Words by Lisa Hughes
October 7th, 2016
Cast your mind back to a time when you weren’t tired for every waking second. Chances are it’s a fond-but-distant memory like rewinding VHS tapes and thumbing Sweet Valley High books. For multitasking modern women, constant tiredness goes hand-in-tired-hand with being busy, like being glued to your smartphone and always sporting a venti-sized Starbucks. But, there’s a fine line between being tired because you’re busy and the monster our busy lives has spawned – burnout.
You’d be forgiven for dismissing burnout as another internet phenomenon like cat-in-bread pics, the thigh gap or Harambe memes. But the truth is, burnout is a very real modern malady that can play havoc with your work life and your relationships. Oh and make you feel utterly miserable.
Burnout can completely demoralise even the most ambitious Peggy Olson type and, before you know it, you think your work is meaningless, that you’re wasting your time, and you end up on autopilot wondering what you’re doing with your life.
First world problems, right? But a problem nonetheless. The symptoms of burnout aren’t to be scoffed at and include: high stress/anxiety; poor attention span; low energy to the point of numbness; feelings of negativity and self-doubt; feeling like an emotional, crying-at-old-people-you-don’t-even-know mess; and, despite your total exhaustion, you can’t sleep when you’re finally in bed. And so, here are five quick and easy ways to help manage these feelings and hopefully avoid the dreaded burnout.
If you’re the type of person who needs to stay ‘in the zone’ and finish a task before you can even think of popping out for a latte – even if it means leaving the office in the dark – you need to rethink that strategy. Recharging your batteries is as simple as just getting up and walking to the water cooler, stretching your legs by walking to the nearest café or just escaping to the office kitchen every 90 minutes – anything to just take a break.
When you feel swamped at work and are bordering on a Devil Wears Prada-style meltdown, talk privately with your boss and explain that your excessive workload is causing you to feel totally burned out. Make sure to suggest ways to delegate certain tasks to other employees or to take on a paid intern. You’ll most likely feel like you’re being weak but even if your boss is Anna Wintour in the scary boss stakes, they’ll realise that zombies for employees is a no-win situation and will take on board how you feel.
This doesn’t mean an expensive, indulgent spa treatment (only if you want to, of course) but making time to look after yourself is so important in the fight against complete burnout. With demanding jobs, social lives, relationships and information coming at us constantly, looking after yourself regularly falls to the bottom of your To-Do list that’s already starting to rival War & Peace. Make it a weekly ritual to go for a massage, a cooking class or just read a book for pleasure – whatever feels like ‘me time’ for you.
Right, we know it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re completely fed up and so knackered your eyes feel like they’re somewhere near your chin but exercise is easily the best thing you can do to get those feel-good endorphins flowing and feel like a functioning human being again. It’ll even help you get the all-important 8 hours sleep you’ve been missing. Walk to work, pack in a lunchtime yoga class or just go for a brisk walk around the block. If you really, really can’t find time to exercise, meditation is your best friend to help you focus and de-stress.
Managing your time more effectively is the best remedy for feeling overstretched and overstressed. Make a diary for one week and jot down every single thing you do each day – including all those gossipy chats with Claire on Reception. At the end of the week, look at how you’re spending your day and give yourself a Time Makeover. Suggestions could be to Skype with clients instead of wasting half a day trekking across town to their office or spending less time on the internet (except for reading maven46, of course). The more time spent actually ticking things off your checklist and finishing tasks will make you feel like you’re actually achieving something.
Burnout can have a positive side effect (yes, really). This is an opportunity for you to reassess where you are, what you’re doing and what you want to achieve. It’s all too easy to lose track of your goals in the craziness of actual day-to-day work but rediscovering your goals (or putting pen to paper and committing to them for the first time) means you’ll begin to work with a purpose again and slowly rediscover your motivation to face the day – and kick some ass.
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