No one wants to end up burned out, but what most people don’t know is that preventing burnout is something you should work on every day. In other words, don’t leave it until you’re moments away from a meltdown. Whether you enjoy your work or not, burnout can creep in when you’re not expecting it.
A big part of burnout prevention is making sure you’re taking care of yourself, from basic needs all the way to creating customised self-care rituals. Here’s a list of 5 ways to do just that.
1. Get more sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep (and no, 4 or 5 hours isn’t enough), you’ll struggle to do your job, take care of your family and deal with daily stresses. Being sleep deprived also makes it difficult to make decisions, solve problems and it makes you pretty cranky to boot.
Think about how you can build more sleep into your day. Can you go to bed 30 minutes earlier, or sleep 30 minutes later? Look for opportunities to take naps. Kids aren’t the only ones who benefit from naps!
2. Eat and drink well
What you put into your body becomes the fuel that powers you. Eating healthy food makes it easier to deal with daily stresses and frustrations. When you’re busy at work and home, eating fast food and keeping yourself fueled with coffee all day is so tempting. But all too often, it leads to energy crashes later in the day.
Try replacing some of those cups of coffee with water. Staying hydrated increases brainpower and keeps you energised. An easy trick is to keep a bottle of water with you all the time. Bring healthy lunches and snacks to work to keep you motivated. It’s easier than it seems to prepare healthy food that you can grab and go (and there’s tonnes of inspiration to be found on Pinterest).
3. Take breaks throughout the day
When you have a lot of work to do, taking a break seems like a waste of time. But taking regular breaks from your work helps reduce stress and get work done, which means you’ll be more efficient and effective than if you slaved away at your desk for hours on end. You’ll accomplish more and feel less frazzled.
In fact, 90 minutes is about the limit for sustained, focused concentration, so taking a short break every hour and a half is the sweet spot. If you spend most of your workday at a desk in front of a computer, get up regularly to stretch your legs and give your eyes a rest.
And don’t forget to take your lunch break! Make a habit of leaving your desk or work area for lunch. Go for a walk or sit outside with a book. A change of scenery gives your brain a mini-vacation from work. You’ll come back more refreshed and ready to get back to it.
4. Move your body
If the word exercise gives you visions of treadmills, weights and sweating, you’re not alone. Instead of thinking about getting more exercise, consider the ways you can move your body more each day. It’s good for your body and your brain and helps you do your work with more energy and enthusiasm.
On one of your breaks (see #3) take a short walk outside or stretch at your desk (desk yoga anyone?). Be the brave soul that does jumping jacks in her cubicle at 3 in the afternoon. Building movement into your day will help you renew your energy and feel refreshed.
5. Spend more time playing
Just like naps, playing isn’t just for kids. In fact, playing is very important for adults. According to Dr. Stuart Brown in his book Play, “Our work or other responsibilities often demand we set play aside. But when play is denied over the long term, our mood darkens. We lose our sense of optimism and we become anhedonic, or incapable of feeling sustained pleasure.”
Play is one of the most essential ways to prevent burnout and it’s fun! As an adult, it’s easy to talk yourself out of allowing time for play because it seems silly and frivolous. But incorporating play and fun into your daily life has enormous benefits.
Try putting on your favourite song and having a quick dance party in your living room. Or grab a basketball and head outside to shoot some hoops. Maybe puzzles or games are more your style? The point is to make time for play and fun that feels good.
Quick tip: Combining activities is a great way to get more bang for your burnout-prevention buck. Dancing or playing sports counts as moving your body and getting in some play time. Walking down the street to your favourite seasonal food restaurant for lunch checks the healthy food, taking a break and moving your body boxes.
Burnout begins to creep in when these 5 things aren’t happening on a regular basis. Whether you enjoy your work or not, if you’re not taking care of yourself, burnout won’t be far behind. Build these 5 things into your day and you’ll notice the benefits, not just in your work but in your whole life.