When Life Gets Hectic: How To Prevent And Manage Burnout
Quick question: If you were a smartphone, how would you rate your remaining battery life? 80 per cent? 50 per cent? Or as low as 10? When our phones need topped up, we put them on charge, but what about ourselves? So many of us continue to run on empty, until eventually, we feel completely wiped out.
This concept is known as burnout: a type of ongoing stress that becomes detrimental to your emotional and mental wellbeing when left unchecked.
Burnout has become a cultural phenomenon in recent years, stemming not only from increasingly busy work schedules, but the pressure to do it all, from maintaining a social life to keeping a tidy home, and everything in between. It’s a symptom of competing commitments, constant connectivity and never-ending to-do lists.
So, what does burnout actually look like? Well, it can manifest in all sorts of ways. Such as:
Feeling tired, overwhelmed and drained
Higher levels of stress
Becoming increasingly cynical, negative and hopeless
If any of these symptoms are ringing a bell, then you’re certainly not alone. In fact, a recent Gallup study found that 44 per cent of employees say they suffer from stress and burnout sometimes, and get this, 23 per cent said they felt burned out and stressed more often than not.
While that might make for pretty grim reading, keep your chin up, because if you’re struggling right now, there’s loads you can do to both prevent and overcome burnout. Here, we show you how to go from burned out to burning brightly…
How To Prevent Burnout
Control the variables
Have you got decision fatigue? It happens when you need to make too many choices in a short space of time, be it the outfit you plan to wear today, the exact way to word a tricky email, or what you’re going to eat for lunch. And it’s pretty common. In fact, estimates suggest we make up to 35,000 decisions each and every day.
While you can’t pre-empt every decision you’ll need to make throughout your day, you can limit some of the mental aerobics by planning in advance. Pick your outfit for the next day before bed so you don’t’ have to fuss about what to wear come morning or write out your meal plan using Nourish at the start of the week, so you’re not stressing about what to have for dinner when your brain feels fried.
Burnout happens when our brains are overloaded. Eliminating some of your decisions in advance allows you to clear the mental clutter and give your time to the big decisions that require more of your focus.
Learn to say no
Some people believe ‘sorry’ is the hardest word. Us? We reckon it’s ‘no’. Setting boundaries can be a tricky but it’s pretty essential if you want to prevent stress and burnout. So, how do you do it without feeling uncomfortable?
Here’s our advice: Practice setting boundaries with someone you feel really comfortable with first, like a sibling or a close friend. When you catch yourself saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’, turn the conversation around and use assertive phrases like ‘I’d rather not…’ or ‘I would like to…’.
If offering a reason makes you feel more comfortable, do it, but don’t ever feel like you need to explain why you’re prioritising your mental health. Here’s the good news: The more you practise setting boundaries, the easier it will become. Soon telling your boss you need more time to work on that big project won’t seem quite so daunting.
Have you ever gone to bed with a thousand urgent tasks and timely to-dos whirring around in your brain? Or felt stressed about all the important priorities you’re juggling? Here’s a tip: Stop juggling. Take The Head Plan Productivity and Wellness Journal and write every single item into a prioritised to-do list.
This process is really simple but really effective for two reasons: One, because it allows you to clearly see what you need to complete and create a plan to get it done, and two, because it alleviates an element of worry that there’s a task you might forget.
How To Overcome Burnout
Prevention is always better than cure, but what if it’s too late and you’re already feeling the effects of burnout? Don’t stress, we know what will help…
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day; unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.” That’s according to an old Zen saying and its wisdom still holds true today. When you’re burned out, meditation gives your brain the mental break it needs – and it’s been scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety.
Here’s a tip: Set aside even five or ten minutes a day to just close your eyes and breathe. If you’re new to meditating or are yet to tap into its transformative benefits, opt for a guided meditation. Better yet, you can join our 30-day mediation challenge on The Head Plan App.
Prioritise your self-care
Self-care takes many forms. It can be allowing yourself a lie-in on the weekend to recoup your energy or relaxing tense muscles in a hot bath. It’s also nourishing your body with good foods and getting plenty of sleep.
While these activities won’t magically make all your stresses go away, they will equip you to better deal with them. Our advice? Make self-care a daily activity. Find one thing you can do each day that will replenish your energy, nix your stress, and reward your efforts.
Not sure what to choose? Think of all the things that make you the happiest – it could be tuning on Netflix, getting out into nature, or spending time with your best friend. Then? Make time for those things. Yes, it’s that simple.
Turn off the self-imposed pressure
Listen carefully to what we’re about to say: You don’t have to do it all and you certainly don’t have to do it all perfectly.
While this is a really simple lesson, it can often be a really difficult one to digest because we’ve been conditioned to believe that our best is never good enough. This in itself can often lead to burnout. To delete this kind of thinking, start recognising your unique talents and abilities – write a list if you need to!
While you’re at it, if you’ve taken too much on, think about where you can ask for help. Maybe a colleague is willing and eager to assist you with that big presentation or you know someone who can give you a helping hand around the house.
Repeat after us: it’s okay to ask for help. And it’s absolutely okay to cut yourself some slack. If you need a little help, consider using the three Ds on your to-do list. That’s do it, delegate or dump it.
Consider what needs to change
Look at your current circumstances right now and ask yourself a question: what is causing me the most stress?
It could be your job or a particular project you’re working on. Maybe you don’t have a very understanding boss or are feeling burned out from all your extra 'to do's'. Perhaps you’re simply feeling overwhelmed by the juggle of daily life and are tired of trying to do it all, from maintaining a social life and nailing it at work, to working out and keeping a tidy home.
Now ask yourself: what can I personally do to change this? Start writing down some solutions that come to mind.
You might need to bite the bullet and have a chat with your boss, let go of one of your commitments, or delegate to someone who can help you out. When you’re burned out, you often feel powerless to do anything about it, but by identifying the underlying problem and brainstorming solutions you can take back control.
Life isn’t meant to be relentlessly productive. It’s not meant to leave you feeling constantly exhausted, depleted, or sad either.
If you’re feeling frazzled, you owe it to yourself to metaphorically recharge your batteries, so consider this your permission slip. From this day forward, make it your mission to say no when you feel like it, press pause on your commitments, and put you and your needs first. When you do that, burnout won’t have a look in.