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How Can I Avoid Burnout?

Rich Fernandez






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How Can I Avoid Burnout?

Rich offers proven ways to exercise renewal and recharge your reserves of energy and focus, all which can help with burnout.

Hi, it's Rich here.

I've been asked to answer the

question, how can I avoid burnout?

So let me start by saying, throughout

my life and work, I have definitely

experienced profound feelings of burnout.

I've also found some useful ways to

recover from burnout and to prevent it.

And so I want to share some

of those with you today.

Really, it's three things which

I'll speak to each in turn.

So the first is radical self care.

The second is cultivating

support from others.

And the third is resetting expectations.

So let me speak about each of these.

But as for this experience

of burnout, I certainly have

examples of it, as I said before.

I remember that I once delivered

a huge body of work in a previous

organization in which I worked.

And I was literally reinventing

an important business process.

And after landing that project and

getting great feedback about it, the

thing that happened was that there

was an expectation for the next thing.

A kind of that's great, but what can

you do for me tomorrow kind of thing.

So that didn't feel great.

And definitely it led me to feeling burned

out as I tried to move to the new project.

That's normal because the human

mind and body doesn't naturally

operate in an unrelenting pace.

We need time for rest and recovery.

I mean, look at the best

athletes, they need recovery time.

Without it, we have a

recipe for hurt and burnout.

So before I dive into the suggestions

I made, first, I just want to

answer the question at the outset.

What is burnout?

So given today's world, which has

sometimes been described as a VUCA

world, which stands for volatile,

uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.

I think we can certainly agree that

all those factors are in full effect.

Burnout has become an

increasingly prevalent phenomenon.

So much so that the World Health

Organization recognizes it as a, I think

they use the quote that it's a syndrome

resulting from chronic workplace stress

that has not been successfully managed.

And they diagnose this

as an actual disease.

In fact, the three symptoms of the

disease of burnout that they list

are number one, exhaustion, feelings

of energy depletion, or physical,

mental, and or emotional fatigue.

The next one is disengagement,

not feeling engaged with your

work or very little excitement

and motivation that's sustained.

And finally ineffectiveness, a kind

of reduced productivity or efficacy.

So no matter how much you try to

focus or how hard you try, you

just can't seem to be productive.

I don't know if that sounds familiar

to some of you, but like I said before,

I've certainly experienced that many

times over the years in many different

contexts, whether it was in school

or in a job I had, or other contexts.

So resolving burnout often requires

changes also, not only within

yourself, but within an organization,

which I'll speak to towards the end

here, around resetting expectations.

But let's begin with the first suggestion

I had, which is to prioritize self-care.

It's what I call radical self-care.

It's too easy to fall

into a busy-ness trap.

So perhaps one place to start is

considering what wellbeing means

to you, what it looks like, and

which factors impact your wellbeing.

For me personally, for example,

having a little bit of flexibility

throughout my daily and weekly

schedule is really important.

I like to be able to take walks sometimes

at lunch or to leave work a little bit

early to pick up my son from school and

spend time with him in the afternoon.

Perhaps playing some sports or even just

hanging out, even playing video games.

Whatever it means to you, just

having an understanding of what

wellbeing is and how to prioritize it.

Now consider all the contributors to

optimal wellbeing and then take a good

look at your current schedule or routine.

How are you spending your

days and weeks and months?

There are definitely some factors

that contribute to wellbeing.

These include things like physical

exercise or movement, mental training

or mindfulness practice, adequate

restorative sleep, consuming natural,

unprocessed, balanced foods, time

with family and friends, spending

time in nature and / or natural

environments, and so many, many more.

All of these are considered nice to

have, but sometimes discretionary.

Well, because I suppose the

demands of work and life are really

great, are really high, that is.

The reality though, is that these aren't

just nice to haves, they're must haves, if

in fact we're going to perform our best.

The body and the mind, they have an

inherent need for rest and relaxation.

Have you ever had the experience where

you're trying so hard to solve a problem

at work, you lean into the work, stay

late, miss your evening meal, and keep

looking at your computer screen searching

for an answer, but it doesn't come.

And it could be that the next morning you

decide to take some fresh air and take a

walk before you get to work, before you

get to your desk or onto the computer, and

sometimes a solution magically appears.

This happens to me all the time,

and it happens to me a lot when

I'm walking my dog, actually.

I like to walk my dog on the beach.

We happen to be fortunate to live in

San Francisco, not far from the ocean.

And in those moments of just open space

and expansiveness, a lot of things

kind of come together and gel for me.

So consider ways that you can

create your own routine around

self-care and prioritize those.

Not as nice to haves,

but as need to haves.

This is what I mean by radical self-care.

On the second suggestion, which is

getting support from others, it's

another key to avoiding burnout.

It's really about connecting with your

network, with your community, with

your loved ones, with your friends.

If you have a close, trusted friend

or partner or colleague, share with

them the things that can trigger or

even upset you, the signs, if you

like, that you may be burning out.

And give them the permission to check

in with you when they notice the signs.

And encourage them to encourage

you to exercise self-care.

For example, encouraging them to

invite you for walks, or to catch

up, to watch games on the weekend,

or just to spend time together.

Many of us aren't so good at asking

for help or even noticing that we may

need help to slow down, especially when

we're in the midst of a really important

project or working with a tight deadline.

So giving permission to a trusted

friend who truly cares for your

well-being, to help keep you

accountable, and offer suggestions

for self-care is a great strategy.

It also will have the positive effect

of strengthening your relationship.

And social connections are a

key contributor to wellbeing.

Finally, I just want to say a few

words about my third recommendation,

which is to reset expectations.

Consider that burnout is also a

systemic problem within organizations.

Cultures of organizations

sometimes promote and reward us for

working all hours under the sun.

And they sometimes punish us or make

us feel less adequate for not doing so,

for needing to take time and have some

flexibility and exercise self-care.

So consider how you might utilize

flexible working and setting

expectations within your organization,

especially about meetings and work

hours and see what that's like.

See how that plays in your organization.

See if you can have conversations with

colleagues or managers or leaders in

your organization to reset expectations.

If that's not possible, and the culture

of an organization or a group that

you're involved in is, what we would,

call toxic and not welcoming to your own

wellbeing, then it may be that you have

a different set of choices to make, a

different set of considerations., Perhaps

ones that prioritize your wellbeing.

And that doesn't have to

happen all of a sudden.

But it can be that it begins the

process of being more planful on

creating the causes and conditions

for your own wellbeing and the

things that you need to support that.

And I wish you well, as you work

to exercise some of the skills

that'll help you prioritize

self-care and prevent burnout.

Again, be kind to yourself

throughout the process, knowing

that all of us are prone to burnout.

The demands in life and work can be

great, but that there are also ways

you can exercise with mindfulness

and with self-compassion to avoid

burnout and to be your best.

So thanks for your time today.

Be kind to yourself, and be well.

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