Beating burnout

It’s 1am and you’re still on your laptop, replying to emails. There’s been a crisis at work, and some clients on the other side of the world are seriously annoyed, which could lead to the loss of a very important contract – a contract you manage.

The night before, you worked late too, after the kids’ soccer games in the rain, and the weekend isn’t looking any better work-wise. Dinner hasn’t made it from your plate to your stomach, but coffee is sounding good.

Fast forward to a month later, when you and your sore head and stressed foggy brain realise you can’t do this anymore. You’re totally, utterly, burned out.

Burnout, whether it’s caused by work or by bigger picture life issues, can lead to some very serious health issues and long-term consequences. How to beat it before it beats you?

Look for a cause

To address burnout, first you must know what’s causing it. Here are some common culprits:

  • A lack of control over your job, home life, or both. An inability to stick to a schedule, or complete chaos where every day changes on a whim, causing you a great deal of stress as you constantly reorganise everyone around you.

  • A dysfunctional workplace. Few things are as stressful and hard to manage as difficult or adverse human behaviour, and the impact this can have on the workplace and on individuals should not be underestimated. There are so many things wrong with someone else’s behaviour towards you being behind your burnout.

  • A full-on day, every day. If your work does not allow for the normal ebbs and flow of energy – think, the 3pm slump – and you’re operating at supersonic speed or chaotically for hours, if not days, on end, it can lead to fatigue. Equally full-on are jobs that are completely monotonous where there’s not even variety to change things up.

  • Work-life balance, or lack thereof. Often strived for but not always achieved, the modern work-life balance is a precarious act, in part thanks to modern technology that can literally put more work in your pocket when you’re nowhere near the office. 

Get a vivid and draw some big fat boundaries

Or, switch off your phone and let everyone at work know that it will not be turned on again until 9am the next morning.

If work is eating up all the other parts of your life, from the phone ringing endlessly while you’re in the shower to constant emails streaming in during your kids’ sports games – each beep raising your blood pressure just another notch - then it’s time to set some boundaries. 

Here are some tips on how to leave work at work, and live your life at home.

What did mum always say?

Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, exercise, drink lots of water – such simple life necessities are so often being overlooked, which naturally leads to burnout. 

Making sure that your health is a priority can be hard, particularly when balancing work, family and other commitments, but it’s essential. Small (or big) steps towards looking after your health to beat burnout could be to:

  • Carve out time in every day to take a lunch time walk, leave the office for a coffee or exercise after work. 

  • Find a way to make healthy eating a normal part of every day. If you can’t make your own healthy lunch then find a cafe with healthy, delicious food, order a pre-packed fresh food dinner kit for your family, or even choose fruit and sushi at the supermarket, rather than yet another muesli bar at your desk.

  • Turn off your phone, laptop and tablet way, way before you go to bed. It’s well-known that glaring screens can be a cause of insomnia.

  • Use up those hours of annual leave and treat your family to a holiday away, or a holiday at home. Make it long enough to be able to leave your hectic routine and reflect on what needs to change.

Find help and support

Don’t let burnout get to the point where you’re on extended sick leave. There is help available if you need it, and seeking it out early is better than leaving it and suffering serious health effects later, as well as impacts on career and personal life. 

Support could come from:

  • A trusted friend of family member

  • A workplace supervisor, counsellor or support programme

  • Your GP

  • A careers mentor or other professional.

Is it time to shake things up?

If, once you’ve had a good look at why your burnout has occurred, all signs point directly to your job or workplace, then perhaps it really is time for a big career change. Here are some other ways to know when it’s time to move on from a job.

Work smarter, not harder

If a change of job is not the right thing for you, then look at whether you can make a change to how you’re working to give you the work/life balance you need.

Here are some tips, and inspiration we prepared earlier: