There’s always a new deal to close, a new client to woo, or a new blog post to write.
If you’re working yourself to the bone every week, you’re inevitably going to hit a wall.
I stared at my to-do list, which included at least 20 urgent items on it. Instinctively, I crawled into bed and hid under the covers.
Even though I knew I had to get to work if I wanted to get any sleep that night, I felt suffocated by everything on my plate. I resented the work existing in and of itself. All I could do was lay in bed with a book, feeling helpless and defeated.
Have you ever had one of these moments?
I’m guessing we’ve all been there at one point or another. The type of crisis I just described is what is known as burnout — a type of high-anxiety work stress caused by psychological, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Its causes vary and can embody anything from a dysfunction workplace to an improper balance between your life, your well-being, and your work.
Essentially, it’s the breaking point you reach after working yourself too hard for too long.
Although burnout can often be an indication that you might need to reassess your career path, experiencing it is perfectly normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to quit your job and move to Bali — just that you need to take a step back and examine the situation. You could actually be causing the burnout you’re experiencing, especially if your boundaries are lacking.
If you’re an entrepreneur like myself, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. No one is looking over your shoulder to see if you’re on-task, but you’re probably working 12+ hour days anyway. There’s always a new deal to close, a new client to woo, or a new blog post to write.
Quite simply, there are no boundaries — which often leads to overworking and exhaustion.
The good news is that you can both avoid and prevent burnout, if you’re proactive about self-care.
Want to get back in the driver's seat of your career? Try these 4 tips:
1. Learn to say “no.”
This is one of those clichés that you’ve probably heard a million times before, but have probably still not fully implemented in your life. It’s hard to say “no” — especially as women. We’re conditioned to please, which usually leads to a lifetime of trying to measure up and make everyone else happy at our expense.
It’s time to actually practice saying the word no.
Start small: When someone asks you to write a guest blog post for free, decline. When a potential client wants a copy of your portfolio — but their mission makes your skin crawl — tell them you’re not interested in working with them. When an old frenemy from college is in town and asks you to grab dinner, tell her you really wouldn’t enjoy her company.
The important thing is to value yourself over other people’s perceptions of you.
Once you practice this self-love, saying “no” becomes much easier.
2. Take time off.
If you’re working yourself to the bone every week, you’re inevitably going to hit a wall. It’s just human nature — we’re not designed to function on work alone.
Make it a point to take time off, totally away from your email, social media, or anything else work-related.
Take time to recharge and engage in activities that you enjoy outside of work. Spend time with loved ones. Read a novel. Paint a masterpiece.
It doesn’t really matter what you do — just make sure you're engaging in activities that actually nourish you, rather than just zoning out to an episode of The Real Housewives while you check your email.
3. Go for a walk.
Sometimes, giving yourself a new frame of reference can make all of the difference in the world in your mindset. Spending all day, every day cooped up in your cubicle or desk is bound to make you a little batty.
Going out in nature and clearing your head can help to cleanse the palette of your mind, so to speak.
I personally prefer going for a walk in the middle of a hectic workday to de-stress, but you could really do anything to get out of your office and into the wild. Plus, there’s tons of scientific data that shows being in nature helps to relieve stress.
4. Implement boundaries.
Finally, it’s time to talk about boundaries.
If you find yourself constantly bending over backward to please your boss, running yourself to the point of exhaustion day in and day out, or simply find that you haven’t implemented any limitations around your availability, it’s time to put some firm boundaries into place.
Remember, the point here is not to drive a wedge between you and your work, but rather to help you cultivate a better work/life balance.
Everyone deserves to have free time. Being unavailable at times doesn’t make you a bad employee — or boss, for that matter.
First, look at your work situation: How often are you “on?” Do you feel uncomfortable saying “no” to any given task or request? Do you feel that you are at the mercy of your clients? Have you set specific structure in your work situation?
If you’re employed by a company, chances are that they have some policies around work time already in place. Revisit those and see where you fall on that spectrum. Are you going way above and beyond the call of duty? Or are you burned out when you’re only doing half of what’s expected of you? Either way, check in with yourself first and then with your supervisor.
See about creating an actual structure around your work.
You can actually frame this as a positive thing, by saying something to the effective of “I want to be totally engaged while I’m at the office, but I can’t do that without some time to recharge my battery. Can we talk about perhaps maintaining a set structure around what’s expected of me?”
If you’re self-employed or running your own business, it’s time to ask yourself what you need. Look at how often you’re actually working and try documenting it for a week. Notice your habits and patterns and similarly, implement an actual structure around your work.
The good news here is that you are in charge — so you get to set the rules yourself.
The overall key to preventing burnout is self-care and self-love that should come from valuing yourself as a whole human, rather than just a worker.