Tips to avoid burnout
Could you be on the brink of burnout?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been managed properly. Although the WHO links burnout to the workplace, you can also experience burnout from personal issues at home, including chronic illness, divorce, financial issues, family problems etc.
If you're feeling:
- Exhausted but can't sleep
- Overwhelmed with seemingly simple tasks
- Anxious, stressed and irritable most of the time
- Low on energy and concentration
- Depressed - as though there's no meaning to life.
There's a good chance your adrenal system is under strain and you're close to burnout. When I've had a lot on the go at one time, including a busy work schedule, family comittiments and things to sort out at home, plus a few stressful things to navigate, I often suffer from insomnia and my immune system takes a knock. I also tend to feel overwhelmed, yet distracted.
A doctor once described how the body goes into fight or flight mode when you're feeling stressed- which is normal. However, when your adrenal system is under strain, the adrenal glands release a flood of hormones which increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and help you prepare for a "fight or flight".
If this happens too regularly, your adrenal glands can burn out from too much cortisol and become depleted.
When it comes to managing this, prevention is definitely better than cure, as it's hard to recover from burnout when your adrenal system is under severe strain and you feel like you can't cope with life.
Tips to prevent burnout
Here are some of my most important tips to consider if you want to manage your stress and achieve a reasonable work/life balance without compromising your happiness and sanity.
If the majority of your day is spent tackling non-creative work tasks, troubleshooting or performing under pressure, you need a creative outlet to blanace it all out.
What this means is unique to you – it could be playing an instrument, cooking or baking, working on a craft project, writing or taking time out to read something you enjoy. Anything that demands your full focus without stress is an excellent way to unwind while still stimulating your mind.
Determine your favourite creative outlets and make time for them at least a few times a week.I love to write in a journal, practice gratitude and cook or bake.
Build a support system
Whether you need to emotionally offload to a trusted friend, or delegate work to a colleague, understand that asking for appropriate help or support is important and not a weakness. In fact, it's essential!
The key is to focus on your strengths and delegate more of what you don't enjoy, or your areas of weakness to those who might thrive doing it. This will essentially mean more productivity and fewer headaches.
For example, I'm not an admin person so I like to enrol the help of others for this side of my business, but I'm good at coming up with fresh, new ideas and concepts and executing those.
Make ‘happy’ your default setting
Research shows that positive thinking builds resilience and your ability to be solution-focused.
Here are a few ways to stay in the happy zone:
- Try to stay positive in stressful situations by closing your eyes, taking a few deep breathes and visualising the outcome you want to achieve.
- Bite your tongue and try to stay calm when you're feeling annoyed (rather than blowing up), as anger triggers that fight or flight response.
- Mindfully acknowledge each negative thought and follow it immediately with a positive one
This mindset shift can take time to implement, but the long-term benefits are worth it. Affirming to yourself that ‘happy’ is your usual state, and that any deviations are short-term "bumps" in the road, goes a long way towards making it true.
Rise with the birds
Although sleep is really important to help you manage stress, a daily quiet time helps to calm the mind too.
The main aim is to wake up to a quiet space where you only have your own needs to meet and thoughts to address before the busyness of the day kicks in. This allows for more clarity of purpose, as well as productivity, allowing you to focus on what you want to achieve out of your day, rather than feeling overwhelmed.
Write it down
Writing a daily to-do-list with the most important items at the top, is the best way to keep track of what needs to be done. There are also plenty of apps for this. I like TickTick as it allows you to record tasks with a voice prompt, and it has a function to remember recurring tasks and assign tasks to folders.
Manage your time
For one week, keep a journal and record every action you make on a daily basis, as well as how long it took. At the end of the week, tally up how much of your time was spent performing mundane or low-skill tasks, and find ways to remove them or hand them over to someone else.
Things as small as planning your outfit the night before you wake up for work, or spending less time on social media could save you half an hour each day.
Eat for energy
The way you feel every day is directly linked to what you put in your mouth. Try these healthy, filling snacks to keep your energy levels up:
- Rice cakes with peanut butter/cheese
- Veggie sticks with hummus. If you're out and about, line the bottom of your travel mug with hummus and stick your veggie crudités into it vertically before sealing up.
- Home-made trail mixes using raw nuts, dried berries and toasted seeds
- Roasted pumpkin seeds. These are surprisingly high in protein, just ½ cup offers 14 grams
- Cheese and grape mini-skewers
- Roasted chickpeas: simply toss them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Single yoghurt portions with low-sugar granola
- Sliced banana with peanut butter
Exercise for energy
Exercise has been proven to be as effective plays a huge role in this, from stabilising your mood and organising your thoughts to de-stressing and boosting energy levels.
If you need an instant boost in energy and brainpower, try some of the following exercises:
- Go for a brisk 10-minute walk. This not only provides an instant energy boost, but the effects will last for up to 2 hours.
- Hit the trampoline! Rebounding is an amazing way to boost energy levels, improve blood flow, and it gets your heart pumping – whilst sparing your joints any hard impact.
- Practise inverted yoga poses. The famous downward facing dog pose is excellent for getting blood and oxygen to the brain. Start on your hands and knees, curl your toes so you’re resting on the balls of your feet, and slowly rise into an inverted ‘V’ position. Keeping your eyes on your toes, exhale as you push your heels closer to the ground. Hold this position for a few moments to reap the benefits.
- Shake up a steady-state cardio routine with interval training. Bursts of 1-minute sprints followed by 3-minute recoveries help you burn fat rather than carbohydrates – your precious energy supplies.