Burnout is a hot topic in the professional world these days. We could delve into its myriad causes, the unhelpful advice on how to manage it, and the societal factors contributing to its prevalence, but that's a colossal topic for a single blog post. So, let's zoom in and focus on practical steps you can take to combat burnout. I like to call this plan "Burnout Insulation." Picture this: your work is like a fire, and a little bit of that fire can be motivating and even comforting. But right now, you're engulfed in an inferno that's draining your energy and making it nearly impossible to focus on anything else. What you need is insulation from that relentless blaze. Here are 3 steps to start building that insulation:
Separate Your Identity from Your Work. First and foremost, remember that you are not defined by your job. You are a unique, wonderful individual who happens to have a job. While some aspects of your career may overlap with your personal character, it's essential to distinguish your work from your core identity. Think about your hobbies, your passions, and what brings you joy outside those 9-to-5 hours. This is really a hard step and maybe that’s why I listed it first because it is not a quick solution but a journey I’m inviting you to go on!
Build Stress-Reducing Practices into Your Day. Let's talk about what I like to call a "micro-reset." We can't always jet off to Fiji for a two-week escape every time we're overwhelmed by stress. Instead, we can integrate small, self-soothing and self-regulating practices into our daily routines. Start by identifying the primary stressors in your day. Is it endless meetings, a never-ending email chain, or a challenging coworker? For me, it's progress notes. Next, brainstorm ways to make those tasks less daunting. Perhaps a brisk 5-minute walk before or after a meeting, limiting email responses to just before lunch, or a small treat as a reward for completing the challenging task. The more you can integrate these small steps into your day and check in with yourself, the more effective you'll be at work and in life. By the way, NPR is conducting a study on this very topic; you can learn more about it here.
Change How You Think and Talk About Work. How we think changes how we feel and how we act. If you constantly tell yourself, "My job is the worst, this is the worst day ever, I hate this," you're more likely to feel frustrated, perform poorly, and carry that stress home with you. I'm not suggesting you gaslight yourself, but rather, try to distance yourself from excessively negative thoughts. Find a positive of your day or a more balanced perspective. We want to shift from merely venting and ranting to actively problem-solving. Remember, we can't change the systems we're in by making them even more negative. See if you can reframe and redirect your thoughts and inner dialogue about work.
As a bonus tip, consider when it might be time to devise a new plan. Work is just one facet of your identity, but it consumes a significant portion of your time and influences your ability to pursue other interests. At some point, you may need to evaluate whether your current role or company is still adding value to your life. If not, it could be time to explore alternatives.
These practices may appear straightforward on paper, but they can be challenging to implement. If you need assistance putting them into action or brainstorming additional strategies, don't hesitate to reach out. Let's see if we're a good fit to work together. Learn more and get connected.