The World Health Organization (WHO) declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon” back in May 2019, and thankfully it is now categorised as an official medical condition Link.

This wasn’t always the case.  And thankfully employers are now much more knowledgeable about mental health issues in the workplace. But it doesn’t mean that the problem has gone away overnight. Quite the opposite, and the only person able to really stop burn out – is the individual.

Interestingly and sadly, some commentators claim that by 2020, depression will rank second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability world-wide. Which means we need to consider early intervention methods of stress reduction and a focus on dealing with mental health issues.

The official term ‘Burnout’ is characterized by three main symptoms.

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance, or
  • Feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job/life.

The best thing to help burnout is the thing that people suffering from burnout often find hardest to achieve. REST. You need to stop, sleep and recover. Doing this takes time. It takes accepting that you have burnout, and that fighting it won’t help. It takes surrender, and readiness to rest.

Here are my top tips for avoiding or extinguishing burnout swiftly and effectively.

Nourish yourself

It is so important to nourish yourself with good sleep, good food, movement and conscious breathing. So often when we get busy one or all these things slip. The further down the slippery slope we get the deeper into burnout we fall.

Sleep Well

Make sure your bedroom is dark and stop screen time before bed. Keep phones out of the bedroom! Don’t let the world in your phone be the last thing you see at night and the first thing you reach for in the morning.

Check your Diet!

Be sure to eat a balanced diet, make it colourful and varied. Try to limit caffeine, particularly in the afternoon and stop it in the evening. You don’t put junk fuel into a formula one car, so why would you put junk food into your body. Treats are good, but don’t let convenience rule your fuel intake.

Bring Balance into your life

First, keep your to-do list manageable and short, think about what you can accomplish one day at a time. Having a huge to do list, can become overwhelming and set us up to fail, to feel we never get anything done. You don’t need to throw all your responsibilities away but break them down into bite size actionable steps.

You need some radical self-care, be creative and carve out some me time. Sit in the car for 5 minutes before you get home or arrive at work, get up 5 mins earlier, it all adds up. Book into that yoga class, practice mindful cooking, go for a walk in the middle of the day and if you can, cat nap! By creating space for yourself, you will get more done. Slow down and hit factory reset.

Limit Screen Time

Deadlines, social media, emails, the endless demands on our time can wait, and the priority needs to be you. Check your notifications on your phone – turn them all off! Set some boundaries whilst at it – block out times of the day where you are uncontactable. And, make sure you are stepping away from screen time an hour before bed and keep your phone out of the bedroom.

Move your Body

Move, move, move, because we feel good afterwards, endorphins have kicked in, our mood is elevated, and we are oxygenated and it keeps us feeling young. It doesn’t have to be epic; a brisk walk to lunch, take the stairs, if you are seated all day be sure to stand up and move periodically.

Don’t Hate, Meditate

We find that as we get stressed or overwhelmed our breathing gets shallow, just slowing this down by taking 3 deep conscious breaths, in through your nose and out your mouth. We breath, anyway, just add the awareness and be mindful throughout the day – you’ll start notice when you hold your breath! Try to integrate some breathing exercises for 5 minutes a day – there are some great apps or videos on YouTube that you can use to help you recalibrate. You can gradually increase the times- as you build these practises up you will actually start to slow down more and this will feel like you have more time. It’s a win win.

If you are still Meh!

If you feel like you ‘kinda’ have things balanced, but are teetering on the fence; not quite at burn out but not living your best and fullest life, you might want to spice things up a bit. Who wants to be vanilla when we can be mint chocolate chip! Really think about some of those difficult questions you may be avoiding… and write it all down. What would it take for you to feel you are living your best and fullest life? What is already in place that will contribute to this? What do you need to let go of?

Create your joy list! Make a list of the things that you enjoy, even if you’ve not done them in a while. Things from the past and things you’re doing now. Next make a list of things you’re curious about, things you’d maybe like to try but haven’t. What do you notice about these lists? Is there a common theme, a common thread? Start to add these activities into your daily life, and especially the ones you’re curious about. You just never know what gold you will uncover.

Variety is the Spice of Life

If you feel you’ve got the work life balance thing nailed, then Yay You! Your risk of burnout is minimal. Keep doing what you’re doing, and add some variety in so you don’t quietly  slide into automatic pilot. Try adding in some variety to your activities and do something you’ve never done before, something you’re curious about trying.

Variety is the spice of life.

Iona’s Book “Making Waves” is due out Autumn this year