include drinking too much and hurting yourself even more.
Get some relief!
Too often, breaks from work turn into stressful times.
You end up overloaded with work you have to get done before your break, on top of having to go to dinners and parties.
They might sound fun to most people, but when you’re burned out and just need time alone, they can be the last thing you need.
Let yourself say no to extra work, set those clear boundaries, meditate or get a massage, to give yourself a break.
Some people won’t like it — your boss, your coworkers, maybe even your family — but in the long run, it will be worse for them to have you stressed and unavailable to them than to have to let you have your own time for a little while.
Burnout kills — don’t let it build up any more than it already has.
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