2022 has seen the dawn of “The Great Resignation”, with an unprecedented number of people walking away from their jobs in favour of a change of pace. Where possible, prioritising your own wellbeing should always be at the forefront of career decisions, but being unhappy in your job isn’t necessarily a sign that it's time to move on.
If you generally enjoy your role but feel on the brink of burnout, there are a few helpful steps you can take before it gets beyond breaking point. Read on for advice to avoid work burnout and what to do when self-care simply isn’t enough. Each tip is a progression on the last, so don’t skip to the end until you’ve tried all other options first.
#1 Take breaks.
Are you guilty of taking lunch at your desk? Cutting your break short to get back to that important project? Catching up on work emails during your lunch hour? You know you should be taking regular breaks to stretch (and refocus your eyes if you work at a screen), but it can be easy to push your own needs aside and put work first. This is a surefire way to bring on burnout.
Schedule regular breaks into your schedule and actually take them. Don’t bring your work with you on your break; try to leave your phone on your desk and come back into the here and now. Take a walk around the building. Sit under a tree. Chat with your work bestie. Take some time for yourself.
#2 Unplug after hours.
There’s a huge pushback toward businesses that expect their employees to be contactable outside of working hours. If the company you work for regularly sends emails or calls you when you’re at home, it’s time to cut the (metaphorical) cord. Unless it’s stated in your contract that you offer on-call availability, your home hours shouldn’t be interrupted by work.
Log out of your emails, turn off your work mobile, do whatever it takes to unplug from work when you leave at the end of the day. It may seem tempting to get a headstart on the next day by firing off a few replies from home, but is it really worth your mental health?
#3 Nurture your body.
At the risk of sounding like your mother, you need to take better care of yourself. Seriously though, your body relies on you to give it a good mix of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates - the whole shebang. Yet, often eating poorly is a natural byproduct of feeling stressed at work.
If you’re struggling with brain fog, making silly mistakes, or just not feeling great at work, consider whether you’re fuelling your body with what it needs to function.
#4 Eat, drink, sleep.
Eating is one part of the health trifecta; the other two are staying hydrated and getting enough rest. Dehydration is a sneaky beast. It can happen without you realising it until you start wondering why life feels so much harder than usual and your lip balm has stopped working. Aim for at least two litres of water per day, and you’ll immediately feel the difference in your overall levels of energy and alertness.
If you’re stressed at work and feeling one bad day away from burnout, it's likely that you’re also doing some revenge bedtime procrastination. Instead of trying to carve time for yourself out of the last remnants of the day, scrolling endlessly through your social media feed, put your body first. The difference between falling asleep at 10 pm and 12 am can significantly affect how you feel the next day.
#5 Ask for support.
You’re taking breaks, eating and drinking well and taking all the right steps to make life less stressful. But still, you’re on the verge of a breakdown. There comes a point when your employer needs to take responsibility for the well-being of its employees; after all, it takes two to tango.
Don’t put off having a conversation with your manager about the challenges you’re experiencing at work. Ask for support in any areas that are proving particularly stressful, and suggest any changes that would make it easier for you to do your job. If your next-in-line isn’t forthcoming with any help, speak to your HR department.
#6 Know your worth.
When all is said and done, you need to know when it's time to walk away from a job that is causing you burnout. You are much more than just a cog in a machine, and if your employer fails to see this, they don’t recognise your worth. If you’ve tried to reduce other causes of stress, have asked your work for support and still aren’t coping, it may be time to go elsewhere.
You may not be able to change how others treat you, but you can decide what situations you put yourself into. You deserve better.