How to Navigate the Burnout Zone
All signs point to our collective stress. So many of us are actively in a semi-permanent burnout state.
As much as we all think sleeping in on the weekends will make up for not getting enough sleep during the week, we’re wrong. The truth is, if you’re dedicated to building a successful life and career, you’re going to have stress, and you need to work as hard at navigating the burnout zone as you do in your career. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
So what do you do when you’ve accepted a new job and find out the workload is much higher than anticipated? When you get a new boss, start dating a new person and find your time tighter than ever? How to do you motivate yourself to excel when you wake up tired? What do you do when you find yourself yelling at your roommate when she just asked where the laundry detergent was?
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have a few insights I can share:
Establish a burnout symptoms checklist
Oftentimes when you’re in the midst of exhaustion and fatigue, you don’t know it until it’s too late and you’re in a fight with the person at the checkout counter over the price of a box of cereal. It’s likely there were signs leading up to this moment that maybe your loved ones could identify. When I can no longer laugh politely at cab drivers’ jokes and instead feel rage creeping up in my temples, I’m probably in a burnout zone.
Take the time to write down the symptoms of your burnout zone. Have you been comprising your standing date with your best friend? Or your time at the gym? Are you sneaking Snickers not only at 3:00 p.m., but also at 10:00 a.m.? Are your self-care tools slipping away? Create a list and keep your eye on it.
Create a “best life” schedule
Do you know what it takes for you to thrive? If you don’t, it’s time to start.
Besides a daily visit to the gym and a limited amount of processed food, I need intellectual stimulation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a conversation with a brilliant friend or a great book; I need to feel engaged in learning. What in your life should be a non-negotiable? If you’re super cranky when you go to sleep after 11:00 p.m., then a 10:30 p.m. bedtime is a non-negotiable.
The more you can formulate a best life routine, the easier it is to get back on the wagon when you slip up. If you don’t even know what your wagon looks like, no wonder you’re wandering.
Equip yourself with a just-in-case toolbox
Once you know what the symptoms are for your particular burnout zone and what type of lifestyle best supports your holistic wellness (mind, body and spirit), you need a just-in-case toolbox. Very simply, this is a logical model that says, “When I feel like X, I will do Y.”
For example, when I find myself coming home at the end of the day so tired I wish someone could take my contacts out for me, I know that I need to turn off my phone immediately, brush my teeth, put on some Deepak Chopra and lay in the bathtub. Period. I have learned over time that when my exhaustion has a chance to compound, it’s nearly intractable and requires much more intensive efforts to get back to my healthy place.
Master compassionate detachment
If you have all of the strategies and tools above in place and you continue to find yourself struggling, the next step is compassionate detachment. There is a beautiful quote my father shared with me when I was young, “Be in the world, but not of the world.” It’s a spiritual concept that I think can be applied regardless of faith or religion.
There is a moment, just a moment, right before anyone of us boils over, when we make a decision. Emotions are things we opt into. If you truly want to feel freedom and your powerful potential, this is where you should focus your time — the mastery of compassionate detachment. For today, that means trying to be a little more compassionate with yourself and a tad more self-aware so you can navigate the burnout zone with grace.
How do you avoid burnout?
Simone N. Sneed is a social entrepreneur building the capacity of women and girls, and the institutions that empower them, to discover and leverage their full potential. You can learn more about her work at catchingbrilliance.com or @catchbrilliance.
Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.