As a society, we’ve been talking a lot about self-care and that’s awesome! However, I would like to enhance our conversations by recognizing and mentioning burnout. When you’re burned out, it’s already too late. Burnout occurs when we have given all that we can give, yet, there is still more to do (Degges-White, 2019). You’ll feel mentally, physically, and emotionally overwhelmed, leading to a reduction in productivity as well as some possible anxiety and depression. Nonetheless, there are ways we can avoid burnout and maintain a healthy career and work/life balance.
- MAKE A SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT. Seriously, schedule your day. Schedule your start time, stop time, include breaks and a meal time and no matter what, stick to it. As an Executive, Entrepreneur & Mom, I know this is tough. An important call will come in 5 minutes before your schedule break time and you’ll take it, just trying to fit it in, it will then inevitably run into your break time and then there is no break or you’ll be driven to work until the project or assignment is completed and again, no break. Or, instead of taking your break, you will try to slide scheduling a Dr.’s appointment or a home service appointment into your break and once again no break. This is not healthy, not healthy at all. Make a schedule, be disciplined and regimented and stick to it.
- POSITIVE SELF TALK. I’m probably THE hardest working woman in Showbiz. Ok, maybe not, Beyoncé works harder than me. However, I know what it feels like to throw your all into a project, presentation, creative endeavor, and really want to impress and do well. Which is awesome! You’re smart, you’re incredible, you’re creative! But, are you telling yourself these things?! Avoid burnout and keep loving what you do by reminding yourself how good you are! You’re skilled, ambitious, and all-around amazing. Be kind to yourself.
- BE REALISTIC. No, not realistic as in dream killing realistic…nope, that’s not what I mean at all! Know where you are going and set measurable and obtainable goals to get there! You can’t fly to the moon and back in a day, so setting a goal to do so would be unrealistic. However, you can fly to the moon, by becoming an astronaut and taking the appropriate steps to do so. When we take measurable, realistic steps to achieving our goals we place less pressure on ourselves and have less worry, stress and anxiety while getting to where we want to go. Rushing may burn us out, before we even get there.
- ACCEPT HELP. Accept it! I know, I know, this is a tough one. There’s those of us who are masters at delegating and then there’s those of us, who are, welp, me! There’s no need to do everything yourself. Part of knowing that it’s ok to accept help is knowing that you have a loyal, competent, trustworthy team that will get the job done. And why wouldn’t they? They’re your team! There’s a little trick that goes a long way for accepting help and delegating. The trick is called trust through verification and validation. Trust that your team will manage their assignments, however, don’t forget to check in every once in a while to see how things are going and assure they are being done.
- SPEAK UP. Guilty! Yes, I’m completely guilty of taking on extra assignments, knowing that I would have to borrow time from sleep or leisure to get them done. Guilty of saying yes, but in my head screaming, there’s no way, no way I can get that done in that time frame. Avoid burnout by speaking up and letting people know exactly what you can and can’t do and when you can have it done by (reasonably). I know it can be scary to assert professional boundaries at times, but, I’ve learned that letting someone know what you are capable of actually earns their respect, resolves potential issues around timeliness and communication and relieves you of unwanted and yucky anxiety (for assertive communication training visit TheSocialConsult.Org).
- REST – No, sleep is not for the weak. Sleep is for those who care about their well-being. Yes, I can see you staying up late a night or two in order to finish a project, an assignment or to catch up on work. But, you should absolutely not be doing this for a prolonged length of time. If you’re looking for a route to burnout, not resting would be the quickest way there. Don’t sacrifice sleep for getting things done. Not getting enough sleep can lead to hair loss, weight gain, anxiety and depression. Additionally, the quality of sleep matters. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has a helpful list of the benefits of sleep, find them here:
- BE YOU – What does being you have to do with avoiding burn out? Well, it takes a whole lot of energy to try to be someone else, doesn’t it? Unless you’re an actor or actress, it’s ok to be you. Now, this doesn’t mean going completely against rules and policies your organization may have set in order to sustain the organization’s culture, but it does mean not to forget that every individual in the room is unique in one way or another, so be uniquely you. For instance, if you are vibrant and energetic, why not dress your professional business attire with a pop of color under your jacket, plan a themed potluck if you’re a social butterfly or jazz your office up with a few inspirational quotes if you’re a motivator? These little reminders of who you are will make you more comfortable in your environment and keep things a little more interesting.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF. Think back through your career, did you ever experience a learning curve? Did you ever make any mistakes? Did you ever have a failed endeavor or make an error that affected other people? Did your boss ever need to “talk”? Ever have to take ownership over something or issue an apology? How did you become great at what you do? Of course, you’ve had your fair share of failures, apologies to offer, and times where you had to go back to the drawing board. Yet, you’ve never given up and you have stayed the course, which is never an easy path to follow. Experience is one of the greatest teachers. One of the characteristics required to be a great leader is taking ownership and as long as you’ve done that, you should be proud. Avoid burnout by accepting your errors, owning, learning, and growing from them and being kind to yourself! Rumination on the negative part of the experience is a sure-fire route to burn out!
- GO OUT – Don’t get stuck in the work to home rat race. In other words, don’t go from work to home from home to work from work to home, every, single, day of your life. You should have a routine, yes. But, every day shouldn’t look like groundhogs day. Take a vacation (and do not cancel it), go sightseeing, go to the park and people watch, go to the mall, go out dancing, whatever you do, go out! I remember having conversations with my nanny that went something like this, “Go out this weekend.” “I can’t I have minutes that are due.” “Go out and have a date night.” “I can’t, I have a major presentation on Monday”. “Go out and take a break.” “I can’t our VP is coming to town.” These excuses went on for well over a year. When I had downtime, what did I do?! I slept. I’ve said this before. Don’t be me. Don’t close yourself in and shut yourself off to the world. There’s fun times out there and nature, birds chirping, bees buzzing, butterflies flying, children playing, families laughing, couples holding hands and so much more! Avoid burnout by going out.
- SELF CARE – And finally, the 10th tip for avoiding burnout (but not the least), is self-care. Ahhh, the ever so popular, “self-care”. What is it exactly? Welp, I thought about pulling quotes from scholars and throwing in a few blogs, etc. in order to define self-care in the most pivotal way possible. That’s until I heard a group of students complaining about Professors shoving the concept of self-care down their throats. One student protesting, “well if they want us to practice self-care so much, why don’t they give us less work.” That was an Ah-ha moment for me. I considered the student’s complaints, did some research into the concern, and came across a Harvard Review article covering the topic (Lieberman, 2018). I concur. Self-care is not an extra task or thing to check off your to-do list. It’s not a schedule item. It’s not one more thing to add to your ever-growing plate. It’s really, really, and try to conceptualize this with me for a moment, it’s really just, SELF-Care a.k.a, caring about yourself above and beyond all else. You know what you need to feel balanced and whole. Your mind and body are completely equipped with alerting you to when you are taking on too much, when you need to rest, when you need to eat when you need to relax and all your other self-care needs. The most important thing is for you to be mindful and take heed to these needs as they arise. Avoid burn-out with SelfCare.
Degges-White, S. (2019, October 23). 3 Signs of Burnout and 15 Ways to Reduce It. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201910/3-signs-burnout-and-15-ways-reduce-it
Lieberman, C. (2018). How Self Care Became so Much Work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved May 12, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2018/08/how-self-care-became-so-much-work
BY- Niama Malachi