Beating Burnout: Strategies for Prevention and Recovery

Even the best of us can burnout, especially now as we are bombarded day after day with emails, phone conferences, video calls that leave us feeling overwhelmed and depleted. Burnout not only affects an individual’s performance and wellbeing, but it has also been linked to many negative physical health outcomes, such as heart disease, hypertension, and sleep disturbances.

According to a 2015 workplace well-being survey conducted by Deloitte, 77% of respondents indicated that they have experienced employee burnout at their current job. They cite lack of support or recognition from leadership, unrealistic deadlines and expectations, and the “always-on” work culture — and that was in the pre-COVID world. With the additional stressors of the coronavirus pandemic and working from home, the amount of people grappling with burnout is likely much higher. Here are some burnout prevention and recovery tips.

Tips for Avoiding Burnout at Work

  1. Prioritize Self Care: Good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, social connection, and mindful practices, like meditation and journaling, are essential for physical and emotional well-being. Make space for restful, positive time away from work. If you have trouble finding time to squeeze in these activities, consider reserving blocks of time in your calendar for them and determining which activities you benefit from most.
  2. Shift Your Perspective: Burnout is what happens after a period of chronic stress, so learning to manage everyday stressors is key. The stress coping strategies are endless, from keeping track of what keeps you stressed, to breathing techniques, to art, to mediation. Manage the way you think, as this often contributes to stress. What aspects of your situation can you change and what do you have no control over? Altering your perspective can buffer the impacts of the things out of your control.
  3. Abandon the “Always On” Culture: Especially as Americans are largely working from home, differentiating between work time and personal time is challenging. Try to clear create boundaries that separate the two. Furthermore, respectfully push back if you feel that expectations and deadlines are unrealistic. It takes courage to say no, but sometimes it is the right answer.
  4. Interpersonal Interactions:  Spending time with others can be a great way to recharge. Make time for zoom calls with friends or family dinners, or even strengthen ties with others within your organization. It is likely that you will find that you are not alone and can use each other for support.

What to Do If You Are Burnt Out?

Burnout does not happen overnight; it is a gradual process that gets worse as time goes on. It is characterized by disengagement, loss of motivation or hope, detachment, and a lack of purpose. The best thing to do is to watch for the early signs of burnout and seek support then. However, if you feel that you are fully burnt out, refer back to the previous strategies, but with greater gusto. Take time off or explore therapy and be sure to prioritize your mental wellbeing. Just as burnout is gradual, recovery takes time too.