• Joel Rosenberg, Chief Mental Health Officer

How to avoid the road to burnout

You’ve lost motivation to wake up early and get ready for work every morning. You feel like there is always more work to be done. You struggle to find time for yourself and feel tired all the time. Do any of these sound familiar?

You may be experiencing burnout. In early May, a survey of 7,000 professionals found that 73% of professionals were experiencing burnout from the effects of COVID-19 and remote work. The most popular factors included heavy workloads, lack of home and work life separation, and concerns over job insecurity.

In addition to these challenges of working from home, people are struggling to manage their new family duties and other responsibilities as well. New responsibilities like homeschooling or babysitting children have made workloads increasingly difficult to manage.Without realizing it, people are being pushed past the point of exhaustion and into burnout.

What is burnout and what causes it?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that has been left untreated. As this stress builds, it eventually becomes less manageable, leading to loss of motivation.

There are many factors that can lead to burnout, and the more factors that are present at your work, the more you are at risk of getting burned out over time. The most common causes of burnout are:

  • High-pressure work environments

  • Heavy workloads/long hours that lead to loss of work/life balance

  • Unrealistic expectations, either from ourselves or our employers

  • Feelings of lack of control

  • Lack of support

Are you experiencing burnout?

The impacts of burnout can be seen in almost every aspect of an individual’s life, including home, work, and social life. Symptoms of burnout will likely creep up on you rather than hit you all at once, which often makes it harder to realize that you are actually getting burned out until it is too late. However, if you are proactive about watching for signs and taking steps to prevent burnout, the likelihood of actually reaching that point will be a lot smaller.

Workplace signs:

  • Poor concentration

  • Low productivity

  • Feeling unaccomplished

  • Low morale

  • Absenteeism

Physical signs:

  • Feeling tired and exhausted all the time

  • Frequent headaches

  • Change in appetite or sleep habits

  • Frequent illness

Mental health signs:

  • Loss of motivation

  • Feelings of failure and helplessness

  • Negative outlook on life

  • Feelings of loneliness and detachment

6 tips to prevent burnout

1) Create a work-from-home routine.

“Work is always there when it’s done at home,” says Mark Royal, senior director for Korn Ferry Advisory.

Although it was not the most convenient, commuting often provided an opportunity for individuals to prepare for their work day and decompress afterward. It also helped to separate work life from home life. Now, many are struggling to find the line that separates their work from their personal life.

Define your work hours: when you will wake up, begin work, and end work. Creating a schedule can be a source of discipline for yourself, pushing you to finish your responsibilities within a specific time frame. Once that end time is reached, you will have time set aside to really enjoy at the end of the day.

2) Learn to say no.

It can be hard sometimes to say no to taking on more responsibilities, especially when you want to show your boss that you are putting in your best work. But being overworked is a leading cause of burnout and can also lead to resentment.

Being proactive about reducing your workload can help prevent you from overextending yourself and significantly reduce work-related stress, and ultimately, burnout.

If this is difficult for you, remind yourself that saying no can free up space for you to really commit to the things that you want. To learn practical ways to say no, as well as other useful mental health safeguards, check out our free app Resili in the App Store.

3) Let go of perfectionism.

Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. Although it allows us to strive to produce our highest quality work, it can also be draining. Oftentimes, perfectionist tendencies make us feel like we need to meet a certain set of expectations. And if those expectations aren’t perfectly met, then we feel as though we have failed to accomplish our task.

Perfectionism can cause unnecessary anxiety and slow down our progress. Learn how to let go of the need to be or appear perfect, and remind yourself that all you can do is your best work.

4) Schedule “water cooler” time with coworkers.

It’s really important to receive social support at work to buffer you from burnout, and one way to do that is to regularly have casual conversations with your coworkers. Little interactions like hallway conversations and coffee chats are no longer an option when we’re working from home, but it is still possible to keep engaging with each other.

Some companies are holding virtual coffee breaks as a way to jump start their mornings, while others are planning happy hours after work. Reaching out to coworkers can even be something as simple as texting them about their favorite TV shows or pastime or what they’ve been doing with their family.

Even though it may seem like a waste of time, these little social interactions can significantly improve your work dynamic and boost morale.

5) Learn to relax.

Relaxation methods like meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can counteract your body’s responses to stress and help you to become more in tune with your emotions so that you can really listen to your body and its needs. Take this time to really slow down and allow your body to rest.

These relaxing techniques only require you to take at most 10 minutes out of your day. Try starting out your day with 10 minutes of yoga by following a YouTube video. The next time you feel overwhelmed with work responsibilities, take a 5 minute break to practice breathing exercises with the Resili app.

6) Invest in things outside of work that make you feel fulfilled.

Figure out what hobbies or activities you really love, yet find challenging, and make sure you allot time for these in your daily routine. Building a skill can help boost your self-confidence as you sense your own progress and accomplishments over time. This can really help to counteract the effects of burnout on your mental health and allow you to go through life more easily.

Whether it’s learning guitar or finally tending to that garden that you started months ago, make sure that you’re allowing yourself time to really enjoy your life away from work. Doing so can help you improve your self esteem, as well as bring more balance and purpose to your life.

We all experience stress in many different ways, and it can often be work-related. When stress begins to pile up, it can negatively impact your physical and mental health. However, becoming aware and taking time out of your day to address these stressors can help you prevent this from happening.

For more information on ways to take care of yourself and handle stress during this pandemic, download the free Resili app and head over to the Learn section, where you can find more practical skills to avoid burnout and help your mental health flourish.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

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