Burn-out is a huge problem in our society. It can affect anyone at any given time in your life. The key to overcoming burn-out is to recognise when you are heading towards it and to pull back and truly rest and recover. It is better to be proactive in avoiding burnout than find yourself in the doctor’s surgery completely debilitated.
What is Burn-Out?
Burn-out is simply a state where our bodies and minds are incapable of functioning well. Unfortunately, few burn-out sufferers see it coming until it’s too late. If you, however, identify signs of burn-out early enough, you can reverse the downward spiral. According to psychologist and author Sherrie Bourg Carter, the signs of burn-out include:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Feelings of cynicism and detachment
- A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Together, these symptoms lead to an inability to successfully function on a personal and professional level. The problem with allowing ourselves to get to this state is that it can take a long time to recover.
Tips to Avoid Burn-Out
There are some key steps to avoiding burn-out. Firstly, throughout the day, recognise when your energy levels are waning i.e. restlessness, yawning, hunger and difficulty concentrating. Studies have shown that our minds and bodies need a break from work every 90 to 120 minutes throughout the day. Try taking some deep breaths, stretching, and/or take a brisk walk around the block for 10 minutes. Even just shutting your eyes and meditating for a brief period is enough to restore your concentration. Other strategies to avoid burn-out include:
- Practising mindfulness throughout the day
- Taking a power nap
- Trying the relaxation technique described below
- Eating regularly to avoid low blood-sugar dips
- Avoiding excessive amounts of caffeine, which deplete energy reserves quickly
- Designating an end point to your day i.e. a ‘clock-off’ time beyond which you do not do any more work
- Taking regular holidays. Studies have shown that regular short breaks such as a weekend away can be just as rejuvenating as a longer holiday. Interestingly, holidays that are longer than nine days add no more benefits in terms of rejuvenation than those that are up to nine days long. So the key, really, is to take breaks often. I recommend taking a break every 8–12 weeks even if it is for a weekend.
- Trying not to bring work home with you
- Creating a routine in the evening for winding down. This might involve reading the paper, having a bath, or reading a book
- Prioritising enjoyable activities that are not work-related in your week. This might be a sport, going shopping, or even just watching a movie
- Seeking professional guidance if experiencing signs of burn-out
So burn-out is essentially avoidable if you recognise your early warning signs and take proactive measures to halt it progressing.