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Burnout, or the experience of being overworked or overwhelmed, can manifest in many ways. For some it is feelings of anxiety, for others it is a lack of motivation. Some individuals may even experience physical symptoms like weight gain, lethargy and insomnia.

Burnout happens when we do not adequately respond to the messages from our brain and body telling us to slow down, take breaks, or balance our lives. It is an uncomfortable feeling and can often feel like a rut or a well that it is hard to climb out of once you’ve fallen in. In many ways, it is much easier to prevent burnout than it is to regain strength, clarity, and motivation once it is lost.

Here are four ways that you can prevent burnout at work or at home, which will coincidentally help you be more productive and withstand stresses and challenges more effectively.

  1. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of becoming more aware of your body and your inner world. It is the act of paying attention. By becoming more mindful you will be able to notice the signs and signals coming from your system telling you that you are approaching burnout.
  2. Define your success criteria. Are you working toward a certain goal or standard of success that you’ve chosen or that someone else has chosen for you? Often we push ourselves past our limits because we think we have to, and don’t take the time to stop and consider what we really want and what qualifies as success for us.
  3. Schedule free time. Some of us will never take a break or be able to enjoy time for “fun” activities unless we make an intentional plan to do so. Schedule your free time like you would your work time and make sure you are integrating activities into your week that help you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
  4. Sleep. Getting quality sleep is underrated and can make a world of difference when it comes to avoiding burnout. Avoid screens, alcohol, and caffeine several hours before bedtime, incorporate a nightly routine, use blackout curtains or a sound machine, and generally invest in your evening rest so you can handle what comes your way the next day.