New year, not so new you: How to deal when you’re feeling burnt out

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There’s almost nothing more disheartening than entering the New Year full of hopes, dreams and resolutions only to find yourself crashing before you’ve even begun.

Burnout, the nasty cousin to stress, can happen at any time of year but tends to occur after the summer break ends and the party’s over. Many of us return to mountains of work while others feel the pressure of making this year ‘their year’. Gym commitments, deadlines, healthy eating goals, busy routines…it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

By the time February rolls in, it can feel like we’re ready for another holiday!

But what is burnout exactly? And how do you know you’ve got it?

Well unfortunately, burnout is not simply a case of the blues. It’s a dangerous health condition that describes chronic (and unchecked) stress.

People who are ‘burnt out’ may experience any or all of the following:

–        Extreme physical and emotional exhaustion

–        A sense of detachment from other people, even loneliness

–        A more negative attitude towards life than usual

–        Feelings of helplessness or underachievement – nothing’s ever ‘enough’

–        A heightened state of anxiety or the feeling of wanting to give up

So what to do if you suspect you or a loved one are burning out fast? Here are the steps to manage your New Year more effectively, so you can alleviate stress and prevent becoming overworked.

1. Make over your mindset.

Before making any changes to your lifestyle, it’s important to take a thorough look at your mindset. Are you forever being too hard on yourself? Are you trying to achieve the impossible? Would you treat a good friend the way you treat yourself? The answers to these questions may surprise you. The ideal mindset for preventing burnout is one that is self-loving, positive and calm.

Action to take: Try doing a ten-minute mindfulness meditation everyday. The focus on your breathing will relax your mind, making room for some ‘you’ time and grounding you in the process. And as a daily practice of self-care, it should inspire you to be a little bit kinder in other areas of your life.

2. Develop a system to manage your workload

It’s amazing how much stress we add into our lives, just through the way we manage our workloads. A few simple tweaks to your daily routine could really simplify things for you, making stress and burnout nightmares of the past. Even small changes can make a difference. For example, it’s been reported that Mark Zuckerberg, the legendary founder of Facebook, wears the same shirt every day. This reduces the amount of decision-making he needs to make in the morning by one decision – so he can focus on the important things instead.

Action to take: Do an audit of how you manage your workload. Do you do everything at the last minute so you’re stressed right before the deadline? Or do you toil through a gruelling long day, only to get not much done? Perhaps you could get up one hour earlier and have a three-hour focus session. There are many different techniques workers swear by that have been proven to be effective, from the Pomodoro Technique to the 4-day working week. If you have the flexibility, play around and find the system that works best for you.

3. Prioritise your personal life.

It’s been reported that 13% of adults have difficulty unwinding outside of work. This would explain why so many of us feel the need to take work home from us and find it hard to switch off after a long day. But the danger of being too much of a workaholic is that it can easily lead to stress or burnout, and compromise our personal lives in the process. By having a balance in your personal and work life, you lower this risk and are likely to experience better mental health as a result.

Action to take: Look at how much time you spend with your significant other or family and friends. And also how much ‘you’ time you have, for hobbies, relaxation and your own personal projects and goals outside of work. If work is taking up too much of a space in your life, you’ll soon realise that your personal life has fallen by the wayside. Try to reduce your workload, stop working overtime and prioritise the important stuff instead. You won’t regret it.

4. Connect with others.

The effects of chronic stress and burnout are often amplified if the sufferer is going through it alone. If nobody knows how bad you’re feeling, how can they help? That’s why it’s recommended that you reach out and tell someone what’s going on. Unfortunately, words like ‘stress’ and ‘burnout’ are bandied around often these days, even if someone is just feeling a bit spent or had a particularly trying week. But real burnout is a serious problem. Try to take someone seriously if they’re talking about their stress levels to identify whether they’re at risk of burnout or not, though you should always recommend they also talk to a GP for professional advice.

Action to take: Tell somebody you trust how you’re feeling. The admission alone should lighten the burden, and you’ll be in safer hands if someone knows what’s happening with you deep down (that you’re not actually superman!) It can be easy to drown in feelings of chronic stress alone, but it’s better to have a buddy who can throw you a life rope if things get too tough. Don’t forget to book a doctor’s appointment to see how you can better manage stress levels.

Your health and New Year are worth the time and effort.

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