Stressed out at work? Five tips to overcome and prevent burnout
Are you already longing for the weekend? For the past few months, have you been feeling out of sorts at work, and not quite sure why? For instance, are you always tired, do you feel disengaged and unmotivated most days, and often find yourself looking at the clock to see how long it is until you can go home?
If the answer is yes to more than two of the above questions, you are showing classic signs of burnout. So what is burnout, what are its consequences, and how you can avoid these telltale symptoms?
Firstly, stress and burnout share common characteristics, but there are key differentiators. Stress is often relatively short-term and caused by a feeling that aspects in our life, such as work, are out of control. You might experience stress a few days (or weeks) in a row, for example when you are working hard on an important project or to a tight deadline, however once the situation changes, stress often lessens or disappears completely.
However, burnout usually takes place over a longer period, and you can experience feelings of disconnect to important aspects in your life, and see an escalation of specific scenarios change for the worse. For example, when your workload increases beyond a sustainable point, you go through "the motions" instead of being truly engaged and over time, this leads to cynicism, exhaustion, and, sometimes, poor performance.
So, how can you avoid burnout? Here are five tips that can help you overcome and prevent burnout.
We all wish there were magic foods, potions or pills that provide that quick fix. However, what we do have, is intentional thought, smarter choices, foods for burnout, and better behaviours based on knowledge and educating ourselves with how to nourish our bodies. It is important to remember that our mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing is all connected. I am an advocate of dieticians, and unfortunately they are often ignored, as people believe their only purpose is to tell you what to eat and what you cannot consume in terms of fitness goals. However, this could not be more wrong. Dieticians are able to figure out the ins and outs of a person's eating habits within the first few minutes of meeting them and most times, probably not eating as well as they think they are. Using their knowledge of the body and nutrition with all they learn about you, a dietician will expertly craft a plan uniquely tailored to a person's needs.
Exercise can help alleviate stress, create a sense of wellbeing, increase energy and productivity. What's more, regular exercise supplements a good night's sleep. So how do you factor exercise into your life? Get more exercise by getting up earlier, or even by exercising at lunchtime. You might also be more motivated to exercise with a personal trainer. When talking about personal trainers, we do not mean a burly man screaming at you to drop and give him 20. From weight goals to athletic purposes, these individuals are trained to help you set the right specific goals to help you achieve maximum results in the least amount of time and best of all, they fit right into your own schedule. Personal trainers help build a personalized training plan unique to your person, but also operate beyond just fitness. Exercise is a great tool for mental health, and these individuals are there to help with our motivation by choosing the best workouts that release the most endorphins.
Research has repeatedly shown that mindfulness meditation and relaxation techniques can help moderate the influence of stress and long-term burnout. In every stress-management program mindfulness or relaxation should be included to decrease both the mental and physical wear and tear caused by the stresses of life. Yoga Ashram, for example, is a great go-to class/practise. An Ashram by definition is a place for practising yoga and meditation and other spiritual practices to evolve and grow. Ultimately, our state of mind affects our productivity, the quality of our work, and our ability to communicate with others.
Music and creativity as therapy
Nutrition and exercise are important to being healthy and maintaining mental wellness. However, for many, there is often one component missing from the toolbox - the arts. The link between the arts, health and wellbeing has been well documented and includes music, dance, movement, acting, visual arts and more. Furthermore, you don’t need to be a professional craftsperson to benefit from doing these activities. The act of being creative is the key, and it can support a whole host of factors that are essential to maintaining one's overall wellbeing. Creativity is increasingly being validated as a potent mind-body approach to address a variety of challenges and factors including stress, anxiety, depression, increased positive emotions and, in some cases, even improved immune system function. Not to mention, if you create art within a group setting, you can form supportive relationships and friendships. So, join a class, learn an instrument or reignite your passion for the arts.
Try something new
It is important to temporarily disconnect from work or “life” and get away from the environment you are finding stressful. Research on workday breaks has grown rapidly in the past few years, finding that relaxing and engaging breaks can improve emotions and boost energy. This helps explain why relaxation, sports facilities and entertainment zones are becoming popular offerings. So break out of the mould and try something new - be that a new sport, instrument or even a dance class.
Written by Karl Foster, Head of Lab, StudioRepublik