Robyn Townsend

How to Avoid Burnout At Work

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We've all experienced stress at work. But how do you recognise when you are on the path to burnout?
And how can you prevent it?
During the pandemic, everyone has been under different pressures.
In my circle of friends and family people have been struggling to get by on furlough wages. Many have been dreading about the future. And some have lost their jobs completely.
Most of my friends who are working from home agree that work/life balance has gone completely out of the window.
I managed a socially distance walk with a friend in a corporate job recently. We both admitted that whilst at home we are working at least an extra 10-15 hours a week, sometimes more. And that is not sustainable in the long term.
While many people may be doing very well working from home. Now is the time to step back and evaluate if what we are doing is working and check in with our stress management skills.

What is Burnout

  • "A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward." – Herbert J. Freudenberger.
Burnout is described as a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion that occurs after long periods of stress and overwork.
This was defined by Herbert J. Freudenberger, in his book Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.
Stress at work and burnout are different. However if not managed properly stress at work can lead to more serious issues.
This is not exclusive to work environments and can affect people in relationships, care roles or parenting.
However, burnout is very common in the design and start-up industries. If you haven't been through it already you will know someone has.

Some signs of burnout:

  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Irritability.
  • Frequently falling ill.
  • Headaches, stomach aches, muscle pain.
  • Withdrawing into isolation
  • Reduced performance
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dreading going to work
  • Feeling like you don't make an impact in your team
  • Loss of motivation
You can experience some of these symptoms and not have an issue. Nonetheless, these symptoms are warning signs that you may be heading for trouble.

So what can you do about it?

  • Take time out
It is important to take regular breaks. Especially when working from home it is easy to spend all day at your desk. Without even a commute to break the day up you can go hours without a break if you're not careful. Build-in small desk breaks across the day to step back and stretch your legs. Go for a walk or do a different activity for a few minutes. This will not only break the day up but will help you to focus on the tasks you have to do when you get back.
Additionally, reflect on how long it has been since you took a holiday. During the pandemic, large numbers of people have cancelled all annual leave. While there aren't many places you can go, working for months without any time off can only compound stressors.

Exercise regularly

Everyone says it but it is completely true. Exercise reduces the body's stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also produces endorphins that boost your mood. You don't need to be a runner or spend hours in the gym, building in regular walks can have the same impact.
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Get enough Sleep

It's obvious but not getting enough sleep is only going make you feel worse. Our bodies need to reset and reset and so setting a good sleep routine is crucial.
If like me your staying up too late because your friends just started a new Minecraft server. Try to set a bedtime and stick to it.
However, if you are struggling to get to sleep. Or waking up during the night. Then you can find some helpful resources on the NHS page for insomnia. I struggled with early waking insomnia during University and the things that help me most were
  • Keep a regular bedtime/wake time.
  • No caffeine after 6 pm.
  • Keep the bedroom for sleeping only, no working on your laptop or playing games.
  • Get to the root of the problems

Time for a career change?

Sometimes a walk or a week away from the office are not going to solve anything. The things that stressed you out before you went away will just be waiting for you when you get back. Take some time to understand why your feeling the way you do and take some action. You might need to spend less time with certain colleagues. Or have a conversation with your boss about what’s going on. Approaching leadership about problems in the workplace can seem daunting. But a good manager will always be happy that you spoke out.
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Look for a coach or mentor

Consider getting a coach or a mentor. This can be someone internal or outside your business.
Having a mentor to talk to can be helpful when trying to navigate difficult situations. And a mentor can help you identify when its time for a career change as well as being someone to confide in.

Ask for help.

Finally, if you are struggling then reach out. No one needs to suffer alone.