For years, some of us have been taking steps to build our careers while also taking care of our families and finding the time to pursue our passions. The journey has led to exhilarating highs and the lowest of lows. Making sure to meet and exceed expectations at work, at home, and within can lead to extreme burnout, especially when success is achieved in each area.
Burnout can leave you feeling tired, resentful, and can even paralyze your progress, causing you to fail in important areas of life. Recognizing the early signs of burnout is imperative to assessing your work/life balance and setting priorities.
Success is a double-edged sword. Most people find it difficult to practice self-care when they are riding high on success or pursuing it. Forming healthy self-care habits can help stay ahead of potential problems. Allocating time to do the things you love is one of the best things you can do to keep burnout at bay. That’s why I’ve decided to create a Protecting Your Peace in 2022 blog series. I want to remind all of us grinding and hustling for success to make ourselves the priority. Here are 10 ways to prevent burnout this year:
- Be on the lookout for warning signs. Burnout affects people in different ways. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and are lacking the energy necessary to perform your work. Or perhaps you feel sad and stressed out, unable to sleep due to worry or the inability to shut your mind down. There are also physical signs to be aware of. Some that I have personally experienced are blurred vision, headache, and sensitive eyes. This came from spending hours on end in front of the computer for an extended amount of time and neglecting breaks. Whatever negative impact you are experiencing, these are clear signals that you need to stop and assess the impact the daily grind is having on you.
- Take regular breaks. One thing that I have let go of this year is the need to prove my value by overworking and skipping breaks. Any time I’m feeling overwhelmed, stuck or just need to take my mind off of working briefly, I just do it. A 15-20 minute break can make all the difference between being your most productive and spinning in place. When you feel burnout creeping up, take a break and rest, go for a walk, or do something you truly enjoy. Giving yourself time to clear your mind is key for your health and well-being.
- Find a consistent sleep pattern. Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep each night are more likely to burn out. If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk, unable to focus, lacking concentration, or routinely suffering from headaches, it may be time to adjust your sleep schedule. Everyone varies in how much rest they need on a daily basis, but most experts agree that 6-8 hours is the minimum amount of sleep necessary to function in a healthy way. Going to sleep and waking up around the same time everyday creates consistency in your body and reduces the stress of having to constantly adjust to changes in your sleep pattern.
- Make regular exercise an essential part of your life. Regular exercise reduces stress and increases energy. With many of us juggling so many things in life, working out can seem like an inconvenient chore. However, the benefits of routinely raising your heart rate and working your muscles is immeasurable. It does not have to be strenuous exercise. Whether you are taking a brisk walk, raising your desk to stand for portions of your day, or just stretching, it all counts! Since adding a brief workout to my everyday routine, I have noticed less stress equating to less exhaustion and headaches.
- Set goals and take action. In order to get to your destination, you need direction. Establish goals and take some action in pursuit of them each day. Knowing exactly what you’re working toward makes it easier to get your day started. I set daily goals that roll into larger goals that happen over time. Once I meet the day-to-day goals I have set, I give myself permission to stop working. I intend to meet those self-imposed obligations each day, but from time to time, things come up and I can’t. In those cases, I move the goal forward to the next day, forgive myself from the miss and still prioritize my rest and rejuvenation.
- Don’t try to do it all. Being a one-person operation can be overwhelming. I used to believe that unless I did something, it would not be done right. By changing my mindset to vetting, trusting, then verifying, I have been able to release some of the pressure I had created for myself. No one is expected to know and be everything. It is okay to delegate to coworkers, hire an assistant, find a nanny, or pay for a cleaning service. Trusting someone else to help with your workload will free up time for taking care of yourself. It will also help you think more clearly and creatively. Never feel guilty for making free time a priority. Allowing time to just be is as important to your success as hard work and discipline are.
- Identify the problem and fix it. If you have already exhibited signs of burnout, knowing what to do about it is the logical next step. You need to take some time to reflect on what is creating the feeling. Is it your work? Do you need additional training? Is your job impossible for one person to perform? Do you need to move on? Is your family life filled with drama? Are you suffering from illness? Once you know exactly what is ailing you, the necessary solutions will begin to present themselves and you can take action to heal.
- Go on a vacation. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive. A change of scenery may be just what you need to restart your engine. Plan a trip by yourself or with people that you enjoy being with. Go for some fresh air, shut out any responsibilities, dance, eat, sit on the beach, and return feeling refreshed. Whether you take a simple road trip or hop on an international flight, dedicate the time to being in the moment and temporarily letting your worries vanish.
- Self-care should be ongoing. Some of us wait until burnout arises to decide on practicing self-care but recharging your battery should not only happen when it’s dead. You don’t just wait until your car has a problem before you take it in to the dealership. Preventative measures are taken to keep mechanical failures away. Think of yourself as a high-end car. You need routine maintenance to stay strong and healthy, regular analysis to detect any potential issues, and the tools on hand to fix those troubles.
- Establish boundaries. Over the years, I have inadvertently developed a caretaker persona the extends from my personal life into my career and entrepreneurial ventures. Part of this has been giving to others when I had nothing to give to myself and allowing people to use my time and resources without consideration of the impact on me. Making people around you aware of your boundaries and enforcing them is the biggest thing you can do to protect your peace. In the workplace, let leadership and your colleagues know that you are not working around the clock. You deserve to have set expectations surrounding work/life balance. In your personal life, stop letting your family and friends come to you repeatedly with the same issues. There’s a thin line between being of service and enabling problematic behavior.
Being successful is not about doing whatever you are asked no matter the consequences on your mental, physical and emotional health. Success is about making sure you have the time to do what is important to you and ensuring that you have a healthy and balanced life inside and outside of the workplace. Implement some of these tips into your life and see the positive changes unfold.
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