Burnout is more than just being tired. So, what can we do about it?
By Mia B. Russell, PhD, lecturer in the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University, is the co-author of the newly released book, “Fired Up! A Guide to Transforming Your Team from Burnout to Engagement.”
In today’s fast-paced and demanding work environment, burnout is quite common. Perhaps more importantly - no one is immune. More than simply feeling tired or stressed, burnout looks a lot more like being detached and weighed down by excessive job pressure, stumbling through exhaustion, and walking under a cloud of self-doubt about job performance and overall work success. You certainly know it when you see it. Employees becoming emotionally and cognitively distanced, being not only tired but chronically fatigued, and simply callous or uncaring. So clearly, burnout is more than “being tired” but perhaps the important question is: what can we do about it?
If you are experiencing burnout, consider engaging in self-care, finding ways to better balance your responsibilities, and creating boundaries. Taken together, these strategies can help you recover and reduce the demands of work and life.
Self-care boosts your personal resources and through the buffering effect, by extension, helps reduce the demands of life. Gaining better balance, between home and work for example, can help you better divide your time and focus. And, creating boundaries allows you to manage and negotiate expectations. While each of our experiences are unique, the following recovery activities are useful for many employees:
- Practice mindfulness. Be present where you are. It will be okay. Take a moment to center yourself. In the words of Gail Lynne Goodwin, if you can’t change the situation, you can change the way you think about it.
- Set boundaries. Respect yourself, your dreams, and desires. As a form of self-compassion, say no and be okay with it.
- Talk and visit with friends and others in your real-life social network. We are social beings, and we need one another.
- Volunteer. Find an opportunity to contribute your time or your talents. Consider special skills that you can offer to a local nonprofit or community organization.
- Share yourself. Be kind to others. Find ways to share acts of kindness. It doesn't have to be a big
deal - anything that you can do to help others creates a win-win scenario in which you benefit.
- Dance. Dance. Dance. Like no one is watching and no one cares. Shake it all off.
- Exercise. Take a walk, hop on your bike, play hopscotch, roller skate or roller blade. It doesn't matter what it is, just do it.
- Try a new hobby. What’s your fancy? Try, try, and try again.
- Practice breathing. Deep breathing can calm you and can quiet your mind.
- Rest. Take a nap or simply rest your eyes and mind. Even five minutes helps.
- Take a spa day. Soak in a quiet bubble bath at home, get a manicure, pedicure, or facial. Or schedule an appointment with a massage therapist.
- Listen – or play – music. Music can bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes. Pick up your
spirits and feed your soul with music.
- Prepare and/or eat a nice meal. Let it nourish you and please your palette. Pay attention to color and variety on your plate before you begin eating.
- Be thankful. Start a gratitude journal and stay focused on that which is good in your life.
- Write your “done” list. You are surely used to creating a to-do list, but let’s reframe this idea. Celebrate what you have done – whatever it is and no matter how big or small it may be.
Changes take time but rest assured, taking small steps today will yield big benefits tomorrow. Congratulations on taking the first step to build a more healthy, happy, and hopeful future! Learn more about these ideas and explore Mia's book here.