Prevent or Heal Burnout with these 5 Practices
Updated: May 4
Burnout was the buzzword of 2020 and it's trending again in 2021 as the world grapples with a third wave of the pandemic. This Mental Health Week (May 3-9), I want to revisit the topic of burnout and provide some tips for individuals to prevent and/or heal from it.
Back in the fall I wrote a brief article to help people understand what burnout really is, and the organizational risk factors that contribute to it. Take a quick read before diving into this article if you’re not familiar with the topic.
So, how exactly are you supposed to reduce your risk of burnout and/or recover from it?
First, it’s important to do a little self reflection. I’ve created this free Burnout Self-Assessment to help you better understand if burnout is a current challenge for you. Once you’ve had an opportunity to determine the degree of burnout (or lack thereof), consider the following practical tips to safeguard yourself and/or start to heal.
1. Say Yes To Yourself More Often
Self-care isn’t just about bubble baths and face masks. Self-care can be as simple as starting to listen to your body for clues it needs more attention. Host of Fried - The Burnout Podcast, Cait Donovan suggests setting small boundaries that are “more of a Yes to me, than they are No to other people.”
For instance, consider how often you wait to go to the bathroom throughout the day because you have so much to do. A small boundary that is More of a Yes To Yourself could be as simple as allowing yourself to take a bio break as soon as your body tells you it’s time.
What is my body telling me throughout the day that I might not be listening to?
How often am I saying yes to myself?
How might I say yes more often?
2. Focus On You
Burnout is prevalent in caregiving fields. I would argue that “caregiver” can expand to any role in which it is your job to support, heal, or lead other people. If you find yourself in a position where you’re taking on other people’s problems, you might slide into trying to fix them while forgetting to take care of yourself.
As you’ve heard countless times before, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others with theirs. Neglect yourself, and your ability to support others is on unstable footing.
Practice helping others without becoming entangled in the outcome. Why? Because this empowers others while setting healthy boundaries for yourself. If the boundaries start to erode, you risk depleting all of your energy and developing deep resentments and apathy towards the very people you cared about so much in the first place.
How can I invest time in myself so I have the energy to help others?
What boundaries, if any, do I hold myself and others accountable for?
How might I prioritize myself a bit more?
3. Assess your Stress
There will always be a degree of stress in every job and workplace. That’s why it’s vital to build stress awareness and resilience. I encourage you to think about a typical day or week at work and reflect on which situations create the most tension for you. List them all out.
For each situation, answer the following questions:
What element of the situation do I find stressful?
How much control do I have over this aspect of the situation? (If none, how can I let it go?)
How have I gotten through this situation in the past?
How might I experience less stress if presented with this situation again in the future?
Once you’ve completed this exercise, you have the beginning of a plan for how you can get through these stressful situations in the future. You will also know what situations to try to steer clear of going forward.
If this exercise uncovers a number of pain points, talk to someone you trust about it. Perhaps there are elements of your job that can be taken off your plate entirely.
On an average day, how much stress do I experience in my job on a scale of 1 to 10 (1= no stress, 10 = unbearable stress)?
What triggers my stress reaction?
What methods have worked in the past to help alleviate my stress reaction?
4. Create a Non-Negotiables List & Reconnect with Your Values
When your day is full of tension at work, you run the risk of going from a job you loved (or liked) to one you loathe. I recommend all of my clients do two things:
Step 1: Understand what your values are and which ones are most important to you in a workplace environment.
Step 2: Create a non-negotiables list - list all of the things you want and don’t want to experience in a workplace environment.
When your wants, needs and desires aren’t being met, you will likely feel unsatisfied, undervalued, disappointed and more. Wherever you are on the burnout scale, this is a helpful exercise to determine whether you’re in the right workplace. If your values are in conflict with the values of the company you work for, you run the risk of burning out.
To what extent do my values align with the values of the organization I work for?
What wants, needs and desires of mine are being met? Not met?
How might I close the gap?
5. Go Beyond Passive Rest
Lastly and importantly you must get adequate rest. This is rest beyond sleep. Did you know that there are 7 types of rest? If you’re hopping from Zoom to Zoom meeting, chances are you need to spend some time recharging with a little bit of sensory, mental and emotional rest.
I recommend completing an informal Rest Audit. For each of the Seven Types of Rest listed below, how charged is your battery? Are you green, yellow, orange, red or worse… completely drained?
How might I integrate more rest into my daily routine?
What kind of rest am I most in need of right now?
What rest habits do I want to integrate?
What does Rest Success look like for me?
Note that the above tools and tips can be helpful for living an engaged and energized life, separate and apart from burnout. They’re great strategies to ensure a physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthy life.
I was a bit hesitant to write this article because more and more the burnout literature is validating that burnout is less about the individual and more about the organization. Leaders play a key role in creating healthy workplaces. But, once burnout is present, individual employees have to put in the work to recover from it. I hope the tips provide you with some options to either prevent burnout for yourself or to start to heal from it.
As always, if you ever need support, feel free to reach out!
About Lauren McCreery
Lauren is a Certified Professional Coach and real-life SWERVE success story. When she isn't working, she's spending time going on big adventures with her rescue dog, Finley! As the founder of Swerve Coaching & Consulting, she helps smart professional millennials who are stressed, stuck or burnt out to Ride the Swerve towards work that's engaging, energizing and empowering.
Feeling burnt out and want a career change? Book a discovery call today.