Burnout. The struggle is real.
Recently I gave a talk to a tech company based in Portland on the topic of burnout. I started the talk by defining the term “burnout” and what it meant to them.
Take a moment and do this for yourself. When you think of burnout - what pops into your brain?
Some of the answers I heard were:
- Using all your resources and having nothing left to give.
- A tightness in life.
- Working beyond your means.
- Not getting sleep.
- Everything is spread thin and there is no room for creativity.
- Work induced depression.
So my next question - when you feel this coming on, what do you do? Do you have any tools to take care of yourself?
And people did, but it was tricky. People had some great tactics, but there was always this holding back. This feeling of not deserving. This understanding that being burned out is not good, but not believing that taking care of yourself is a solution.
There was a guy who told me he would take a walk whenever he felt himself reaching the burnout wall of stress. Sounds good right? But then, I waited, and he said that he feels guilty. Because work is so important and he wants the work to succeed. Stepping away even though he knows it is a good idea… doesn’t feel good.
And this is the disconnect.
Not believing that having space IS ACTUALLY GOING TO HELP YOU PRODUCE BETTER WORK.
This is common.
People get the idea of burnout and they understand some tactics they can do when they feel it, but yet (!) they feel guilt. They don’t think taking care of oneself is actually THE way to produce more/better work.
We are taught to be martyrs but we are not taught to take care of ourselves. We think that giving more means to give more time. Give more resources. We put our value on producing and we run ourselves into the ground.
So. What can we do?
A lot of things actually, but let me just focus on three bite-sized options:
Believe that taking care of yourself will HELP you produce better work.
I love a quote that I heard from Parker Palmer “...what do I need to do to water the root of inner wisdom to make work fruitful.” Ahhhh let that sit with you.
I love it because it takes a step back from JUST DO MORE and asks the question of what needs to happen to do good work? Sometimes NOT doing work is what can help. Sometimes taking a walk, getting into nature, getting more sleep, talking to a friend or a co worker… or maybe just putting your head down on the desk for a moment and breathing. The question is asking you to look inside to see what actually needs to be done.
So number one is belief. Believe that what you are doing is actually going to have an impact - and a positive one - on your work.
We see lack of sleep as a status symbol. A friend of mine worked in an office where people judged each other based on the floor they parked their car on. I've heard praise given to employees who respond to emails at 10pm, 11pm, midnight. Whatever it takes. It used to drive me crazy. Work measured by sheer volume or presence is a narrow vision.
When I was young I used to subscribe to the “I’ll sleep when I am dead” mentality. I thought sleep was for the weak. And I suffered. I didn’t connect the dots at the time, but now in my WEALTH of knowledge and experience I know better. Getting less sleep - sure - gets me more time, but the quality of that time sucks because I am spread thin. I become irritable, less focused, and short. I also want to eat all the things. So added bonus I gain weight. I don’t recover as well from workouts so I feel achey and inflamed all the time. NOT. WORTH. IT.
Dr Kirk Parsley gave a great TedTalk about sleep he talks about a nation that is sleep deprived, but no one identifies as having this problem.
So let’s just accept you probably need more sleep. Try it for a week, just add an hour, plan for it and see how you feel. Sleep is like magic potion and it is FREE.
When we are stressed our prefrontal cortex shuts down, which means that we are in the “lizard” part of our brain. The reactive, fight/flight, area. The world is a threat. Our aperture narrows and we are not able to be creative. Or present. Or connected. Which makes work suffer.
An excellent way to combat this is through play. It allows us to reopen to our creative side. This could be dance, a game, running around - all these things are therapeutic. They allow for us to come back to work reengaged.
When burnout is holding strong it often feels like the thing to do is bear down. Do more. Give more. But what is true is that more isn’t always better.
Stepping away, taking care of yourself, and coming back refreshed will allow for the space to do better work.
You can see a video I did on the topic of Burnout here.
Annette Auger is the owner of Brain Body Gut, a site devoted to helping people heal from within to thrive. Nutrition is her jam. She believes how you fuel yourself has an incredible impact on your brain and body. By eating better she became nicer and started to enjoy life more. Which she wants to share with you! When people are connected to their bodies so much magic can happen. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Annette is also a nutritional therapist in Seattle and she is currently taking clients. If you struggle with burnout or want to thrive instead of survive contact her for a free 15 minute consultation!
PS. Do you struggle with burnout? Tell me how you are going to implement these burnout busters in the comments below!