The end of summer is just around the corner, prompting many of us to squeeze in vacations before the kids head back to school. After a week at the relatives, the beach or a fabulous dream vacation, instead of feeling refreshed, do you dread being back at work? Are you finding yourself less interested than you used to be—even in areas you are passionate about—and wondering what’s going on? What you’re feeling could be burnout, and here are five tips to prevent it.
1. Pay attention to negative feelings. You’re feeling on edge. When you’re feeling burnt out, it’s easy to blame everything and everyone else. Ultimately, though, it’s your life energy that’s getting sapped. So instead of ignoring negative feelings, pay attention to them.
Write down what happened and what is really making you react. Then you can start to think about what conditions you might be able to change.
2. Figure out what’s urgent and what’s not. We have lots of technology now that makes us feel like we need to respond immediately. The truth is, it’s a rare situation where we can’t wait until the time of day that we’ve set aside for that type of task. So think through your true priorities and plan out your day putting those first—especially the work that you are most excited about. Then fit in the more administrative tasks in the remaining time.
3. Give your brain a break. In order to do your best work, your brain actually needs regular breaks. Understand how you respond to different times of day and what rhythm lets you be most productive. Start to match activities to the type of energy you experience throughout the day. Make room for healthy downtime. That can include dinner with friends, going for a walk, a long bath—whatever really relaxes you. Give yourself space. If you aren’t feeling restored, you won’t be able to make headway toward the change you want to see in the world.
4. Revisit your support structure. Who are the people you have felt most positive around? How long has it been since you connected with them? Consistently finding ways to connect with people who bring positive energy into your life rejuvenates you. Take the time to think through which of your colleagues help you to feel alive about the work you are doing. Look for opportunities to work with those colleagues. Remember that networking is community building, so you can actually forward your career while growing your support structure. Of course, think through the support you need from your personal relationships, too.
5. Rekindle old passions and find new ones. Think back to hobbies that you enjoyed in the past or to activities you’ve wanted to try. Have you been making time for them lately? Get on the mountain bike. Write in your journal. Hunt down a ceramics class.
We are not machines, and we can’t always have our switches turned “on.” Each of us needs deep and frequent opportunities to restore in order to do our best work. Only you know what kinds of activities are most restorative for you. Make space for them—not just once in a while, but in small ways, every day. The time you spend restoring will pay back in your happiness and your performance.
Source: Cynthia Jaggi M.Sc. is the founder of GatherWell, the Think + Do tank for practical idealists. She has been getting results for social sector leaders and their organizations for more than a decade.