Four Strategies to Prevent Stress from Turning into Burnout

| Edith "Edie" Raphael, PhD

work stress burnout low candlelight.jpgAs I shared in my article last week, burnout is more than a passing feeling. It can have real and serious implications for your career and—more importantly—your mental and physical health. When you experience burnout on the job, you’re more likely to take sick days, and the days you do show up physically, you’re probably not as productive as the not-burned-out version of you. This can lead to jeopardizing your future work with the company, or in your field. 

 

So, if you believe your workplace stress might be heading towards burnout, the time to act is now, with whatever energy and capacity you still have, in order to find solutions that will change your course and keep you from burning out. 

 

Four Strategies to Prevent Burnout:

1. Meditate regularly

Research on meditation (particularly when practiced regularly and using mindfulness techniques) has proven it to be helpful in managing stress, reducing anxiety and depression, and increasing work productivity. By working smarter, with less stress and a healthier mental status, people can significantly reduce their chances of burnout. (See these Wireboard articles for more information on the benefits of meditation and a quick-start guide to meditating.) 

 

2. Fill your tank

"All work and no play" does not just make you dull, it's one of the key dynamics I see in people heading for burnout. Filling your tank has a couple of components. First, limit (if it's impossible to eliminate) work spilling over into evenings and weekends. And then make the most of your time off by engaging in activities which bring you joy and peace: hobbies, adventures, exercise, time with people you like or love, and senses-pleasing activities such as fine dining, being in nature, or getting a massage.

 

Give yourself permission to unplug!! Don’t continuously check and respond to emails and texts and don’t spend your time off on activities that don't actually fill your tank (read: watching television or surfing the internet/social media).

 

(More details about "filling your tank" can be found here.)

 

Take stock of what's important for your sustained growth

Click here for Rewire's free "Wheel of Balance Tool"

 

3. Have truthful conversations with your boss

Talking with your boss about your need to change course in order to avoid burnout can be difficult. Not all managers are good with people. And this can especially difficult if your boss is part of the ongoing stress you're experiencing. But there are ways to get the outcome you need without ruffling feathers:

  • Focus on facts.
  • Don’t embed your discussion with accusations.
  • Stay solutions-oriented.
  • Typically, more than one conversation is needed. Make this type of communication part of your regular monthly routine when you meet with your boss.

A good boss should have a vested interest in your sustainabilty in your role. And they can often make changes that will allow you the time and space to keep from burning out. Even if difficult, it's a conversation that can help prevent burnout. 

 

4. Keep an eye out for other roles/jobs/careers

Sometimes, even with the first three practices, there's just too much. Sometimes the specific role or company you work for, or the profession you’ve joined, is particularly prone to burning people out. Though it may seem like you will be giving up all of the experience, training, and seniority you’ve acquired thus far, in the long-run you’ll be happier and more successful in a situation in which burnout is not standard operation. Knowing that you have other options can take some of the pressure off of your current situation.


Finally, even if you don’t suspect that you are on the road to burnout, why wait until you are? Most workers these days across industries and professions are reporting moderate to high levels of stress. When undertaken together, these four practices, especially meditation and “filling your tank,” are exceptionally helpful for managing workplace and everyday stressors in order to keep this stress from turning into eventual burnout. The more proactive you can be in managing it before it takes hold, the less likely you are to find yourself dealing with burnout, and you'll be able to keep your energies focused on the things that really matter.