9 Tips To Keep Burnout Away
Updated: Sep 29, 2019
Burnout is quite common nowadays. It is a reaction to prolonged occupational stress characterized by exhaustion, disconnection and reduced work performance. There are multiple negative consequences of burnout on interpersonal relationships, physical and mental health.
It is therefore important to examine how burnout can be avoided. Burnout has to do both with respecting your boundaries with regards to work, with enjoying your job, and with maintaining conscious self-care in your life out of work.
If you don’t like your job, you can attempt to change aspects of it, in order to be able to enjoy it more, or change it altogether. Otherwise there will probably come a time when the thought of going to work will be paralyzing and very distressing. Burnout is then sure to follow.
If you do like your job, it is important that you keep your boundaries in mind so that you do not become a workaholic – because any addiction is maladaptive- , and that you keep flourishing as a professional.
In this blog post 9 tips are discussed that focus both on increasing your job satisfaction and thereby avoiding burnout, and on employing self-care and maintaining a good work-private life balance.
1. Clarify Job Expectations
We have already underlined that unclear job requirements and expectations are a risk factor for burnout.
This makes perfect sense- without clarity, it is as if you are walking in the darkness; unguided, unsupported, and probably confused.
If that’s your state right now, or if you find that your superiors are somewhat vague and unreachable with regards to what is expected of you, it is essential that you reach out and communicate about this.
In case this feels daunting, it is a good idea that you work on your assertive communication skills.
2. Reward Yourself
Feeling appreciated is vital for our mental health and well-being, yet there are so many people that feel stuck in a job where rewards -in the form of a raise, a promotion or other benefits- are scarce or nonexistent.
It is completely natural to lose motivation in the absence of reward. If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider requesting this recognition you are missing, by employing assertive communication skills.
Regardless if you get the recognition you desire, a viable alternative is to start rewarding yourself whenever you accomplish something great at work- especially when you think it goes overlooked.
It can be really anything- from a special drink or a good lunch at a restaurant you love with company you value, to a small spa escape or a new piece of clothing or accessory.
It doesn’t really matter what your reward will be- it also depends on what you can afford. Such gestures however are a form of self-care that will add meaning to your everyday work life; even if your boss ignores your efforts.
You have to give credit to yourself for your good work and perseverance!
3. Find Meaning
Though it’s true that you can get a burnout if your job is highly meaningful, you may be more at risk if your job does not bring a sense of purpose to you, or if it sometimes goes against your values and principles.
When your job has a meaning for you, you are then strongly motivated to perform well and reach your professional goals.
Research suggests that employees regard their job as meaningful through three mechanisms: impact, appreciation and empathy.
Impact= When you see for yourself how your work benefits and helps others.
Appreciation= When you realize that end users and clients of yours feel gratitude for the service or product you offer, this is a powerful reminder that your work does matter.
Empathy= The more you develop a deeper understanding of your customers and clients needs and problems, to which you attempt to provide solutions through your work, the more committed you become in helping them.
When you take a moment to reflect on your job, do you find meaning in it?
Do you directly see the way your job impacts others in a positive way?
Do you believe that your end users/ clients/ customers are grateful for being able to use your service or product?
Do you feel empathic, understanding and connected to your audience’s needs?
If your answer is no in any of the questions above, it is good to stick with it for a little longer until it becomes clearer to you how you could proceed towards answering with a Yes.
In other words:
How could you enhance your sense of purpose at work?
How could you make your job more meaningful?
4. Job Crafting: Reconstruct your Job
Job dissatisfaction and burnout have become so widespread, that the concept of job crafting has gradually become really popular.
Job crafting is an exercise for reenergizing and reimagining your work life. It’s basically all about redefining your job to also include your motives, strengths and passions.
It happens more and more often that people pursue job positions that are unique and customized for them- not preexistent. These people asserted their wishes to the managers and succeeded to sculpt their job according to their skills and preferences.
Job crafting is all about employing your creativity, self-awareness about what you would love to do, and a proactive attitude of taking initiatives and pursuing what you are passionate about.
In order to experiment with job crafting, you can closely examine the different elements of your job and then reinvent them, so that you have the chance to personalize your work more, thus increasing your sense of control about it. As we saw earlier, the more sense of control, the less risk of burnout.
The goal of job crafting is to develop a more satisfying, fulfilling and engaging professional life. It means transforming your job into a tailor-made soul quest for you; at least for as much as this is possible.
You can start by considering what it is that you don’t really like about your job currently.
Maybe you are struggling with communication between your colleagues or manager, you feel left out of important meetings and activities, you think that the workload is too high and the deadines too tight for you to catch up, you feel isolated and unsupported, etc.
The first step is exploring what you would like to change and then designing your approach towards your goal step-by-step.
Moreover, you would need to be assertive towards your manager, but the good news is that most managers welcome initiative and intention for progress. Not to mention the rise in your self-confidence that such a venture will bring about!
Each job comprises of three elements that you can assess and consider changes:
Change the boundaries of your job
Define which tasks are expected of you
Take on more or fewer tasks, based on your interests
Change the way of performance: For instance, maybe you have a preference for completing a certain type of task independently, while others as part of a team. Or perhaps you regard that the deadlines your manager requests are too tight for the associated workload.
Change the nature of relationships at work
Change the communication between specific colleagues, managers or groups
Reach out to colleagues for cooperation on specific tasks or projects
Synthesize new ways to develop professional relationships
Contemplate on the interactions you have with various people in your professional network- are there aspects that you would like to do differently?
Each of us attributes certain perceptions and meanings on their work.
Consider whether there is a different purpose about certain aspects of your job, or new perspectives that you haven't considered earlier
hink about how you can attribute new perceptions or change preexisting perceptions
5. Be Structured
When it comes to work, it is better to be organized rather than just leaving things to the flow. Structure with regards to your job responsibilities can actually help you avoid burnout. Without it, your work life may become too chaotic and confusing to handle.
Organize yourself in order to keep everything on track
Prioritize your tasks and responsibilities and organize yourself with reminders on your online agenda.
There are many apps to help you be more structured and never miss deadlines, if the traditional paper to-do lists don’t work for you as well anymore.
6. Recharge & Relax
As you approach burnout, what usually happens is that gradually work consumes all time and energy of you, leaving your personal life to the margin.
If you’re a workaholic maybe you don’t even realize it, because you possibly enjoy your job a lot.
It is however vital that you explore what is pleasant and relaxing to you, and that you designate the time for it.
Not just in theory, but for real: in your agenda.
7. You Work to Live, You Don’t Live to Work!
Your sole purpose on this planet is not to work- you have a life out of work, and you need to remind yourself how absolutely important it is to fill your life with enriching, challenging and fulfilling activities, relationships and hobbies.
The more rewarding your life out of work is, the more positive energy and motivation you have in order to be able to perform adequately and avoid the devastating effects of a burnout.
8. Disconnect & Unplug
We are living in an era of constant information overload. In order to maintain your sanity and a healthy balance, it is good to also go offline from time to time- just to give your mind a break and become in touch with your immediate surroundings.
Be mindful and present when spending time with friends, family or your partner.
Make a conscious commitment to avoid checking anything work-related when at home or when you have other recreational activities. It is true that for many of us, this becomes almost unattainable. Yet it is noteworthy to set a boundary between your work and personal life, and strive to respect it.
Consider completely unplugging from time to time- even if that is for a full day, a weekend, or a holiday, it will surely make a difference.
9. Sleep Well
There are countless benefits of both good quantity and quality of sleep.
Research shows that less than 6 hours sleep/ night increases the risk of a burnout, but many other negative health implications too.
Not enough sleep makes you cranky, irritable, and more vulnerable to stressful events. It also affects your concentration, memory, and your overall cognitive performance.
When you sleep more and better, you protect yourself against other adverse effects and you also keep burnout away. You will also increase your productivity and probably be in a better mood in general!
Employ sleep hygiene tips if you have difficulty going to sleep, or you would like to improve the quality of your sleep:
Try to keep away from screens (smartphones & laptops) for at least an hour before going to bed. If that’s not possible, there are blue light filter apps that you can download. These reduce the intensity of the blue light of screens, that actually keeps our brain awake and messes up our circadian rhythms.
Prepare your mind and body for relaxation with a warm shower before bed
Use lavender essential oil on your pillow- the soothing smell will help you fall asleep
Avoid caffeine beverages from the evening
Try out valerian and camomille herbal teas before going to bed
Only go to bed when you are really tired and want to sleep
Take care of yourself before it is too late. Be conscious of your personal limits in order to keep your fire burning.
If you worry that you may be burnout already or suspect it is coming your way, consider seeking professional help in order to work on how you can eliminate further negative effects and get back on track.
I am here for you if you would like to process occupational stress in therapy.