The thing about burnout is that it doesn’t just creep up over night and hit you out of the blue. It comes in quietly, like a thief in the night, slowly stealing little bits of your joy and energy.
Burnout doesn’t always look the same. It doesn’t always land you in hospital and it won’t always crop up in the same way. But the triggers are often the same. And knowing your triggers will go a long way towards helping you prevent burnout.
The triggers can be stressful or increased workload, lack of sleep, setbacks, loss or lack of support, illness: and the signs can include exhaustion, lack of motivation or concentration and declining health. There are many more and only you know what “not normal” looks like for you and those you love.
I don’t think there’s any one way to prevent or cure burnout because everybody is different. Some people may require the help of a professional. Others just need to slow down.
In the past, when I’ve found myself approaching burnout bridge, these are the steps I’ve taken to avoid crossing it.
1. Stop and assess
Seriously, just stop. What is stressing you? What causes anxiety, exhaustion, frustration? If you can pinpoint the exact cause, it’s time to:
2. Take something out
Insofar as it is possible, remove that “thing” entirely from your radar. If it’s a role or task you’ve taken on, just stop doing it. Just say no.
If you can’t pinpoint the exact cause of what is steering you to burnout, it may simply be a culmination of everything.
In this case:
Learning to delegate well is a skill for life. What is one that has to be done but that you can delegate to someone else RIGHT NOW?
4. Lower your expectations
Stop beating yourself up over what you used to be able to achieve in a day. You are allowed to set your own standards about what constitutes success.
5. Eat well
Take the time to prepare good food. I know when you’re busy it can be hard to make yourself cook a good meal, but it’s absolutely crucial for avoiding further decline in your health. Buy good food and eat it. Drink lots of water.
6. Schedule downtime
EVERY. DAY. Schedule downtime for as long as you can (but at least 10 minutes) every single day. Whether you go for a walk, sit in the sun with a cuppa or sleep, make an appointment with downtime and keep that appointment.
Also keep one day a week as a downtime day. Do something different on this day than you would do on any other day during the week.
But if crazy work shifts prevent your Sunday from being the downtime day, just pick any other day. It doesn’t matter which, and it doesn’t matter if that day has to change each week due to work schedules. As long as you keep one day on which you rest. Don’t schedule in anything but restful activity on this day.
You might like to use this day to volunteer, play a sport, hike, sleep, start a hobby or bring a hobby back from the dead.
Burnout can take on many forms and it can hit different people in different ways, so it’s important to notice your triggers and take the time to address them before you turn around and find you’ve crossed the bridge.
Do you know a parent or small business owner who is approaching burnout bridge? What can you do to support them so that they don’t cross it?