5 Strategies to Prevent Career Burnout and Achieve Balance in Your Life

5 Strategies to Prevent Career Burnout and Achieve Balance in Your Life - vision board

It’s easy to get caught up in our careers. We feel pressure to look perfect. This is the third – and final – post in our series on Career Burnout. Our first post covered 11 Signs to Watch Out for When You’re at Risk of Career Burnout. Our second post looked at The Top 3 Possible Reasons You’re Experiencing Career Burnout.

This post is an introduction to five strategies to prevent career burnout so you can enjoy your work and stay feeling healthy and positive.

Strategy 1: Turn to other people

When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable. Everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone take action to help yourself and prevent career burnout. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. There are positive steps you can take to deal with overwhelming stress and get your life back into balance. One of the most effective is to reach out to others.

Social contact is nature’s antidote to stress. Talking face to face with a good listener is one of the fastest ways to calm your nervous system and relieve stress. The person you talk to doesn’t have to be able to “fix” your stressors. They just must be a good listener, someone who’ll listen attentively without becoming distracted or expressing judgment.

Reach out to those closest to you

Such as your partner, family, and friends. Opening up won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends and loved ones will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your friendship.

Limit your contact with negative people

Hanging out with negative-minded people who do nothing but complain will only drag down your mood and outlook. If you must work with a negative person, try to limit the amount of time you spend together.

Connect with a cause or a community group that is personally meaningful to you

Joining a religious, social, or support group can give you a place to talk to like-minded people about how to deal with daily stress—and to make new friends.

Talk to your manager

If you believe you’re beginning to show symptoms of burnout, talk to your manager as soon as you can. They should be keen and willing to help you prevent career burnout. See if some of your work can be given to others. It’s in your manager’s best interest to keep you healthy and productive, so they should work with you for the good of the team.

Seek professional support

You may find support from:

  • A mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counsellor. These professionals can help you identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviours.  
  • A professional coach who will listen to your concerns and help you identify specific steps for overcoming and preventing career burnout.
  • A religious or spiritual advisor who can provide comfort during times of distress.

Strategy 2: Reframe the way you look at work

Often the most effective way to combat and prevent career burnout is to quit and find a job you love instead. Of course, for many of us changing job or career is far from being a practical solution, we’re grateful just to have work that pays the bills. Whatever your situation, though, there are still steps you can take to improve your state of mind.

Try to find some value in your work

Rediscovering your purpose can go a long way towards helping you avoid burnout and keeping stress at bay. Look at the deeper impact of what you do every day; how does your work make life better for other people? How could you add more meaning to what you do every day? Even in some mundane jobs, you can often focus on how your role helps others, for example, or provides a much-needed product or service. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy, even if it’s just chatting with your co-workers at lunch. Changing your attitude towards your job can help you regain a sense of purpose and control.

Find balance in your life

If you hate your job, look for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life: in your family, friends, hobbies, or voluntary work. Focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.

Make friends at work

Having strong ties in the workplace can help reduce monotony and counter the effects of burnout. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve stress from an unfulfilling or demanding job.

Take time off

If burnout seems inevitable, try to take a complete break from work. Go on vacation, use up your sick days, ask for a temporary leave-of-absence, anything to remove yourself from the situation. Use the time away to recharge your batteries and pursue other methods of recovery. It’s also worth checking with HR about any available programmes that might help. For example, shared leave programmes where employees can donate their extra time off to colleagues who need it.

Strategy 3: Re-evaluate your priorities

Burnout is an undeniable sign that something important in your life is not working. Take time to think about your hopes, goals, and dreams. Are you neglecting something that is truly important to you? This can be an opportunity to rediscover what really makes you happy and to slow down and give yourself time to rest, reflect, and heal.

Write a manifesto or vision statement

Have you forgotten what you want out of life? It’s easy to lose track of time and even easier to forget about what makes us glad to be alive. It’s important to find this again if you want to learn how to prevent career burnout. What can you do to bring back that focus?

Take a day or perhaps an entire weekend and write a manifesto, a declaration of purpose, or a vision statement for yourself. The process will give you focus as you put your intentions into writing. You’ll also discover that stepping back and looking at your life has a way of putting the stresses of the moment into perspective.

Give yourself a career check-up

To start, consider what you need from your career and the values that are important to you.  If your values do not align with your organisation, you may need to consider whether it is time to look for new opportunities.  If you think you’re in the wrong role or career, develop a career strategy to help you find a role that’s better for you.  Use job crafting to shape your role, so that it fits you better.

Nourish your creative side

Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress. A hobby that uses an entirely different skill set can provide your heart and mind with a satisfying break from the weekly grind.

Set aside relaxation time

Relaxation techniques such as meditation and deep breathing create a state of restfulness that is the opposite of stress.

Get plenty of sleep

Our bodies need time to rest and reset, which is why healthy sleep habits are essential for our well-being. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual, and banning smartphones from the bedroom can help promote sound sleep.

Strategy 4: Make exercise a priority

Even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out, exercise is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do right now to boost your mood. What’s more, regular exercise will help you get a good night’s sleep.

Aim to exercise for 30 minutes or more per day or break that up into short, 10-minute bursts of activity. A 10-minute walk can improve your mood for two hours.

Get more exercise by getting up earlier, or even by exercising at lunchtime. You might also be more motivated to exercise by teaming up with colleagues, or by setting up an office fitness challenge.

Strategy 5: Support your mood and energy levels with a healthy diet

What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day. Eating a healthy diet filled with omega-3 fatty acids can be a natural antidepressant.

Reduce sugar and refined carbs

You may crave sugary snacks or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these high-carbohydrate foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy.

Reduce your high intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, unhealthy fats, and foods with chemical preservatives or hormones.

Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids to give your mood a boost

The best sources are fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts.

Avoid nicotine

Smoking when you’re feeling stressed may seem calming, but nicotine is a powerful stimulant, leading to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Alcohol temporarily reduces worry, but too much can cause anxiety as it wears off.

Which of these strategies can you put in place to build your resilience to stress and prevent career burnout?

Remember, there is no one right way to successfully navigate the challenges of your career. Instead, take what works for you and leave the rest. But whatever you do, remember to be patient. It is a long road to figure out what works best for you. The most important thing is that you don’t get too discouraged in the process. Take it step by step, one day at a time.

This topic has been run as part of our Career Lab Series, which is our low-cost and high-impact way to link career management and learning.

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