Preventing Burnout

While we can’t plan for every stressor in life, we can equip ourselves with the right tools to avoid getting to the point of burnout. It’s a lot easier to respond to burnout if we come from a place of prevention rather than reaction, which means getting curious about the parts of our lives that are adding or detracting from our wellbeing. Here are some strategies to make that happen! 

Recognize the warning signs both inside and outside of the workplace 

We can’t begin to avoid burnout if we aren’t aware of the warning signs of it, so take some time to familiarize yourself with how to spot it early on. You probably know the more obvious signs like fatigue and exhaustion, but there are other more subtle ways that burnout can sneak up on you. You can learn more about them here, but they can include digestive issues, forgetfulness, and even neglected hygiene! Also remember that burnout can show up in any area of your life, not just in the workspace. Burnout has traditionally been viewed as a workplace phenomenon, so for some people that might be a new way of thinking about it. But in reality, stress shows up anywhere where you’re exerting too much energy and losing touch with your health, wellbeing, and purpose. Burnout from caregiving responsibilities, social commitments, or certain relationships is just as valid. So remember to look out for signs away from the desk as well. And if you need some clarity on if you’re even suffering from burnout in the first place, hop on over to our burnout quiz for some extra guidance.

Get Good at Observation 

Now that we know the signs, it’s time to observe how they manifest both mentally and physically in our day-to-day. However, this type of reflection is much harder if we aren’t mindful. Mindfulness gives us the space and clarity to observe what comes up, free of preconceived notions or judgments. But like anything else, mindfulness is a muscle that must be strengthened for best results. What strengthening your awareness muscle looks like is up to you, and should fit in with your personal needs and lifestyle. Whether it’s 5-minute meditation, dedicated breathwork, or journaling, setting aside time to integrate mindful awareness is instrumental for burnout prevention. It will also be key in helping us build out our wellbeing blueprint below! 

Take Inventory of Your Whole Wellbeing 

Equipped with mindful awareness, getting curious about how we move through all of our life gives us good preventative intel. And who’s a better expert in your life than you?! You are the ultimate owner and driver of your wellbeing, and having a solid baseline for what fuels you will help now and down the road. Throughout this section, we will explore the different areas of our health and wellness, and go through each pillar that makes up our whole-person health. From there we’ll develop a wellbeing blueprint and tools to help analyze each pillar, and specifically where you might be more susceptible to burnout. 

First, create a grid similar to the example below.

Now it’s time to play wellness detective (magnifying glass optional!)

Now list out the things in each of the areas that are adding to or depleting your energy reserves. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, it just needs to be real. The only person who will be reviewing this is you, so give yourself the opportunity to speak your whole truth and nothing but the truth! For example, if your conversation with neighbor Tim usually leaves you feeling meh, you might list “Tim” under the “- energy” column in My Community. If you feel amazing when you take your morning walk every Tuesday, you might put “Tuesday walk” in the “+ energy” column in My Body. Seeing what’s impacting you on a daily basis reflected back gives a more comprehensive view of the many parts that make up our week, month, and year! 

Once you’ve completed this list, it will serve as a mini wellbeing blueprint to continually review and revise when you’re feeling reflective. The best part of the blueprint? It’s both preventative and responsive, meaning it can serve you if you want to avoid getting burned out, or if you’re in the thick of it! 

Practice self-care beyond the bubble bath 

I bet you thought you’d see self-care earlier in this article? Understandable!  The conversation around how to “fix” burnout has to do a lot with self-care practices like a massage, facial, or bubble bath. And hey, those all are fantastic! But if we don’t take the time to truly understand ourselves in steps 1-3, the bubble baths usually become a bandaid. With that in mind, self-care practices are a wonderful thing to incorporate into you’re routine. The key is finding the ones that work for you. While there are research-backed practices that are proven to help with stress management (think exercise, sleep hygiene, and healthy eating), what exactly you do is your call. That might look different than what your friend, coworker, or even partner does! Just because it falls under the healthy habit umbrella doesn’t mean it’s the right healthy habit for you. So take some time and reflect on what self-care and healthy practices bring you the most joy, and then prioritize them! 

Establish boundaries 

With the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, our work, home, and social spaces have melded together. In some instances, the physical boundaries that separated one area of our lives have been torn down. And even though many of us are geographically distanced from one another, we are connected in a way that’s unprecedented. Both personally and professionally, establishing your boundaries for yourself and others protects your energy from being pulled in many different directions. Want to establish boundaries in your day-to-day, but not sure where to start?

Here are some steps you can take: 

  • Identify:  Similar to the wellbeing blueprint, identify what things make you feel the most depleted? What give you the most energy? ( Ex: “I notice I feel depleted when I look at my phone first thing in the morning.”)

  • Structure:  Rethink what your day looks like building around those observations. How can you build around what makes you feel nourished? (Ex: “When I wake up, I’ll set my phone aside for 20 minutes before I start my day.”)

  • Communicate: Let the people with whom you interact the most know your needs, and try not to apologize for them. (Ex: “If you text me before X time, I won’t see it. I’ll make sure to respond the next day.”)

  • Be Patient:  It might take some time to figure out what’s working and what’s not. And your boundaries might take a different shape based on the day (Ex: “I have an important meeting before X time tomorrow, so my boundaries will look a little different.”)

Boundaries should be established internally as well, putting in place safeguards where you might be more susceptible to burnout. Take a look at your wellbeing blueprint in step 2, and see where you might be able to establish some boundaries for yourself. For example, giving yourself a social media limit if you tend to get lost in scrolling throughout the day. Start with smaller more realistic boundaries and see if you can build up. 

Finally, remember to be compassionate with yourself. While the ideal is not to have to play catch-up with burnout, the reality is that things are constantly changing, so it might happen that burnout surprisingly shows up, uninvited! Try your best to take the necessary steps to stay ahead of it, so that if you find burnout approaching, you can more easily kick it out of your space! 

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