Everyone does it, we toss, we turn, we overthink about our woes both personally and professionally. We sit for hours scrolling through social media and other consumption platforms, and then its 3am with work in four hours.
Set aside dedicated hours for wind down, reduce the screen time, and force yourself into the sleep routine as a habit. It won't happen immediately but with some further work on other aspects of coping it will become a reality. When the sleep pattern starts returning to normal you're starting to recover from burnout.
Exercise and fitness
Not the first thing anyone wants to hear when they're already strapped for time, lacking the motivation, and generally feeling helpless, but exercise is a relatively short to medium term to reduce burnout symptoms. It can be worked into a routine and you don't need to go fitness mad to feel the benefits both physically and mentally to some additional cardio.
Mindfulness exercises are one touted method for tackling this as it both focuses your mind and body in one task.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of them all. Talking. Openly. About. Life. Work. How you feel. What is making you feel it.
This one requires trust, both in the person you're discussing the topic(s) with, but also with needing to know that these talks are completely confidential and that the topics of discussion are not going outside of the parties directly involved.
Your partner / best friend / colleague may not be suitable to unload major items on as it can and will test the boundaries of those relationships as it goes into the heavier aspects of discussion and emotions. I highly recommend professional services if these discussions become a regular and frequent topic within personal relationships.
There may be staff assistance in the form of professional (confidential) counselling for staff. If it isn't offered it can be worth engaging with local services that deal with and offer professional counselling as part of the third sector or paid for services.
Not every counsellor is alike, and it may take a search before you find someone compatible with you. Any good counsellor will also guide you to the right fit for your needs and personality.
If things don't improve a mental health professional may need to become involved as there could be some underlying issues or trauma that need to be dealt with. Counsellors can be trained on these areas but it is typicially a niche/specialist service.
Shift your perspective
Now to set the scene - this is not a quick process, and it requires some thought, potentially some external help, and possibly even some drastic changes to processes or systems.
Make a list. All of the things, happenings, stresses, worries, frustrations. Anything that happens that impacts you in a large, frequent or regular fashion.
Is it the phone ringing with a particular client/customer? is it a particular system? Is it the tone and attitude of conversations and emails?
How can we change them? What or how can we make them less of a burden? Can we eliminate it?
Tackling the most frequent or painful aspects of the list along with some quick wins is a sure fire way to reduce the burnout.
What can be automated? Automation removes us entirely from the process and removes that mental workload completely.
Make sure to block out dedicated response windows for emails such as only answering from 9-10am / 2-3pm or a schedule that works for you, then work in a more focused manner on other tasks to clear the backlog.
Say NO. and mean it, or at the very least set deadlines that are achievable whilst reducing your mental workload, juggling and stresses. Add some buffer to timescales to give yourself (and your team) room to breathe.
Ring-fenced and dedicated downtime, be it annual leave or just protected time during the week to focus. It all adds up to help to reduce the burden, and to reduce the effect burnout has when creeping into other aspects of our lives.
You might feel like you're coming back to a bigger pile of work, "how will you ever cope", you're "letting" your reputation/performance/team down. All you can ever think instead is that you're actively harming yourself and the overall goal of a healthy work/life balance with reduced stressors.
Avoid work out of hours
We're all in an interconnected world, with globally distributed teams - working at all hours and you need to unplug from slack/teams/discord/emails etc for your own sanity.
Out of hours work not only cuts into your time to unwind and recoup, but it also impacts your personal relationships, the people around you, your children's upbringing and many more aspects.
These interconnected systems have brought us into a world where real time conversations are both amazingly powerful, but also set a taxing burden to respond to issues and questions regardless of what we're doing. It has set our availability to always. We have all become de facto on call without any additional compensation.
Step away from Technology
Now this one is self-explanatory; step away from the digital world. Blogs? News? Vulnerabilities? The constant drip feeding of technical knowledge, and social networking has an impact on all of us.
The propensity to adopt technical advances, and the frequency of change within the industry sets the scene for failure; in a world where five minutes out of the game feels like an eternity how do you ever "down tools"?
Be it in the form of trolls on social networks, information overload, interruptions from family time, or even just feeling you have to fight in an industry prejudiced against you. It all gets under the skin, and the only answer to this is to put it all away and do something else, something new.
Step away from emotional drains
We all have them; friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people we follow on social media, forums, professional settings, and other mediums - they bring with them the next storm, the next wave of drama or "perfect" lives where you get tied up with both your mental workload and their issues or the perception of perfection they show to the world.
That is before we even touch upon the more controversial ones we might associate ourselves with - who are more often than not the direct cause of the issues.
Mute them, unfollow them, block them.
In a world where these platforms profit from engagement levels, and reactions... this drama is the profiteering mechanism behind the thinly veiled terms of services we sign ourselves up to as the exchange for that
free product we all use. The only way to win both in general and during burnout is to reduce our engagement to our terms.
Change roles / where you work
This one feels like the ultimate nuke and pave option; it is also the riskiest both emotionally, and financially.
It's not as big of an undertaking as we all think however, but when burnt out the only way forward is to dream, even when we're at the borders of breaking down.
At some point you have to realise or find out that some organisations cannot be fixed; they treat staff not as a human, or a relationship - but purely as a number, a statistic, a resource. They're around for the betterment of shareholders,
Don't burn down the bridges you've built however - life is short and it is pretty much a guarantee one way or another word gets around, or it comes back to hit you in another way.
Further Reading and Resources