Exercise, stay positive, turn off the tech 5 steps to help avoid burnout
Respect all four dimensions According to psychologist Alan Lyons, if we’re to stave off burnout and look after ourselves, we need to look after our four dimensions: our spiritual, physical, mental and social/emotional wellbeing.
“It’s like the four legs of a chair, because if one of them is out of synch, it affects the others.”
Differentiate between competencies and strengths
You need to strive for work-life integration, more so than balance, and ask yourself: “Are my values aligned to what I work at?” Because “you could work 100 hours a week and not necessarily have burnout, if there’s a strong sense of purpose and meaning in what you do”, says Lyons.
“Remember, people can tell you what your competencies are, but not what your strengths are. Nobody really knows your strengths as you do, which is something that you are not only competent at but makes you feel good. Aligning what makes you feel good with what you’re competent at is very important in avoiding burnout,” says Lyons.
“When you’re burned-out you become very problem-focused and start to notice everything that is wrong with your life.
“It’s a constant internal narrative that builds like a wave until it’s utterly overwhelming. You don’t feel like you’ve got choices, or have any input control, when in fact you’ve got plenty.”
Be grateful for the little things
Lyons says one step of many in tackling burnout is trying to become more solution-focused, as well as becoming aware of and grateful of the things we take for granted each day.
“All the research suggests that we’re capable of developing a more optimistic mindset if we choose to. When you’re being pessimistic, reactive and negative, you start to catastrophise and take everything personally.
“Optimistic people tend to respond to setbacks as interpreting that as being less personal, less severe and less permanent. You can start to develop this by noticing the change you want and start amplifying it. Change is happening all the time, but when you’ve got burnout you feel it isn’t and that you cannot move.”
Say no more often
According to author and performance coach Jane Downes, rather than blaming the organisation, we’ve got to take control of our time management and career development and better understand the triggers that are causing us such stress. Rather than necessarily getting a new job, it’s more of a case of self-management, while understanding the signs and symptoms of burnout before they manifest.
“We need to get on top of our life by prioritising our needs, work on our focus and be aware of catastrophising what really are small things in the bigger picture,” says Downes. “We need to watch our mindset and the negative thought stream running in our heads. Also, don’t be afraid to say no more often.
“We’ve got be able to switch off technology at the end of our working day and week. It’s very tempting to simply blame technology for all this, but we’re the one turning on the button.”
Take regular exercise
“In the face of burnout, it’s not always simply the best idea to up sticks and get a new job,” says counsellor and psychotherapist Siobhan Murray.
“I’d be very much a firm believer that if you’re not able to resolve the issues around your current job, then that’s what you will bring to your new job. So ultimately the goal is getting that chaotic lifestyle under control.
“Start by setting boundaries: don’t go in every morning at 7.30. Learn to say no to work demands by relating all else you have on your plate at that time. And also, take breaks from technology. People say ‘I can’t’, but you can: you can make that choice.”
Murray is also a strong advocate for regular, moderate exercise: you may struggle with energy to begin with, but within weeks your energy levels will significantly boost, lifting your mindset with them.
“It’s very tempting to simply blame technology for all this, but we’re the one turning on the button.”