Since the start of the year, I’ve been so busy at work and putting in crazy hours that I feel like my tank was running empty.
It’s difficult especially when you run your own business and don’t have anyone to offload the work to and it can get really frustrating when you feel like you’re being stretched in 20 different directions and you’re not getting anywhere fast.
Its not just the physical drain it has on your body, it’s not the constant feeling of tiredness and headaches you get for no particular reason, it’s the mental fatigue, the short temper, the lethargy of not wanting to speak to anyone that comes with burning yourself from work.
Fortunately, at the point of where I was thinking I was going to go crazy, I was lucky enough to get away to Hong Kong and Japan for 2 weeks to take my mind off work (at least for a little while) and to gather some perspective of things. It was a good way to compare our far eastern counterparts to how UK workers experience the worst work life balance in western Europe.
This holiday felt slightly different to others…. I was more aware than ever of how busy and stressful people were around me. Travelling across the globe to a completely different culture in working and lifestyle, I felt sad and annoyed at just how one dimensional peoples lives meant in this area of the world.
The truth is, whatever stress and strain we put ourselves under in the UK, we can be sure that there are some places which are many times worse than what we experience day to day.
Working 70 – 80 hours a week is the norm. Going to school 6 days a week. Sky-high expectations and pressure placed on kids from the age of 3. Unpaid overtime expected. Job security practically zeros.
The Japanese even have a dedicated word that describes this…
Translated it means literally – overwork death, where people die from heart attack, stroke, stress and starvation because of work.
Here’s a link to a recent article when a 31 year old journalist died from overworking…
Scary isn’t it?
So it got me thinking what is the best way to stop yourself from getting to the point of a meltdown when your career and your work takes over your life…
First though, what are the symptoms of burnout?
If you’re experiencing the following, you maybe suffering from work burnout:
- Reduced performance, especially at work
- Weight gain
- Puffiness or inflammation
- Sped-up aging
- Trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches and muscle loss
- Feel that every day at work is a bad day.
- Exhausted much of the time.
- Have no joy or interest in your work, or even feel depressed by it.
- Feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities.
- Engage in escapist behaviours, such as excessive drinking.
- Have less patience with others than you used to.
- Feel hopeless about your life or work.
- Experience physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, sleeplessness, or heart palpitations. (Make sure that you see a physician about these!)
Learn to say “NO”
One of the main reasons why people suffer burnout from work is because they take on too much, whether voluntarily or reluctantly. I’m a real sucker for this, particularly the former, because if I don’t feel like I’m doing something productive, I will take on more work and implement other ideas.
Sometimes the work is thrust on you, a client needs work done unexpectedly for a tight deadline, websites going down, a report that needs to be done for your supervisor.
If you have time to fit it in, then great, but if you’re already working flat out to meet another deadline, then you need to learn to ‘No’ politely, or at the very least let them know your struggling with existing workload.
It seems the easiest thing to do is just to grit your teeth and say “OK, no problem” then mutter to yourself how much work you’ve got on, and I hold my hand up and admit that I do it more often than not, but best way is to just simply ask “I’ve got this deadline to meet, do you want me to stop this and focus on what you’ve given me?”
This way, you’re letting them know you have work in a non-confrontational way and you let them subtly know that it will affect your ability to meet the deadline.
Learn to Share
In my opinion, overcoming burnout by learning to share or delegate is one of the hardest things to do and it’s been drummed into us that we should take responsibility of our own work.
But taking responsibility of your work doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to do it all on your own. Learn to delegate to others if you can or ask for some assistance.
If you feel uncomfortable asking for help from your colleagues, why not offer a hand when you have a bit of time as reciprocity will mean that your colleague will more likely trump up when you look like your struggling with workload.
Learn to go off the grid
Laptops, Mobiles, Tablets, Facebook, Emails…. Switch it all off and go for a long walk. It may seem like your missing your left arm, but it will do wonders for your sanity. Since the invention of mobile phones, we are constantly bombarded with people contacting us. Every single ‘ping’ there’s an impulse to find out who’s contacted you and what they want.
Stop all of that and go off the grid… even if its just for 30 minutes. Get some fresh air, gather your thoughts or even better still take your mind completely off work.
Find a hobby
For me, this is one of THE most important tips that I struggle with, finding time to discover or rediscover a hobby. Whether you enjoy playing football, catching up with some friends, drawing, reading, gardening, fishing or golfing, if you feel like work is becoming a heavy burden and you want to avoid burning out, take some time off to do what you enjoy doing.
Taking your mind off and focusing on what you love doing will alleviate that stress and weight off your shoulder, even if its just for a little while. If you’re lucky enough, it may even stimulate creative ideas on how you can tackle your workload or give you added motivation to plough through the busy period.
Find peace and quiet
When you’re exhausted from work, it makes sense to get as much rest as possible, but sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done.
Sleep deprivation, insomnia and even just restlessness can seriously affect your mental state. The best way to tackle this is by trying to find the root of the problem. Find out exactly what the cause is for your lack of sleep, what is it your constantly thinking about then try to solve that issue.
It’s the only effective method of deals with the problem.
It’s a huge ask (and it may take you a while to get to the root of the problem), and if you cant do it in one go, the next best thing you can do is set aside some time to meditate, walk and get some peace and quiet so that you give yourself the opportunity to find it.
So switch your phone off, turn the TV and radio off, send the kids to your parents and get complete silence and peace so that you can let your mind unravel.
Trim you ‘to do’ list
Yes its important to be organized…
Yes it’s necessary to keep on top of the most important tasks…
But if you’re like me and lists and lists of things to do, it can get overwhelming and depressing.
Whittle your list down to the most important tasks (3-5) or if you want to feel good about yourself and get them euphoric feeling of completing stuff, then list 5 easiest things to do.
Change your environment
You’d be surprised how much a small change can make to your productivity and mindset. It could be a simple change of desk in the office to a switch in department with different colleagues. If the situation doesn’t change and you feel you need to, maybe even a change in company might revitalize your enthusiasm.
Live in the moment
There’s a lot of talk about ‘mindfulness’ recently and for those who don’t know what that is, it’s about living for the moment. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.
To avoid burning out from work, find ways to detach during the week in a way that suits you. Some like the gym, some prefer yoga or meditation. Even a nice long walk with the dog in evening can benefit you from exhausting yourself. Try to take consistent mini-breaks throughout the week to detach and re-center.
Studies have linked the use of social media to depression, anxiety, poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity.
And the reason?
Consciously or sub consciously we comparing our lives to posts that have been ‘curated’ by others, which makes ourselves feel our lives are mundane, boring, worthless.
Think about it.
People take so much time to decide which pictures they post up, they are perfecting their poses in order to show the world a single moment of their life where they are hoping to impress others, when the reality could be completely different.
So be aware when you’re on social media, even when you’re scanning, that whatever you see is not real.
Take a vacation or sabbatical
Undoubtedly one of the best way to stop yourself from exhausting yourself and overworking is to take a vacation.
A complete change of environment, new routine, a time to relax and take your mind off work will do you wonders. It also gives you time to reflect whether the job you have is really what you want.
Is it purely a financial matter or would you rather pursue something that you are passionate about?
If you do come to the conclusion that you want to do something everyday that you enjoy or have a keen interest in, then maybe make a plan to direct yourself towards your goal.
Think about transferring departments, up skilling, taking a side hustle or if you can take a sabbatical…
If none of these are an option and you still want to make that change, then plan your finances to take the plunge into a new career.
So these are the top 10 tips to prevent yourself from overworking, exhausting yourself and burning out.
If you have any other tips, please let me know below.