Welcome to the second part of our series on burnout. Our first article was all about early warning signs. We covered the difference between burnout and stress, and the symptoms, factors, and questions to ask to determine if you or your team is on the way to burning out. Acknowledging the signs is an important first step, but it’s nothing without action.
Today, we’re looking at actions to take and habits to adopt to help prevent burnout. We’ve put together seven tips from our most popular articles and interviews with resilience experts and business leaders.
Let’s jump in.
1. Embrace your stress
It’s the lack of control that makes most of us anxious. So, instead of getting stressed about things you can’t control, focus your energy on what you can control. If you’re struggling to take action on your stress, try these three steps:
Step 1: Acknowledge your stress
Acknowledge your stress to begin shifting your mindset from a fearful, defensive place to one of thought, purpose and action.
Step 2: Own your stress
Connect your values and goals with your underlying stress by completing the following sentence: “I’m stressed about [insert stressor from Step 1] because I deeply care about…”
Step 3: Use your stress
Focus on how you react to stressors and channel your energy into positive, happier outcomes. Is your reaction in line with the values and goals behind that stress? Is your reaction helping or hindering?
Taking action on your stress can really help to improve your disposition in challenging times, reducing your risk of burnout.
2. Build Resilience
Resilience protects us from the negative effects of stress. It involves bouncing back from difficult experiences, and often leads to profound personal growth (take 2020, for example).
Some are born more resilient than others, but the good news is, resilience can be learned. Matt Hughes, Founder and Lead Resilience Coach at ripen Psychology, offers the following tips for building resilience when stress is high.
1. Plan how you start your day
“The minute we open our work emails, we’re on somebody else’s schedule. Our time is being poured into what others need or want. So, how you or your team spend the first hour of the day, or work day, especially when working at home or remotely, can really set the day up for success.”
2. Avoid burnout by managing stress levels
“Help yourself and your team pay attention to when they start feeling distracted or unfocused, and schedule as little as 10-15 minutes of deliberate downtime every two hours. That can mean a walk around the block, a quick run, jump on the indoor bike, or sit on the couch with a good book.”
3. Pay attention to your mindset
“We can’t easily stop our thoughts, but we can choose which ones we give energy and focus to. We can choose to be in a resourceful frame of mind: ‘I can.’ ‘Let’s try.’ ‘Life is what I make it.’ Or, we can choose to be in an un-resourceful frame of mind: ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Life’s so unfair.’
4. Dedicate time to building trusted relationships
“Having a good support network during tough times is an essential resilience buffer for bouncing back from any adversity, change or setback.”
People who exercise regularly are generally happier and healthier. And you don’t even need to hit it hard to benefit. Research shows that people who work out once a week or for as little as 10 min a day tend to be happier than those that don’t exercise.
Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, drastically affecting your mood, outlook, and ability to recover from setbacks. But all too often, the challenge isn’t just getting started, it’s sticking with it.
Author of “Atomic Habits”, James Clear, recommends these three simple ways to make exercise a regular habit:
1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier
Put on your walking gear immediately after you close your computer at the end of the day.
2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small
Make it so easy you can’t say no - like a 10 min walk around the block.
3. Focus on the habit first and the results later
The first goal is to make the habit stick, then start to set specific physical goals.
4. Eat a balanced diet
Fatty or sugary food may help you deal with stress in the moment, but you’ll probably feel worse in the long run. A healthy, balanced diet can help with mood regulation and energy balance, improving how your mind and body react to stress. This means better decision-making. Sorry, folks, this includes reducing your caffeine intake…
Diet can also help with sleep. Healthy sleep foods include almonds, warm milk, kiwi fruit, chamomile tea, walnuts, fish, and lettuce. Stay hydrated and be sure to finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime, and avoid spicy food before bed.
5. Practice good sleep habits
You’re not doing anyone any favours by operating without sleep. Particularly yourself. Good sleep habits can help you better process information, make effective decisions, and regulate your emotions.
As essential as sleep is for recharging you emotionally, it can’t be forced. The key is to create the right conditions and adopt habits to help you be calm and relaxed when sleep time is near.
Try these tips:
Don’t work in bed
Eat a healthy diet
Avoid screen time before bed
Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t
Try relaxation techniques like meditation
“You need to be on top of your nutrition, your sleep and your exercise. If you get those right you’ll have the mental and physical health to keep up the pace of delivery.”
- Alicia Aitken, Head of Investment Management and Delivery at ANZ.
6. Express gratitude - often
Research shows that grateful people are happier, healthier, and enjoy a better quality of life. Write three things you’re grateful for each day in a journal, or have everyone share what they’re grateful for around the dinner table to encourage gratitude in your household.
When it comes to work, thanking your colleagues goes a long way to making them feel valued and creating a culture of gratitude in your team. This helps lift everyone together - including yourself.
7. Ask for help
Over half of Australians suffering from stress fail to reach out for help - many of them at risk of burnout. You don’t need to suffer in silence.
If you’re struggling with stress, or don’t feel quite yourself, reach out to a friend, family, or professional. Help is available.
Ensuring your mind and body are healthy, and building a support network around you can be the difference between bouncing back and burning out. Plus, prevention is easier than a cure. So don’t wait for the warning signs of burnout to come creeping at your door, get started on these tips and share them with your team today.
Don’t forget to check out the first part in our Burnout Series, How to spot burnout in yourself and your team.
Need a hand? We can help.
When workplace stress is reduced, burnout can be prevented, and your people are happier, healthier, more productive, and more likely to stick around.
Got any questions? Shoot us an email, or book a demo