3 Ways to Overcome Burnout and Get Back on a Successful Path
If you're a high performer, perhaps the biggest productivity threat you face isn’t the randomly urgent matter that pops up overnight. It’s actually something of a stealthier nature and it can impact your physical, mental and emotional health as well as the wellbeing of your work life. It’s called burnout.
You’ve probably heard the term burnout before. A lot of people equate it with being stressed out. While sustained periods of stress can lead to burnout, both show up in vastly different ways:
- Stressed out = Too much energy, often accompanied by a level of anxiety
- Burnt out = Low energy, lethargy, and in some cases, depression
Burnout has the potential to impact anyone, whether you’re an executive, entrepreneur, or team member – and the odds of it happening to you increase exponentially if you’re in a high-performing, results-driven role.
Because burnout can sneak up quickly, recognizing the warning signs can help you adjust before you find yourself in a productivity free-fall.
Signs of burnout include:
- Feeling dissatisfaction/disillusionment with your work
- Feeling helpless or having a negative perspective when you think about the possibility of succeeding in your work
- Struggling to concentrate on projects/loss of focus and feeling unmotivated
- Feeling overwhelmed and uncertain
Burnout also impacts you physically with symptoms like muscle tension, digestive challenges, and loss of sleep. If the pattern continues long enough, there’s a good chance your immune system will suffer as well.
If the signs of burnout have been slowly creeping up on you, it’s time to reclaim your peace and productivity. The following steps can help you get started:
Build Awareness: Awareness is the starting point of change. Before you can correct burnout, you must first locate the source of what’s draining you. Here’s a two-step investigation process for locating the root cause, as well as the impact of burnout:
- Look for patterns: I advise my clients to keep a 3-day running list of (1) the tasks and interactions that energize them and (2) the tasks and interactions that drain them. This is something you can easily do as well. At the end of the 3-day period, review your list. Where do you notice a pattern? What things come up over and over that drain you and what consistently energizes you? Are there specific times of the day that you are more drained or energized than other times?
- Go deeper: Make time for journaling about the patterns you observe. How can you bring more of what energizes you to your day? Where can you cut back or eliminate things that drain you? What is the one thing you can change right now that will improve the situation? What are your emotional and physical responses to the events the energize you, as well as those that drain you?
Cultivate a mindfulness practice: If you’re on the verge of burnout, you may think that making time for mindfulness is one of the last things you need, but this one can be a game-changer.
Carve out 15 minutes at the beginning of your day – before you jump into all those high-demand tasks – to sit in silence. If sitting is difficult, step outdoors and try walking meditation. Be present with the world around you as you walk through your neighborhood without music, podcasts, or your phone to distract from simply being present.
The scientifically-proven psychological and physiological benefits that come from a daily mindfulness practice are many, including lower blood pressure, better quality of sleep, lowered anxiety – and a reduced chance of experiencing burnout.
Take time off: It may sound counterintuitive but turning away from the mad rush can turn around a burnout situation.
When we experience burnout, a drop in productivity is a natural result. Our response to this drop is to work harder and push further to compensate, leading to more burnout and even less productivity.
If you’re caught up in the burnout spiral, step back from the madness for a few days. If you can manage it, walk away for a week or two – and I mean totally walk away. No email, no texting, no work. Delegate critical projects and tasks, set up an out of office auto reply and focus on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Use the time to get comfortable with delegation and releasing control.
Dig deep into discovering what you really want and what you need to support your success moving forward in a way that doesn’t leave you stressed and burnt out.
Wrapping Up: Burnout is real and it won’t only hurt your productivity, it can literally make you sick. Recognize the signs of burnout and start taking back your life before it derails your success. The three steps above offer you a solid place to start your revitalization journey.
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