3 Simple Ways to Combat Burnout

The further we are down the path to burnout, the more overwhelming everything becomes. At some point, we realize (or someone tells us) that we need to DO something about how we are feeling, but we may have lost the ability to discern what actions we should take. This post provides 3 simple ways to begin to combat burnout and to take your life and well-being back into your own hands.

Photo: Michael Green on Unsplash

Photo: Michael Green on Unsplash

  1. Prioritize sleep

Sleep is foundational to all physical, mental and emotional recovery. Without sleep, your body cannot heal from the stresses of the day. The average adult needs a minimum of 7-8 hours per night of sleep. Lack of sleep is the precursor to a host of symptoms and illnesses.

Notice I didn’t say “sleep more.” I said, “prioritize sleep.” If you haven’t been sleeping well for a while, me telling you to “sleep more” isn’t going to help!

Adopting the following activities and/or habits can help you create conditions more conducive to a good night’s sleep:

  • Put sleep on your calendar.

  • Talk to your family/partner about how important sleep is for you and for them and involve them in making it a priority.

  • Put the electronic screens away or turn them off at least an hour before bed.

  • Do not read work emails/texts right before bed.

  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool.

  • Create a soothing bedtime routine: hot tea, read a book, take a hot shower or bath. Use this routine nightly to let your body know it is time to wind down.

  • Meditate or do gentle yoga before bed.

  • No caffeine after 2 pm

  • No alcohol within an hour of bedtime

  • Seek professional assistance. If you have been suffering from insomnia for a period of time, you may need homeopathic or medical assistance.

Photo: @mr.khoadinh on Instagram

Photo: @mr.khoadinh on Instagram

2. Get more nature.

Even pictures of nature can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure and production of stress hormones. Spending time outside can improve your mood from depressed, stressed and anxious to more calm and balanced. Try the following:

  • Set aside 10 minutes a day to spend outside if at all possible. If not every day, set a goal for 1-3x per week.  

  • Find a park bench, a trail or a body of water that you pass each day and give yourself permission to stop and sit for 5 minutes without any electronic devices.

  • Try “walking” meetings outside instead of sitting in a conference room.

  • Schedule outdoor activities with one or more friends on a monthly basis.

If you a feeling the need to exhale and cannot get outside, here are some other ways to access nature in a pinch:

  • Keep nature scenes on your computer lock screen.

  • “Follow” nature photographers on social media.  

  • Keep a plant or fresh flowers in your home or workspace.

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3. Take a Break Every 90 Minutes

Our brains have built-in biological rhythms that involve alternating periods of high-frequency brain activity (about 90 minutes) followed by lower-frequency brain activity (about 20 minutes).

Pushing through these natural rhythms triggers your stress response. Not only that, your brain is going to take a break, whether you like or not. Every 20 minutes your brain is snoozing and you are trying to work; not the most efficient or effective strategy.

If you work with your brain and give it a break every 90 minutes, you will find yourself more relaxed and more productive. Try this:

  • Set a timer/alarm or your smartwatch to ping you every 90 minutes (on vibrate if necessary).

  • When the timer goes off, actually step away from your workstation without your technology for 5-10 minutes.

    • Take a walk around the inside of your building or take a walk outside.

    • Do some gentle stretches.

    • Find a quiet place to listen to some relaxing music.

    • Go have a face-to-face conversation with a co-worker.

    • Do an activity or task that doesn’t require intense concentration and focus.

Now that you know the 3 ways to combat burnout let's start with some immediate implementation steps. Pick one of these strategies and spend 30 days incorporating it into your life:

  • Start with a goal of 1-2x per week to employ this new strategy.

  • Recruit an accountability buddy to provide moral support.

  • Take the time to give yourself a pat on the back when you are successful and be kind and patient with yourself when you fall short of your goal.

  • Pay attention to the impact of integrating this new recovery activity into your life.

When we are dealing with burnout, it is more important to take action than to take action perfectly. Small actions, taken consistently can make a huge difference in our health and well-being. So let’s begin!

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