Ok, so we’re only five months into the year but for many of us we’re already hurling ourselves down Burnout Boulevard.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo has an interesting take on burnout. "I have a theory," she says, "that burnout is about resentment. "Preventing it is about knowing yourself well enough to know what it is you're giving up that makes you resentful."
She’s got a point. Are you resentful you don’t have enough time? Resentful that too many emails are pouring in? Resentful when someone asks you to go dinner because that’s just ONE MORE THING YOU NEED TO DO?!!! The resentment theory is worth exploring further but one thing we know for sure is that burnout is not usually caused by one single thing. Stress always lies at its heart. And we know that stress is insidious and unrelenting once it takes hold.
Back in the old days, things that impacted our very survival were our major sources of stress. Now it can be a steady stream of small stressors that chip away at us, all of which can add up to create serious, internal overwhelm.
We come back from holidays, momentarily relaxed but fall quickly into a state of panic when we realise we have 500 unread emails we have to attend to. Or we feel we can’t take a holiday at all because we’re too busy. Or we take a holiday but FOMO takes hold and we can’t unplug (just in case we miss something back home). Or we embark on a vacation only to realise afterwards that it was a social-media curated event and we missed it all. A friend of mine recently told me getting to her dance class was making her feel stressed. Clearly, stress is where we perceive it!
The causes are endless but the feelings of stress are real no matter what the source. But is it possible that our thinking and personal mindset has re-wired our brains to perceive stress in a way that is not helping us? Maybe it’s time to reframe our collective thinking on we perceive and manage stress.
Making simple, consistent changes to some daily routines can make a difference to avoiding the stress that can lead to burnout.
Start with this…
Reflect on what truly stresses you the most and name your triggers.
- Is technology stressing you? What aspect? Too much email?
- If it’s email overload, figure out a priority system that works for you. Who do you need to respond to quickly, what requires your urgent attention and what can wait? Make the distinction so you can have some structure around your response times so you’re not tying yourself in knots trying to get back to everyone at once.
- Are you signed up to multiple mailing lists that add to your inbox-overwhelm on a daily basis? If they’re not serving you, hit unsubscribe and get rid of them! (Not mine please!)
- Too many meetings and not enough time to make things happen?
Reframe what you can’t change
If you’ve identified too many meetings as a stressor, you’re probably feeling it’s impossible to change an entire organisational culture. And you could be right.
But learning how to reframe your thinking around your stressors might lead you to possibilities you’ve never considered. Or at least allow you to have some a new perspective on your situation.
Is there a different way to think about those stressors that turns the experience from a negative to a positive? They can still be steeped in reality but with more focus on what is optimistic and positive. This change of thinking can dramatically reduce your stress load!
Banish the burnout!
- Give yourself permission to unplug / disconnect from technology for set periods of time each day or week.
- Do one thing at a time (more on multi-tasking soon)
- Listen to music or watch a movie just for the sake of it (not because you have to for work)
- Set boundaries around the things that are truly important to you (e.g exercise, getting home at a reasonable time, spending time with friends) and do your darnedest to stick to them.
- Mix it up. Do something totally out of the ordinary or do the ordinary in a new way. Surprise yourself.
- Listen to yourself. Don’t say yes when you really mean no.
- Remember to have fun (we’re in the creative industries remember?)
Viv Fantin is a certified, accredited coach at Next Act Coaching. If you’re interested in a complimentary 30 minute skype call to learn more about how coaching can help you set clear, achievable goals, manage stress, and sort through work-life balance along with many other issues please contact Viv on firstname.lastname@example.org or Ph 02 6687 1965. Check out www.nextactcoaching.com.au for more info.