In a world where the hustle never takes a coffee break, burnout has become the party crasher of our professional lives. According to the 2021 Work and Well-being Survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 60% of workers reported suffering from adverse mental and physical effects stemming from work-related stress.
By embracing a holistic approach that interweaves physical self-care, mental resilience, and emotional intelligence, we can empower ourselves to navigate the relentless demands of our professional and personal lives with renewed vigor and a balanced perspective.
1. Prioritize Self-Care
Remember, you’re not a robot. Good sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise aren’t just for health magazines — they’re your secret weapons against becoming a workplace zombie. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. The easiest approach is to make small changes and build them up over time.
2. Set Clear Boundaries
Work isn’t a 24/7 all-you-can-eat buffet. Set limits, or you’ll end up mentally absorbing those endless work hours. Switching your brain between work and home life can be hard, so setting clear times for work and play is important.
3. Take Regular Breaks
Think of breaks as mini-vacations for your brain. If you can take a break that involves walking outside and getting some fresh air, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day. While there is varying guidance about the length and timing of breaks, it’s best to do what works for you and your workplace.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness isn’t just for monks. According to Healthline, studies indicate meditation effectively reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels, which diminishes the harmful effects of stress, such as inflammation and cognitive difficulties. It helps improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, promoting better mental well-being and emotional health.
5. Stay Hydrated and Eat Well
While water is a great healthy choice, it’s a myth that you need to drink eight glasses of it a day. Any liquid will keep you hydrated as long as it’s not loaded with fats and sugars.
6. Exercise Regularly
Guess what? You don’t need a gym membership or special clothes just to exercise. Going for a 30-minute walk once a day has so many advantages, and doing it regularly has more benefits than just burning calories. However, if you do prefer the gym, that’s great too.
7. Seek Social Support
A problem shared is a problem halved. Talk about work stress with trusted friends or colleagues. Having a support system can provide relief and new perspectives on stressful situations. You can even do this with online work communities. If you don’t already have one, create a channel where you can invite colleagues for a “water cooler” talk.
8. Delegate Tasks
Delegating isn’t just for bosses. Sometimes, you feel like you’re the only person who can do a particular job. The truth is, there are often people who can take some of the workload. Figure out who they are and redistribute the burden so it’s no longer overwhelming.
9. Rearrange Your Workspace
Turn your workspace into a vibe space. Who says you can’t have a plant army or a shrine to your favorite comic character? Okay, maybe your boss will object if it’s over-the-top, but just taking some time to clean, reorganize, and add a few personal touches will make you feel like you can accomplish anything.
10. Set Realistic Goals
Aim for the stars, but maybe don’t try building the rocket in one day. Have you ever heard the acronym KISS? According to The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, it was used by the Navy in the 1960s as a design principle and stood for Keep It Simple, Stupid. There are more positive versions today, but you get the idea.
11. Learn To Recognize Stress Signals
Your body’s stress signals are like annoying pop-up ads. Recognize them early and close them before they crash your system. If you find yourself snapping at people, struggling to focus, or feeling anxious, it’s time to slow down.
12. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Be the office optimist. If this isn’t naturally who you are, it can be difficult to switch your thinking. You can train yourself to be more optimistic. You can start by being aware when you’re being negative. Remind yourself of the good things in your day, and remember — setbacks are temporary.
13. Use a Gratitude Journal
Journaling helps you maintain that positive attitude you’re creating. You can grab a themed journal from Amazon or just a notebook to jot down the little things you’re grateful for each day. When your brain is in an afternoon fog, try taking a break outside and bring your journal with you. Several studies show that practicing gratitude influences our overall health and paves the way to better relationships.
14. Pursue a Hobby
Hobbies are like personal side quests. Conquer them for fun and the glory of escaping work’s grasp, even if it’s just for a few hours a week. Take some time to research a hobby that might interest you. For some people, painting and drawing are relaxing — for others, it’s gardening — find your own joy. Remember, you don’t have to be amazing at a new hobby. It’s purely just some dedicated “me time.”
15. Limit Overtime
Remember, overtime should be an exception, not the rule. You’re a professional, not a vampire — don’t let work drain the life out of you. We all want to make more money, but striking a balance is important.
16. Use Vacation Days
We all know that person who hasn’t taken a vacation day in years. They’re saving the PTO for some unknown purpose. Vacation days are there for a reason, however. Don’t let them feel abandoned and lonely. You need them to recharge your batteries.
17. Avoid Excessive Caffeine
Your daily coffee contributes to your hydration needs and may give you a bit of a pick-me-up. For many of us, it’s a ritual that signals the start of the work day. Coffee is great, but remember, too much, and you might start vibrating into another dimension. Try some of the other things on this list instead of reaching for another cup of joe.
18. Practice Time Management
Organize your time like it’s a game of Tetris. Fit everything in neatly and don’t let the blocks pile up to the top. This is easier said than done, but there are tools out there to help you. Try a platform like Monday or take one of the many inexpensive courses on Udemy to help you achieve your time management goals.
19. Find Meaning in Your Work
Many of us desire the sense that our roles have an impact on others and that we are contributing positively to the broader world. The reality is that many people are in roles that are repetitive and filled with a multitude of stresses. Karen Dillon, who co-wrote How Will You Measure Your Life? suggests reflecting on how your abilities, talents, and enthusiasm can assist your organization in tackling the challenges posed by the current situation. Aim to adapt your role to align with your expertise and driving forces.
20. Learn New Skills
Learning keeps your brain spicy. Add new skills to your career like they’re hot sauce. Remember, it doesn’t have to be related to your work. Maybe you have always wanted to learn a new language, or perhaps something like radio interests you. There are volunteer organizations that would love your help, and you can learn new skills at the same time.
21. Adjust Your Work Hours
Don’t force the early bird routine if you’re not a morning person. This may require some negotiation with your current workplace. While it’s not always possible to adjust your work hours, it will benefit you in the long run if you can do it to suit your internal clock.
22. Listen to Music
Merriam Saunders, psychotherapist and professor at Dominican University, described how music influences the brain: music creates dopamine, activating the prefrontal cortex responsible for planning, organizing, and attention. However, it depends on your taste in music — so if you can put in those earbuds, enjoy your own personal work concert.
23. Implement “Tech-Free” Times
In this digital age, constant connectivity can significantly contribute to burnout. Set specific times during your day or week when you disconnect from all work-related technology. This means no emails, work calls, or checking professional messages. Use this time to engage in relaxing or joyful activities, allowing your mind a complete break from work-related stressors.
24. Cultivate a Mindful Commute
Transform your daily commute into a rejuvenating experience. Instead of viewing this time as a stressful or lost part of your day, use it for mindful activities like listening to calming music, audiobooks, and podcasts that interest you. If you’re not driving, you can even practice breathing exercises. This approach can help you mentally prepare for the day ahead or unwind from a busy workday.
25. Seek Professional Help if Needed
Sometimes, a pro is what you need. It’s like calling tech support for your brain. Often, burnout can stem from deeper, underlying issues that aren’t immediately apparent or easy to manage alone, such as chronic stress, anxiety, or even depression. A mental health professional, like a therapist or counselor, can provide valuable insights and strategies tailored to your specific situation. They offer a safe, confidential space to explore and understand the root causes of your issues. With their guidance, you can develop effective coping mechanisms, learn stress management techniques, and gain perspective on your work-life balance.