Three practices to help prevent burnout
In the previous article, I explained how to recognise burnout and introduced some ideas about how you can help prevent burnout and manage your energy.
Consciously managing your time, energy and taking care of your health are fundamental building blocks to prevent burnout. Building resilience in the face of challenges is less about getting tougher and more about recovering well.
Change focus with intention
Performance coach and author Brendon Burchard discusses managing your energy in his book High Performance Habits and here’s my take on his three practices to help generate energy and help prevent burnout.
Managing the transitions in your life, whether from sleep to awake or from one work task to another is an important first step. Do you ever feel like you carry negative energy from one task to another? Do you feel depleted but plough on from one task to another? Do you lose focus and clarity as you delve deeper into your day?
Managing your energy between tasks requires you to set a boundary between them. Even if only momentarily, release the tension generated in the last task and set a new intention for the next. A physical break is a great start, whether it’s a tea break, pee break or fresh air break. It does not include checking emails or social media!
Try this next time you switch tasks
- Push back from the desk, stand up and change your posture. Close your eyes for a moment, perhaps 1-2 minutes.
- Release the tension – allow the energy of the previous task to dissipate, relax your shoulders and unclench your jaw. Consider a meditation moment, repeating the word release in your mind. When you feel the tension lift, take a break or use the next step to initiate the next task.
- Set the intention – think about what you want to achieve, feel or experience in the next activity. Ask yourself, ‘What energy do I want to bring to this next task? What must I achieve? How do I complete this task with excellence?’. It doesn’t have to be these exact questions; just consider how you will focus on the activity and what triggers the start of the activity, such as sitting back down at your desk.
You can use these moments between activities as a pause or reset, to clear your mind and start afresh.
Whilst joy can be defined simply as a state of happiness, in this context it’s more the feeling evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.
Deep joy is associated with purpose and engagement in the moment, often described as a flow state or mindfulness. It’s not being happy 100% of the time, if indeed that’s possible. It’s being able to talk joyfully about your work, career, family and life and that joy generates energy with a capital E and positive neurotransmitters such as serotonin and oxytocin.
As a human being, you are in control of your enduring emotional experience. No one else can do that for you. If the feeling of joy is lacking, think carefully about why that is. You can consciously generate joy and the energy it brings.
Whilst emotions are instantaneous reactions to circumstance driven by your neurotransmitters, feelings are your longer-term human response to those emotions. You can choose your feelings towards your life, it’s a human gift.
Try these activities to help bring you joy
- At the start of the day ask, ‘what can I be excited about today? What could I ask myself to prompt positive emotions throughout the day?’
- Consider who or what might cause you stress or trip you up during the day. How will your best self positively respond to those challenges?
- Plan appreciation into your day and show gratitude. Who you could surprise with a thank you or a show of appreciation for helping or supporting you? Even just a thank you for doing a good job becomes a powerful generator of serotonin and oxytocin, our long-term happiness and appreciation hormones. How will you finish your day and appreciate the things you’ve done, jobs completed or people you’ve been around?
Showing gratitude is one of the most powerful positive emotions and has been the focus much psychology research. Establishing a gratitude practice could be one of the most impactful habits responsible for long term happiness and to prevent burnout.
Optimise your health
We all know what we need to do to be healthy right? Exercise more, eat right and sleep for 7-8 hours per night. If we all know this, then why are we all so tired, unfit and eating poorly? We justify our behaviours with non-sensical arguments – not needing more than 5 hours sleep, the way our industry operates, the company culture or our personal obligations.
They’re all excuses of some kind and yes it can be hard to change habits for the better, especially if ‘lack of time’ is your main reason. Working with a coach on time management would certainly be a good investment and it’s a common problem that I help my clients address.
Consider this though, if you can cope on 5 hours sleep a night, how much better would you function with two extra hours sleep? How much more creative would you be after a break or compassionate would you be if you weren’t tired or hungry because you haven’t eaten a decent breakfast?
The science is conclusive, you just have to start following it. If you do, you’ll tap into your natural sources of energy and you’ll help prevent burnout.
Exercise elevates mood and mental performance. It’s an effective antidepressant, improves sleep quality and decreases pain. Creating movement is so simple and a great starting place. Next, improve your diet because eating and behaviour are closely linked and don’t forget the addictive nature of high fat foods, caffeine and alcohol.
Poor diet is still largely about making choices and medical practitioners are clear; you must become more aware of when you’re eating to satiate a bad mood, not for nourishment. If you find yourself feeling low on energy and reaching for a coffee or food item, trying moving instead. Go for a walk before you eat and your diet choices will improve.
What can you do to make a difference?
- Start by doing what you already know you should be doing. Be honest with yourself, you probably know whether it’s sleep, exercise or diet that’ll make the biggest difference for you and exactly what to do.
- Train yourself to sleep eight hours a night and work on your sleep hygiene. This is often a big step and modern technology with blue wavelength LED screens is a big evil here. If nothing else today, watch any TED talk you can find by Matthew Walker the sleep researcher.
- Get some help. Who could be your accountability partner, help you make a commitment and create a habit? It might be a buddy to take each other for a walk in the park, staying Covid safe naturally. It could be an on-line nutrition or exercise programme; many have proliferated recently as fitness, health and nutrition professionals have innovated during lockdown. You need might some professional medical help, a health check, a physio to help fix that niggling ache or a dietician to help with a weight loss or gain programme. Maybe even a coach to help work on your habits and set some goals? Reach out, you never know what might happen.
- Finally – stretch. Do yoga, pilates or just a few minutes at the beginning and end of every day. We all need way more stretching than we do.
Generating energy through good nutrition, exercise and sleep should be the easiest thing to do, but often ends up being the hardest. What would it take to get you in the best shape of your life? What would be your key motivation? Is it to play with your kids, to fund raise or to stave off a known disease risk you have?
Generate energy is a key skill to build resilience and help prevent burnout. With practice, by supporting each other and creating some new habits, we can buzz through the winter and cope better with the uncertainty of living with Covid. Wouldn’t it be great if we emerged into 2021 in better shape than we ended 2020?
Act now to book a free 30-minute call with me to help start finding the joy and generating that energy.