Many of us are always hustling 24/7, so how do you avoid burnout? It's important to know the three components that cause burnout, so that we can intentionally practice ways to balance these stressors.
Three components that lead to burnout
- Exhaustion is the central symptom of burnout. Exhaustion associated with burnout is physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue that undermines your ability to effectively accomplish goals and feel positive about what you’re doing. This can stem from the demands of an always-on, 24/7 work culture, intense time pressure, or simply having too much to do. It feels like you lack control over your life. In a state of exhaustion, you find that you’re unable to concentrate or see the big picture; even routine and previously enjoyable tasks seem almost impossible.
- Cynicism, the second factor to burnout, is essentially a way of distancing yourself psychologically from your work. You are feeling "checked out". Instead of feeling invested in your work, projects, friends, customers, you feel detached and negative. Cynicism can be the result of overload, or from the fatigue of a constant issue being dealt with that seems to have no end.
- Incompetence is the third factor. It refers to feelings of lack of confidence, knowledge or action in an area of your life. This leads to a serious dip in the positive feelings you get from achievement and productivity. People with this symptom of burnout feel their skills and confidence slipping and worry that they won’t be able to succeed in certain situations. This symptom also comes in tandem with exhaustion and cynicism because people can’t perform at their peak when they’re out of fuel.
Oof. These feelings are becoming increasingly normal, especially for women with families who are trying to juggle the work/life balance. Let's figure out how to avoid all of the feelings above!
Some of the factors that cause the symptoms above are out of your control. That is a fact. However, there are things you can do on your own once you’re aware of the symptoms and of what might be causing them.
Treat yo' self! It’s essential to replenish your physical and emotional energy, along with your capacity to focus, by prioritizing good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, connection with friends and family, and practices that promote well-being, like meditating, journaling, and enjoying nature.
Here is a tactic I've read up on recently that was talked about in the Harvard Business Review:
"If you’re having troubling squeezing such activities into your packed schedule, give yourself a week to assess exactly how you’re spending your time. (You can do this on paper, in a spreadsheet, or on one of the many relevant apps now available.) For each block of time, record what you’re doing, whom you’re with, how you feel (for example, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 0 equals angry or drained and 10 is joyful or energized), and how valuable the activity is. This will help you find opportunities to limit your exposure to tasks, people, and situations that aren’t essential and put you in a negative mood; increase your investment in those that boost your energy; and make space for restful, positive time away from work."
Shift your perspective.
While rest, relaxation, and replenishment can ease exhaustion, curb cynicism, and enhance efficacy, they don’t fully address the root causes of burnout. Back at work, you may still face the same impossible workload, untenable conflicts, or toxic environment. So now you must take a close look at your mindset and assumptions. What aspects of your situation are truly fixed, and which can you change? Altering your perspective can buffer the negative impact of even the inflexible aspects.
Reduce exposure to stressors.
Try to reduce your time with things that stress you out (mine is work if you couldn't tell) and increase your time with activities and relationships that make you feel good. This sounds obvious, but even I personally have a tendency to spend so much more time trying to mend toxic relationships, rather than focusing on and nurturing those which already bring me joy.
As we take this beautiful spring weekend to reset and rejuvinate, let's try to remember to prioritize yourself, check your perspective, and reduce unneccessary stressors. Life is too short to spend on negative energy. The future is looking positive!