This week on the podcast I’m talking about burnout – something I worry some of us might struggle with at the moment. With so much change happening due to the coronavirus, some of us are feeling pressure to push ourselves more at work and I think this could lead to burnout if we’re not careful.
In this episode I talk about what burnout is and some techniques that can help us avoid it. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but now more than ever I think it’s important for us to familiarise ourselves with the basics.
You can listen wherever you get your podcasts or listen here:
Links and further reading:
- World Health Organzation definition of burnout
- Getting to know your red flags – the benefits of mood tracking
- How to set healthy boundaries
- How to make a self-care first aid kit
- What I do on social media free Saturdays
- Find an online counsellor
So this week I want to talk about burnout because I think right now it’s a very real danger for some of us. I wanna talk about what it is, how it can happen, and most importantly, some techniques we can use to avoid it.
Hello everyone! Welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re all doing well. I wanna start by acknowledging that recording these podcasts at the moment feels really odd. And that’s mainly because I record them a couple of weeks before they go out and so much can change in a couple of weeks. It’s really hard to know what life is gonna be like by the time this podcast goes out. But I guess all I can do is talk about from where I am now. And I wanted to start by saying that I think for myself, and a lot of people around me right now, we’re feeling very much on an emotional rollercoaster.
There are definitely days when things feel absolutely fine and like we can handle things. I know for me there are days where I’m just like, okay, I’ve accepted this new normal and I’ve adapted and I’m okay at this. And then another day, when I’ll suddenly just get really sad about things that are happening and sad about the people that I can’t see and the things that I can’t do and just what’s happening to the people around me. So yeah, I just wanted to say wherever you are on the rollercoaster at the moment, I really hope that you’re managing to stay safe and that you have someone to talk to about it.
And the reason I wanted to talk about burnout this week is because I feel like a lot of us are quite worried about our careers right now. And I’m personally seeing quite a lot of people, especially service-based business owners, scrambling to create new offerings to support people, often for free or at a really heavily discounted rate. And while I think this is amazing, I think it’s really lovely, and I think it’s something a lot of people are finding helpful, it is important for us to recognise the increase in workload that this is creating on top of a lot of anxiety already.
So, I know for me and my team at my day job, our workload increased significantly following the outbreak to ensure that we were providing content and remote support for people. And I personally haven’t really had the headspace to think about Blue Jay of Happiness that much and to create something new there. All I have done is been able to announce the new coaching packages, which were already planned and created before all of this kicked off. And even though now I am starting to feel ready to maybe start a new project and create something, I’m a little bit worried that this pandemic could lead to some of us experiencing burnout as we really push ourselves at work. So I guess I wanted to take some time to talk about that in today’s episode and some things that can maybe help us avoid that.
So let’s start off by a quick definition of what burnout is. I think I have mentioned this already in a previous podcast, so apologies if I’m repeating myself, but I think it’s quite helpful to understand what it is before we get into it.
So the World Health Organisation describe it as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, characterised by three dimensions of feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism relating to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.” So they also say that burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of your life. So essentially, burnout is when work-related stress piles up, piles up, piles up, and gets you to the point where you can’t really do much and you might end up needing to take some off work to recover.
And of course, like any type of stress, this can be really harmful to your mental health. And it’s just something for us all to be aware of, I think. And there are a few things I think can help us avoid it, and I want to share those with you in this episode.
So the first thing I want to share is the idea of knowing your red flags. So try and understand what your body and mind does when it’s stressed and look out for those signs. So for example, do you get a lot of headaches when you feel stressed? Do you get an upset stomach? Or maybe you struggle to focus? Or perhaps, like me recently, your sleeping becomes an issue? Whatever your red flags are, try and become more aware of them and when they do come up, take this as a sign that you need some space to rest and really up your self-care game.
The next thing I want you to try and do is to plan your down time. So a lot of us are working from home now and we may not be used to the slightly messy effect this has on our work-life boundaries. So something one of my colleagues recently suggested was to set an alarm for breaks to remind you to get up, stretch your legs a little bit, go make a tea, and also set an alarm for the end of the day. It is so, so much easier now to just stay, just carry on working and just finish something off because you’re already home. And I’ve noticed that a lot of my colleagues are doing this. If you’re listening, you know who I’m talking about. And it’s so easy to do but it’s so important for us to try and keep those boundaries. So try and set yourself an alarm. If you are working with a partner in the same house, maybe try and prompt each other to log off at the end of the day. I know Dan sometimes gives me a gentle tap on the shoulder to remind me to log off and I do the same for him.
And another thing I want to remind you of is taking days off. So you may not be able to do what you normally do with your time off work, but you can still relax and switch off. And, as I’m recording this, this is actually Easter weekend and I’m really looking forward to a long weekend and I know a lot of my colleagues are, because it’s just time to really decompress from the stress that we’re getting from work. So really consider what moments of rest you can plan in for each day and each week.
The next thing I want to suggest is tuning into your self-care needs. So these may be a little bit different now than usual, so try making a list of all the different things, or the different ways that you can practice self-care, whether it’s cooking a nutritious meal, or reading a book, or, for me at the moment, a lot of it is involving playing the Sims. But having this list of self-care activities can really help you when you’re starting to feel stressed. You can turn to your list and see which activity is gonna nourish you right now.
Something else that I’m gonna recommend, and I’m sure it’s something you’ve already heard, but it bears repeating, and that is to disconnect from social media and the news when you need to. So let’s face it – it’s really all-consuming right now, and totally overwhelming. So now’s a really good time for you to try setting some boundaries about how much time you spend on social media and maybe how often you check the news. So look back at your self-care activity list that you’ve made and maybe choose something that’s offline. I know for me, I’ve kept up with my tradition of having social media-free Saturdays and it’s been an absolute dream. And in all honesty as well, I haven’t watched the news once because if something’s important, I’ll know about it. Someone will tell me. I haven’t missed anything important yet – things are coming up on social media if I’m not watching the news, so yeah. If you can switch off from the news altogether, and you feel comfortable doing that, do. If not, just try and limit your exposure to it.
So the next point I have here is to talk it out. So if you are struggling with stress at work, if things are piling up, then try and talk to your manager about it. Let them know how you’re feeling, because I think right now a lot of employers and managers need to understand that we’re doing the absolute best we can. But there’s a lot going on right now, there’s a lot of stuff we’re trying to process and manage. Our mental health has got to be top priority right now. So if you’re struggling and you’re not able to get as much done as you normally do, just speak to someone about it. Try and just have a really human to human conversation about it and figure out a way to move forward. Figure out what it is you’re gonna need to continue working but without sacrificing your mental health.
And on the topic of talking it out as well, please remember that even though you may not be able to meet up with your friends and family in person, there are lots of other ways you can keep in touch, whether it’s just chatting on the phone or having a video chat as well. Set yourself up with a virtual coffee date or have a pub night where you all get together and have some fun doing a pub quiz. Either way, stay in touch with your loved ones and let them know how you’re feeling if you’re struggling as well.
And if you do need professional support, then definitely take a look at Counselling Directory, because they have thousands and thousands of online counsellors there who are ready to support you. And again, I’ll make sure I pop a note in the – I’ll pop a link, sorry, in the show notes for you.
And there we go! I really hope these pointers were helpful. It doesn’t feel as if what I’m saying is anything new or groundbreaking, but in times like these I just think we need to remind ourselves of the basics. So please try not to feel pressured to create all of the things and just take each day as it comes. We all need to do what feels right for us in this moment. For some of us, that is extreme rest and stepping back from work. For some of us, that is using this energy to create something. I totally get that – we’re all different. But please just try and keep an eye on your mental health and your need for self-care and rest at this time.
So let me know how you’re doing over on Instagram, I’m @katbluejay and I’m always available for a DM if you just need to chat. And I’ll be back next week with another episode But until then, please take care of yourselves and stay safe.