Wednesday, May 09, 2020

Twelve ways to prevent burnout

Twelve simple, proven ways to avoid burnout and step back from the stress in your working life. No one has to suffer workplace stress. There’s always a way out, even if you’ve tried to convince yourself that there isn’t. You may not like it, but it’s there. Don’t let macho pride, foolish ambition, or misplaced guilt feelings ruin your life. The real proof of a winner is knowing when to walk away.

  1. Stop pretending that you can cope with anything. Why does burnout strike high achievers more than others? Because they’re the most prone to macho beliefs that they can handle whatever is thrown at them. Everyone has limits. Find out what yours are and stay on the right side of them.

  2. Take time out to reassess your values and aspirations. What really matters most to you? Forget what others say ought to matter; or what you’ve been told by others. Times change. People change—including you. Some things you used to find compelling probably aren’t so interesting any more. The better you can focus on what is truly essential and means most to you, the easier it will be to let go of the rest—saving yourself enormous amounts of time and energy you can invest elsewhere. Our lives are like the hulls of ships. As the years pass, they collect a heavy load of ”barnacles”—obligations and habitual actions that don’t matter any more—that cling and cause drag unless we take action to get rid of them.

  3. Slow down and pace yourself. One of the earliest effects of stress is an unconscious speeding up. The more anxious you become, the more you will try to rush everything. Stressed people drive too fast, talk too fast, definitely eat too fast, and rarely give themselves a moment’s genuine relaxation. The human body isn’t designed to run flat out all the time. Piling on the hours and tearing through jobs in record time will just increase mistakes and make you still more stressed.

  4. Stop being a control freak. You can’t do everything yourself. You aren’t a superhero with magical powers. Get real! We have little or no control over the greater part of our lives. You can’t control what happens in the world. You can’t control your customers or the market. You can’t control your boss. You can’t control your staff. You can’t even control yourself, or you wouldn’t be in the mess you’re in! The more you try to control the uncontrollable, the more energy you waste and the greater your build-up of frustration and stress.

  5. Turn down the contrast. Highly-stressed people live high-contrast lives. They’re either going at it flat out, or crashed out somewhere in a state of exhaustion. It’s all or nothing. No wonder they burn out. Step the intensity of your life down a few notches. Those who work hard don’t have to play hard too. Sometimes the best place to be is somewhere in the middle.

  6. Make time to spend with others. It’s so tempting to cut back on purely family or social activities as a way of finding time in the day for all the extra work. Or to be present for other people only physically, while your mind is back at the office, struggling with those problems you know will be waiting when you get back. Isolation is a sure route to burnout. With nothing to give you perspective, you’ll quickly lose sight of reality. Not only do your loved ones and friends need you—fully present and paying attention to them, not you—you really, really need them to help keep you sane and switch your mind off work for significant periods.

  7. Practice saying “no” more often. Willing horses get the biggest loads. There are times when saying “no” is the only sensible thing to do. Sure, it can be scary. Other people don’t like it and may try to pressure you into taking on more so they can take on less. Resist. Why be the sacrificial lamb to let them have time to relax? Besides, if you overload yourself they’ll be even madder when things slip through the cracks and you mess up. Then where will you be?

  8. Stop carrying others’ burdens. We all like to be the nice guy who helps other people. But who’s helping you? There are people around who will happily play helpless and wait for you to pick up the problems and workload they can’t be bothered to carry. You are responsible for your own life. Let them be responsible for theirs. Be firm about the difference between offering short-term help in a crisis and adding their burdens to yours on a regular basis.

  9. Detach, delegate, decline. There’s no need to take everything personally. Recognize that most people don’t think about you even once in 24 hours. Greater detachment bring more calmness. There’s no need to do everything yourself to get it done properly. That’s what subordinates are for: to take the load off the boss and learn how to do things well. They want you to delegate. There’s no need to accept every invitation to join a team, a meeting, or a committee. People will talk behind your back even if you’re present. Let them do it in comfort. Decline unnecessary invitations gracefully, but firmly.

  10. Quit worrying. What is the greatest single source of your anxieties? Your own imagination. Just because you can imagine it doesn’t make it likely. The fact that you are worrying about it won’t stop it happening. Save the worrying for the (very, very few) times it may do some good. For the rest, tell that inner demon to get lost while you do something important, like relaxing or chatting with friends. Worries are like stray dogs. If you stop feeding them, they’ll go find someone else to pester.

  11. Keep a sense of humor. Your worries and fears are really funny, if you look at them from the outside. What’s the worst that could happen to you? You could die, but that would end all your worries for good. You could be fired, but if the job is driving you nuts that’s a benefit. Take a look around you. Who are the grimmest people you can see? The control-freaks, the over-achievers, the worry-warts, the pocket dictators. Who are the funniest to watch making idiots of themselves? The same list.

  12. Walk away. Just do it. If all else fails, don’t stay in a job that’s going to wreck your relationships, warp your mind, undermine your health, and leave you burned-out and wrecked. No amount of money is worth it. Think about it. Every case of burnout happens to a volunteer. Every one had multiple opportunities to walk away. Your best friends in coping with stress may be your feet.

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