By Kara Halderman, Contributing blogger
Ahh, burnout. We’ve all felt it to some degree. Whether starting a new job or deep in the trenches of a current one, work combined with personal stressors can throw us off balance.
If you ask anyone about their stress levels, odds are good they’re through the roof. But what is the difference between everyday inconveniences and burnout? In the medical community burnout is now considered a syndrome with up to 12 stages. Generally burnout is “the loss of meaning in one’s work coupled with mental, emotional or physical exhaustion as the result of long-term unresolved stress” coupled with symptoms like:
- Physical illness
- Low immunity
- Dissociation from work activities
- Emotional exhaustion
- Decreased motivation
While burnout sounds heavily work related, it can happen in any area of life. Especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s evident many people are at risk of burnout due to chronic stressors of our current environment. It’s important now more than ever we take the steps to avoid burnout to be well. With a few life tweaks and a dose of introspection, we can avoid burnout and restore balance before it happens. Here are my top tips to avoid burnout.
Readjust Your Priorities
Burnout usually happens when one or two priorities outshine the others. It may look like throwing yourself into work, doing whatever it takes to make money or focusing solely on family. Regardless of the top priority, if your top priority becomes the only priority, it’s impossible to achieve balance. Additionally, if your top priority is something you don’t enjoy that’s a recipe for burnout disaster.
Priorities are areas of our lives that are really important to us. So if the stress of life is starting to creep in, ask yourself, are my priorities out of alignment?
Personally, I don’t believe our priorities can be in 100% alignment all the time. Life does throw curve balls after all. The key is to notice when one priority is taking charge, and finding other ways to honor the others so they are not neglected.
For example, maybe your top priorities are health, family time, work and personal growth. But what do we do if a work project is requiring almost 100% of our time? Accept that work will take front seat, but carve out smaller chunks of time to meet health, family and personal growth goals. It could look like reading a couple pages of a good book at night, food prepping on a Sunday or leaving the office early to join a family dinner. Remember, this is only temporary.
If it’s not a temporary priority shift, then it’s probably a good time to consider a lifestyle change.
Most succumbing to burnout have a perfectionist wing, wanting to do everything themselves to ensure the best quality. I must admit, I do it too. If you want something done right, do it yourself- at least that’s what my Dad used to say.
The reality is that is just not true, and this frame of thought usually comes from a deep rooted general distrust of others. Believe me, I get it. But when you're up to your neck in deadlines, housework and social obligations, something has to give. To prevent burnout it’s time to admit we can’t do it all ourselves, and that’s okay. To save some mental space, try delegating the tasks that seem tedious or uninspiring to someone else. That could mean hiring someone to prep meals, help around the house, or getting an assistant.
If you’re having trouble with this, go back to priorities. What could you delegate to someone else that will free up time for other priorities? Usually these are the mundane tasks that require very little mental effort but seem to be the biggest nuisance.
Make Physical Health #1
If your health wasn't a top priority, it’s time to make it one. Due to the immense amount of damage chronic stress can have on the body, burnout often results in physical issues such as an emergence of autoimmune diseases- usually brought upon by chronic stress. Not to mention when we are under stress our ability to make better choices for our health diminishes.
When you're stressed about work, do you really want to go to the gym at 5AM? Probably not.
What usually sounds better after a long day, a quick drive through meal or cooking at home? Most pick convenience over health in a pinch. Justifiably so too. The media has trained us to pick convenience over effort in our ever-busy world. While convenience can free up mental space, it's not always the best for our bodies.
If health becomes a top priority it will be easier to deal with stressors. Exercise has been shown to help regulate stress, and eating more fruits and vegetables combat the oxidative damage stress can have on the body. Treat the body good, and the mind will follow.
These three steps are essential to restore balance and avoid burnout. The world needs you, especially with news of current events. Society needs healthy, present people that will be a light in a time that seems heavily unknown. Now is the perfect time to readjust priorities and take care of our bodies to show up for ourselves and others!