9 Ways to Battle Burnout
I remember my first day at a new school. Another kid walked up to me, noticed I was a bit nervous, and tried to comfort me. “You’re going to like it here,” he said. “There’s a two-day holiday at the end of every week.”
That line has always made me chuckle. But now his attitude seems to have come full circle, in an era where more and more of us are working on the weekends. Maybe having a two-day holiday at the end of every week isn’t such a fact of life after all.
It might all look good on a phone screen, but filling our lives to the brim with endless activities can wage war with our stress levels (not to mention our finances), and if you ask me, we could do with a “Marie Kondo of timekeeping” to help us declutter our diaries.
It’s not just work that’s taking up our time these days. We are becoming busier in our social time too, working overtime as unpaid social media interns to create content for platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It might all look good on a phone screen, but filling our lives to the brim with endless activities can wage war with our stress levels (not to mention our finances), and if you ask me, we could do with a “Marie Kondo of timekeeping” to help us declutter our diaries.
First up, let’s stop idolising people for being busy. The image of celebrity workaholics like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey hasn’t helped things. Much like with famous film directors, sports stars and entrepreneurs, these guys’ success is seen as a kind of genius that definitely does not clock off at 6pm sharp. These ideas can be found throughout the working world. One advertising agency apparently judges potential candidates on how quickly they walk into the interview, because fast walking shows you’re busy, and therefore, oh so talented and important.
Work is the most common cause of stress in the UK, experienced by 59% of people, with 21% of Britons going through moderate to high levels of work-related stress several times every week.
It’s not just those at the top who are cracking the whip; we’re doing it to ourselves. Overwork has become a meme, with the aspirational #hustle and #riseandgrind hashtags on Instagram attracting millions of gym-toned physiques and bright eyed and bushy tailed office staff, all slathered in the sugary language of inspirational quotes (“In order to start ‘ballin’, you have to b-all-in”). Meanwhile – as the New York Times reported – new-age office spaces like WeWork have slogans like “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you’re done” carved into the complimentary cucumbers that float in their drinking water.
Here’s the reality. Work is the most common cause of stress in the UK, experienced by 59% of people, with 21% of Britons going through moderate to high levels of work-related stress several times every week. This isn’t left behind in the 9-5, with 40% of Brits now carrying those tense work vibes around with them, checking work email five times a day outside of office hours. (Basically, we could all do with a shoulder massage.)
One study of 2,000 people showed more than half of UK workers are working beyond their contracted hours every day, and more than 20% of those people felt it was negatively impacting their health and relationships.
We’ve come to accept this as normal, because jobs are insecure and hard to come by, and if we don’t show ourselves to be keen, we worry there’ll be someone else willing step up and take our place. We even rationalise that as positive in our our own minds by making busy-ness a status symbol.
What we can do about it?
But while some aspects of that are outside of our control, what we can do is stop glorifying stress, say down with being busy and work towards moving beyond some of the more toxic elements of this – let’s face it, pretty crap – situation. Here are some suggestions to help.
Raise the issue of wellbeing with your employer
If possible, raise it with your boss and/or HR department. Healthy and happy employees are more productive, so it’s in their interests to listen, and if they’re stuck for ideas, point them in the direction of Your Wellness Hub for some inspiration.
Use time more constructively
We might always be busy, but that doesn’t mean our time is being used productively. Where possible, cut out pointless meetings at work that act as a sap on your time, and siphon off email time to dedicated bursts rather than a constant drip-feed throughout the day.
Guided meditation and mindfulness techniques like those on the Headspace or Just Breathe platforms will help you steal away some moments of the day to be present, and this sense of perspective may even begin to gradually influence you throughout the day, too. Rather than constantly fretting about the past and future, paying proper attention to the present moment is a game-changer.
Take proper breaks
Work in focused bursts followed by a short break away from your desk. Reclaim a proper break at lunch, too, if you can: rather than reading an article on the internet or trying to ‘look busy’, go for a walk and have a breather.
Prioritise your time
Stop drawing up endless to-do list that lumps in ‘buy dishwasher tablets’ with ‘prepare for client presentation at 9am tomorrow’. Set aside 15 minutes of your day to properly order your daily tasks. Draw a grid with four squares going clockwise, and place your tasks in the appropriate boxes:
- Important and urgent
- Important and not urgent
- Not important and urgent
- Not important and not urgent
Learn to say “no”
You don’t have to live on other people’s agendas all the time. It’s perfectly legitimate to say no. Having a clear and confident idea of how you manage your time is something people respect. If you’ve already over-committed and it’s stressing you out, don’t be so afraid to cancel your plans either. We all worry about being labelled a flake, but self-care is a necessary part of life.
Don’t use alcohol as a stimulant
It’s not a stimulant, it’s a depressant. If you are flagging, try not to rely on alcohol to bring your energy levels and vibes back up. Listen to your body – you probably need sleep more than you need a pint right now.
Leave the ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset at the gym
It’s good to be inspired to work hard and excel, but don’t let the mindset of constantly driving yourself harder and harder act as a convenient cover for feeling burned out. An 8am spin class can be good for your health. Yet another 8pm client meeting? Probably isn’t.
Treat yourself once in a while
Basically, be kind to yourself. Have a nice hair cut in one of the good barbers where everything’s made of mahogany and they heat the towels. If that costs more cash than you have to spare right now, just get some decent candles burning, some nice smells going round, and take a bubble bath. You deserve it, friend.