Burnout - Part 2 (aka. And How to Avoid the Dumpster Fire)


In Burnout - Part 1, I explain what the term "burnout" means, and what it may feel like if you are experiencing it in your life. Although burnout can certainly lead to a difficult existence, it isn't doomed to last forever. There are a number of things that you can do to either avoid the experience of burnout, or temper its effects if you find it trying to spark a fire in your life.


Here are 6 ways to help you take ahold of the metaphorical fire hose:


1.) Talk to your boss (or spouse if you work in the home). Communicating to them that you are feeling the effects of burnout is important. Once the problems are laid out, solutions can be discussed. Perhaps you find a way to delegate the less important tasks to others, or balance the workload differently. Perhaps you find a way to work from home one day a week, if you employer allows for that. Perhaps the expectations of your work are unclear, and that is causing undue stress; trying to guess what your boss or spouse is looking for, and then being disappointed or frustrated when you guessed wrong can certainly add fuel to the fire. The key here is open communication, and working together on viable solutions.


2.) Find a purpose. Looking at the greater impact or meaning of your work can be helpful in combating the feelings or thoughts that "I don't matter" or "This doesn't matter". You may have to extend your perspective outwards, and encompass a greater outlook (for example, if you are working a reception desk at a doctors office, you are helping people to stay healthy, which extends their time with their families and friends, and allows them to positively contribute to the world for as long as possible). If you find that it is almost impossible or extremely difficult to find purpose in your work, it may be worth considering a career change. Although this option can be difficult to consider, the long-term benefits can be truly life-changing.


3.) Manage stress. This includes any sources of stress outside the workplace as well. Having minor stressors add-up, one on top of the other, day after day, can spark workplace burnout, FAST. Managing your stress through exercise, breathing exercises, therapy, mindfulness, journalling, or whatever method that you find works, can make a world of difference when it comes to managing burnout.


4.) Manage your thoughts. Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) can wreak havoc in your life, especially your work life. Having your brain narrate your day in a negative way is not helpful when it comes to burnout. Imagine waking up to a story that starts: "Ugh, my alarm is so loud. 10 more minutes before I have to get up and go to my miserable job. I have so much work to catch up on I feel like I'm drowning in it. And Bob is going to be there and tell me all about the 9 cats he adopted on the weekend, right before I have to go into the monthly meeting where nothing good ever happens....". Adjusting your thoughts towards a more positive (or at least neutral) story can help you to manage the negative effects of burnout.


5.) Take a vacation. This obviously depends on how much time-off you are allotted each year, but even tacking on an extra day or two over a weekend can help. The caveat here to successful vacation time? Un.Plug. This means putting an "out of office" reply on your email, and/or putting your phone away for the majority of the day in order to avoid any temptation back into the vortex of work. Time away can give you the mental and emotional space needed for recovery, help to recharge your internal resources, and allow you to return to work on a full tank of readiness. Sometimes a couple of days away is truly all it takes.


6.) Schedule YOU time. Whether it's time for a quiet walk, vegging in front of the tv, working on your hobby, or taking a bubble bath, it's important to schedule time for your self-care. This often the first thing to be neglected when it comes to the schedule of life, but unfortunately it's one of the most important things to do when creating a balanced and happy existence. So take that you time, and take it often. Even if it's raining. There's nothing like water to put out a fire and soothe the burn.




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© 2019 Trish Stephens, Psychotherapist - Ottawa, Canada