Could you be suffering from burn out syndrome? As we are leading increasingly busy lives, the risk of burning out becomes more prevalent.
What is burn out syndrome?
Cramming a huge amount of tasks into our days can help us to feel valuable in the short term but it carries serious repercussions for the long term. With careers, children, families, hobbies and relationships, it’s easy to think that we need to be constantly on the go but the truth is we’re not designed to be perfect at everything we do.
Unfortunately, as humans we are finite beings. There are only so many tasks we can take on before we start to burn out. This isn’t a sign of weakness or a signal that we should work harder – it’s just a fact. If we keep piling weights onto a structure, eventually it will collapse. The key to a healthy work-life balance is to respect our limitations and give ourselves back the downtime we desperately need.
If we are accustomed to seeing ourselves as busy people, we may not like the implication that we should ‘slow down’. To us, relaxation is a waste of time and productivity must be occurring in order for something to be successful. Even when we do what could be a relaxing activity such as swimming or yoga, we are timing each movement, pushing ourselves further and trying to prove to ourselves that this time is ‘worthwhile’.
The truth is that downtime is always worthwhile. You don’t have to do anything to make this true. When we are truly relaxed, our bodies are replenishing themselves. Our minds clear themselves of old ideas and make space for new ones. Our bodies recover from all of the rushing around that we do the rest of the time. The only thing which makes relaxation unsuccessful is the feeling that we could be doing it better!
5 easy ways to get some downtime
Step away from your PC
It has been reported that sitting still for long periods of time is very detrimental to your health. There are software programs which will ‘lock’ your PC for five minutes every half an hour (or ten minutes an hour) so that you can get up and do something else. For many of us, at work, this is not necessarily practical, but try to borrow from this idea with regular breaks away from your desktop. Make a cup of tea, do some filing or just have a walk around the office. In itself, it takes some discipline but these mini-breaks will help you avoid the mid-afternoon lag which most people experience at work.
Give yourself a rest hour – in nature if possible
Schedule in an hour for relaxation in the same way as you would schedule in an important meeting – because it is important! If you’re at work, take your lunch break to the park rather than eating at your desk. Being in natural surroundings additionally helps ease stress. If it’s the evening, have a nap or take a walk to a place where you’ll be away from anything which might distract you. Tell yourself, “I’ll take care of those tasks after my rest hour.”
Get a friend/partner to help
If you live with your partner or a friend, ask them to help you be strict about your downtime. Agree on a day where you’re not allowed to take on any tasks which aren’t purely relaxing and get them to help you stick to it. It’s much easier to give yourself permission to relax when you have someone to tell you to stay away from the washing up/bills/cooking.
Drop some errands
There is usually an easy way to reduce the amount of time spent on day-to-day tasks, helping you to get a little extra downtime during the week. Can you order your groceries online rather than going to the shop? Do you have to fix that broken appliance or can you ask a repairman/friend? Do you have to get the bus to your appointment or can someone give you a lift? As long as you don’t try to cram extra tasks into the time saved, you can give yourself a break!
There is rarely a time at the moment where we are completely devoid of anything to do – and that’s not always a good thing. Social media websites are great for keeping up with friends but they can be very time-consuming and take a lot of energy away from you. Try to minimise the things you do which sap your energy and replace them with something more peaceful.
These are five straightforward ways to help prevent burn-out, and of course there are many more. What strategies do you use to prevent or deal with burn-out? We’d love to hear…