Are you sick, tired, feeling like you’ve hit the wall? We’ve all been there, but we don’t have to experience the terrible feeling again. No one deserves to feel the effects of perpetual sacrifice and stress and burnout.
Karrie Brazaski of Redwood Executive Coaching is well acquainted with burnout herself. As a nurse for 29 years and a hospital administrator for 15 years, she noticed that as demands and duties increased, her level of support and resources decreased.
Karrie realized that the first step to conquering burnout is realizing that sometimes you need to step away or step back to heal, even if you love what you do.
In this blog post, I review some of the key principles Karrie revealed about what to do when burnout strikes.
The Cumulative Costs of Stress
Burnout is caused by an overload of stress, but stress in turn is a result of recognizing we are burned out. It’s a vicious cycle that can have negative effects on our body, mind and soul.
‘Busy’ Reduces Productivity
Many times, we wear busyness on our chest like a badge of honor. We take pride in a full calendar of meetings, webinars, and eating lunch at our desk while answering emails.
But in reality, the more we add to our day the less productive we are. It begins to take a whole day to complete a task that would have taken an hour. A day’s work becomes a week’s work because we were distracted ‘multitasking’ (it’s been proven this is not a thing).
Doctors appointments start to get canceled, meetings rescheduled, and miscommunication ensues.
This low-level avoidance is a signal from our mind and body that we are taking on too much, and if not addressed can lead us into a deeper hole to dig out of.
Chronic Stress is Chronic Disease
Among the top 6 causes of death… stress contributes to all of them. Whenever we are in ‘fight or flight’ ‘mode, our body sends stress signals that affect us physically such as high blood pressure, anxiety, tension, etc
These reactions may help when fighting off a bear, but our body is not adapted to handle the sustained, chronic micro stressors that attack us everyday.
This chronic state of induced stress (and our reaction to it) is what contributes to breaking down our immune systems and ultimately leads to symptoms such as hypertension, obesity, anxiety, and other chronic illness/disease.
Stress and chaos do not allow us to GOST (get our shit together), and then we blame ourselves… causing guess what? Yup, even more stress.
It’s time to end this ring-around-the rosie, wouldn’t you say? Here’s how…
Unlearn the ‘Hustle and Grind’ Culture
Our culture thrives and glamorizes grind, hustle and workaholism. Even my beloved GaryVee, champion of hustle and grind, has walked back his message a bit. Gary now emphasizes choosing passion and enthusiasm as opposed to grinding yourself to the ground no matter what.
As much as I am a hustler and grinder myself, I’ve realized the mindset can be toxic when it overtakes every aspect of our lives and puts our physical and mental health at risk.
Relieve Yourself of the “Women’s Load”
As females and entrepreneurs, we take on a lot and think we have to do it all, putting ourselves last and everyone else first.
The mental load of women is the things we keep in our heads: calendars, appointments, chores, etc that occupy our mental space 24/7.
It’s essentially the job of an elite project manager… except we’re managing our personal life, and professional life, and family life… without pay and benefits. In other words, IT SUCKS.
This burden only expands with managing larger teams and household obligations. To help relieve some of your load, give yourself permission to let go of some things. Ask your partner to handle some tasks, delegate administrative work to your team, or invest in automation tools and software to clear up some mental space.
It’s important to note that when you delegate, whether it be to an employee, a partner, or your kids, you should no longer be responsible for that task.\ The mental load is not only about you being in charge of completing the task, but the mental energy that is required to initiate the help, follow-up, follow-through, if necessary.
When you give a responsibility to someone else, let it go. This may take some internal/external work and training upfront, but it’s going to pay dividends in the future. It’s a journey of trusting yourself and trusting others that nothing is going to burn(out) if you’re not directly in charge.
Focus only on your immediate priorities.
Perform an Internal Reality Check
You know that rabbit trail that we go down thinking of everything possible that can go wrong? Shut it DOWN.
It’s a scientific fact: our brains can’t differentiate between reality and what we repeatedly think or believe. So, when we constantly worry about the worst case scenario, we essentially manifest that outcome.
The solution? Don’t make shit up! Or rather, if you do, make sure it’s a nice story that you would happily put up with.
Build a practice of mindfulness to snap yourself out of these destructive thought loops. Some simple ways to cultivate awareness of your thoughts are: journaling, mediation, and exercise.
Practical Steps to Reduce Burnout
Delete the Trauma and Drama
Karrie highlighted some simple, actionable steps that we can all utilize to protect ourselves against chronic stressors that contribute to our feeling of burnout:
Address the root of the problem. What is causing you stress? Are you overwhelmed with a to-do list? Is it a toxic team member? Are you taking care of your health and wellness? Try to dive deep into the underlying cause of stress. Journaling over the course of weeks or months may aid in this process.
Examine existing conditions. There may be other factors that contribute to your susceptibility to stress and burnout. If you already have a chronic condition, that may more readily trigger your physical, emotions, or mental responses to situations. Try visiting a professional to see if you can mitigate some negative effects of your health.
Implement tools. Simple engagements such as meditation can drastically reduce risk of a negative response to a possible trigger, but there are also many other tools that can manage or decrease risks of potential upsets. These can be as practical as a to-do-list to manage your priorities to as spiritual as prayer in the midst of a crisis.
Create boundaries. Set up systems that protect you from people and tasks that drain your energy. Of course, not everything and/or one is avoidable, but you can structure your life so you are in control of how you interact with most situations.
Manage your Spoons
The spoons theory originated from a disability metaphor that highlights the disparity of resources for those that have a chronic illness or disability.
The keyword here is chronic – that can apply to stress, pain, fatigue, etc. The spoons theory explains that chronic ailments reduce our capacity to function as a person that does not have any chronic conditions.
In this case, if you are constantly burned out and/or stressed, you are not on an even playing field as someone who is not. It is important to recognize that you may have less internal resources to complete the tasks that others may do easily.
The spoons theory is great because it increases our awareness to the relationship between our external circumstances and internal capacities.
Once we recognize what ‘spoons’ are inhibiting us, we can either increase our spoons, or simply manage our external circumstances that accommodate our limited resources. One is not better than the other, but we must decide on which option will best allow us to show up in the world as our whole selves.
Intentionally Connect with Loved Ones
Our family often gets the worst of us by the end of the day. By the time we come home, our energy is spent on documents and spreadsheets and business partners.
Sometimes, it’s a bit too much to have a long day of work and be fully present with your family and household duties. I get it. Oftentimes we are told that we have to choose between a career and a life. There is a clear distinction between the two, but they are not mutually exclusive either.
Your loved ones deserve all of you, and you deserve to feel loved, too. Some ways to implement intentional connection are scheduling an hour out of each day, or taking weekends to turn off work to prioritize love in your life.
Speaking of priorities, taking care of yourself is not a luxury – it’s a necessity. You cannot pour from an empty vessel. Renewing your mind so you can function properly is absolutely necessary. Sometimes, we just need rest.
Studies show that 7 to 9 hours of sleep cleans grey matter (part of our brain responsible for higher processing). It’s not only the quantity that matters, quality as well.
Here are some tips you can implement throughout your day to improve your likelihood of sound sleep:
- Exercise early
- Practice a wind-down ritual
- Follow natural light patterns
- Declutter your mind and space
- Limit blue light exposure an hour before bed
Let Your Burnout Fizzle Out
Remember, you can only serve others from an overflow. Managing your stress and productivity levels are a critical part of leadership. Recognize the signs of burnout and take time to heal.
What does your burnout look like? How are you taking steps to manage it? I hope this blog gave you some ideas! Share your experiences in our community, Client Experience Revolution Facebook Group.
To conquering and thriving!