Six Strategies To Fight Burnout

Saturday, July 02, 2016

According to Helpguide.org, burnout is defined as "a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place."  By the way, that site?  GREAT resources for identifying burnout.  Check it out!

burnout can happen to anyone - how to dealI've been there for quite awhile.  Awhile, as in, for the last several months.  If you've been around the blog since last year (thank you for your loyalty!), you know that this year was destined to be tough with the building and implementation of a new software system at work. 

And tough it has been.  Even though I expected it - even though I knew what was coming - I had no real understanding of just how hard things were going to *actually* be.

I have to admit, there have been moments where the world just isn't the sunny place I know it to be.  I've been dreaming about work every week - and sometimes every day within certain weeks.  I haven't been rested - not physically, mentally, or emotionally.  And THAT is cause for concern with some of my past experiences.  I know that I am not willing or able to go down that road again, so something had to change!  While I can't exactly quit my job (and I really don't want to!), I have found the following strategies keep me on a more even keel.  I can't say I'm perfect at employing them, but when I do?  HUGE improvements in mood, patience, and outlook.  This is what I have found works for me - and is what has given me energy to "keep up" with things I want to do.

    Six Strategies To Fight Burnout
  1. Define what your stressor/stressors really are.  BE SPECIFIC!  In other words, I can't just say that work is stressing me out.  That's way too general.  What about work gets to me?  It's a feeling of a lack of control, of understanding.  It's the feeling that I am incapable of providing the level of quality that I expect from myself.  It's the fact that those who are supposed to help just don't.  Just identifying those true stressors help, even though I can't do anything about them right now.  Seeing them in print as small pieces of a much larger whole puts the stress in perspective, you know?  For this, specificity is paramount!
  2. Have a deadline or an endpoint in mind, even if it's an arbitrary one in your own mind.  For me, I have chosen the arbitrary date of October 1.  Our go-live date is September 12, so I figure that two weeks is enough time to see some sort of improvement in the inevitable crises that will arise.  Am I necessarily correct on that?  No.  But it does give me something to hold on to, something that says this state of being is NOT forever!  It's a goal, an attainable one.  
  3. Check out for an hour every week.  Reset your brain.  In essence, forget the world for just one hour.  Me?  I've incorporated a weekly "wino bath" (my husband's words, not mine) on Sunday evening.  I pour myself a glass or two of wine mixed with La Croix sparkling water and sink into some luscious aromatic bubbles.  Sometimes there is air-popped popcorn.  Always there is reading material.  And for about an hour each Sunday, nothing else matters.  I don't have to do anything; I don't have to achieve anything; I get to just be.
  4. Be active!  I've long been a huge proponent of exercise to ward off depression, and it turns out that exercise resets your bran for a period of time every day.  When I work out before work, it takes a lot longer to set my teeth on edge.  Endorphins for the win!
  5. Set work hours.  What I mean by that is simply: set boundaries. I have a not-so-great habit of being connected to work at all hours of the day.  I've realized that all that does for me, personally, is keep me wound up all day.  Not a great scenario.  So now, even though my actual work hours have increased, my off-time work hours have drastically decreased.  I check email once when I wake up to see if there's any crisis and once when I go to bed for the same reason.  Otherwise, the moment I walk out of the building (provided I'm not on call), work stays at work.
  6. Accomplish something.  Even something seemingly insignificant can have a huge effect on you!  For example, one of my stressors is feeling out of control, right?  So I took some time one day last week to completely clean off my desk.  I found or created file folders for every single piece of paperwork I was either working on or pushing off.  It all went off the desk.  All of it.  If you've ever seen my desk, you know that is quite the accomplishment!  Seriously, though, the little bit of organization took minimal time but produced an incredible feeling of "I can control this one thing."  And that snowballed, making me much more productive again.  It was little, but I'm still reaping the benefits 1.5 weeks later.  I'd say that's a pretty good return on investment!

So there you have it, my strategies to stay on the winning side of burnout.  Will you try them?  Do you have other recommendations?  Let me know in the comments!

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