Authority Magazine recently interviewed me and asked me what someone can do if they’re feeling burned out by work and how someone can reverse it. Below are my top five tips.
Starting in grade five, I had neck problems. My neck would get stuck, and not only did it hurt a lot, I felt silly having to turn my whole body to see someone or something. I also suffered from stomach issues, especially leading up to a new situation. It took me until well into my 30’s to realize these were signs of anxiety and stress. And while certain levels of stress and anxiety are OK and can fuel creativity, too much causes burnout. Once I finally prioritized my well-being and started following the advice I’ll share in a minute, I have not had my neck freeze, and I now know if my stomach or neck are acting up, I need to pay attention to what that’s telling me.
The first step of addressing burnout is knowing the signs. What have you noticed changes in your body, physically, mentally and emotionally, when you’re under chronic stress or anxiety? What patterns do you see repeating?
The second step is to reduce burnout — here are five ways to do so:
1. Set up a bedtime routine.
There is a reason babies and children do well on a routine, and adults are no different. There is also a reason sleep deprivation is used as torture. We need a good night’s sleep regularly. That means getting 7–9 hours of sleep every night. One way to maximize your sleep quality is to power down one hour before bed. This means no electronics or other stimulants during this hour. Try a bubble bath, writing or reading. This will signal your brain it’s time to wind down, and you’re more likely to get better sleep.
2. Eat a well-balanced diet.
For years I lived off processed foods, coffee and sugar, and it wasn’t until I started eating healthy regularly that I saw the difference it made. The thing is, while these foods make us feel good and energized at the time, they put us on a blood sugar rollercoaster that has us going up and down. And when we’re down, we start the cycle all over again by grabbing that coffee or chocolate. By eating a well-balanced diet, we’ll stabilize our blood sugar and have more consistent energy as a result. Plus, we’ll sleep better as our blood sugar won’t crash in the middle of the night, waking us up.
This can be in the form of asking for help or even just sharing that you’re feeling burnt out with your family, friends or colleagues. Sometimes just acknowledging it aloud helps us recognize how we’re feeling, and chances are, others are feeling the same way. By opening up and sharing, you can get help or even just more ideas for reducing burnout.
4. Make time for physical activities and ones that you enjoy.
At age 38, I started running and wish I’d done it ten years sooner. Not only do I feel more physically stronger than I have in years, but it also helps me clear my head and increases my focus and productivity. The key is to try activities until you find one that you enjoy, so it’s something you look forward to. I also enjoy cranking my music and dancing, especially with my kids, and going for a brisk walk while listening to a good podcast.
5. Unplug to recharge.
Just like our electronics need to be fully powered down from time to time to work better, so do we. We live in a culture of go, go, go, where we feel we must respond to all emails and texts instantaneously. This leaves us thinking that we can never disconnect for fear we’ll miss something or get in trouble at work. Whether you put an out of office on or communicate with others when you unplug so they don’t disturb you, find a way to disconnect completely. Your body and mind will thank you.
You can read the full interview here.