Are you exhausted, annoyed, and ready to throw in the towel on something that once made you leap out of bed with joy every morning? I know that feeling well. It’s one I suffered from often in the past and still encounter occasionally. It typically signals an impending burnout. Not the type of burnout you get from dropping your 93 Honda Civic into 3rd gear at 6,000 rpm’s. The type of burnout that makes you avoid work, question the value of your existence, and eat large quantities of Oreo cookies while watching bad television.
How can you avoid burnout and stay in a productive rhythm? Here are 11 ways you can start safeguarding your life against burnout:
1. Schedule regular social activities
Remember when you used to spend time with people you were neither working with nor sleeping with? You watched movies, ate meals, played games, and went on trips. You were active and you had fun!
You can regain some of that emotional fulfillment by contacting some of your old pals and scheduling regular activities. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Sure, rafting in Alaska would be fun but a monthly brunch with people you don’t see every day will do just fine. The point of this exercise is to expand your social horizon and crush the feeling that you’re stuck doing the same thing every day.
2. Follow a fitness plan
Why we give up exercise in order to sit in a chair and work for an extra hour at a lower level of intensity is beyond me. I used to do it myself. I dealt with stress by eating and worked instead of working out. The result? Not only did I burn out but I got really chubby, too! If you want to avoid burnout, resurrect that New Year’s Resolution and figure out what it takes to get you exercising on a regular basis. Apart from all the physical benefits of exercise, you’ll enjoy the mental satisfaction of knowing that you’re taking good care of yourself again.
3. Pursue a hobby
Pick a hobby that has little or nothing to do with what you spend most of your week doing and pursue it with passion! A hobby that uses an entirely different skill set can provide your heart and mind with a satisfying break from the weekly grind and set you on a good path for increased productivity. You probably won’t even need to worry about picking a new hobby out. The one you abandoned when you sold your soul to the work week is waiting for you to return. Shine up those golf clubs, get out the fishing gear, or buy a new pair of boxing gloves and get moving!
Nothing brightens the soul or warms the senses like giving to another for no reason other than to give. If you’re feeling run down by life, I implore you to seek out somebody less fortunate than yourself and work to help them. Reach out to your local soup kitchen or professional organization and ask for referrals to local places that need your help. They’ll be glad to get you started and you’ll soon forget about badly you thought you had it!
5. Write a manifesto
Have you forgotten what you want out of life? It’s easy to lose track of time and even easier to forget about what makes us glad to be alive. What can you do to bring back that focus? Take a day or perhaps an entire weekend and write a manifesto, a declaration of purpose, for yourself. The process will give you focus as you put your intentions into writing. You’ll also discover that stepping back and looking at your life as a whole has a way of putting the stresses of the moment into perspective.
6. Ask for help
This is a tough one, especially if you’re a resourceful I’ll-do-it-on-my-own type of person like me. But it’s worth the time it takes to ask for help making sense of something that’s been dragging you down. It’s worth the embarrassment of admitting that you can’t do something on your own to really get help. Whether your struggle is with a particular part of a project or with something general, like time management, asking for help will get you to a solution faster than you could ever hope to alone. If you want to avoid burnout, you’ll need to swallow your pride on occasion and reach out for help.
7. Make others laugh
Humor keeps us sane even through the most stressful of circumstances. Laughter is fun and a great way to reduce stress. Even better, finding ways to make others laugh doesn’t just reduce stress for all involved. It allows you to begin viewing yourself as a source of fun and laughter in your social or work group. You’ll find it hard to be glum and entertain unhappy thoughts when the people around you are excited and happy to be near you. There’s no need to be a genius comedian. Start out by learning a few good jokes and add as you go!
8. Make an escape list
An “escape list” is a list of everything you’d need to do in order to escape a situation that’s driving you nuts. In a work context, your escape list might include things like turning in a final presentation or asking for a raise. It might also include smaller things like submitting your resume to a new opportunity or drafting a letter of resignation!
You might never follow up on the items in your escape list but the process of writing one will help clarify in your mind that you are not truly stuck. You have options. Perhaps not the best or most fun options, but you are certainly not stuck.
9. Embrace a morning ritual
Are you starting your day on the wrong foot by waking up late, rushing about, and skipping out the door at the last minute? Try slowing down your morning instead. Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than usual and spend the “extra” time sitting in a sunny spot in your living room with a cup of coffee and a good book. As you slowly add more to your morning, you’ll develop a fierce attachment to “your” time. Why? Because you’ve chosen to start your day with a focus on taking care of yourself instead of busting out of bed like a bomb squad.
10. Stop making excuses
Is everything that’s dragging you down right now because of something your boss, partner, friend, or client did? Getting caught up in how much everybody else is screwing up will put you on the fast track to gray hair and a stupendous burnout. The fix? Accept responsibility for your part of the problems that plague you. Then start digging your way out. Once you’ve given up on blaming others you’ll start seeing more of the good in your life and the sordid claws of desperate solitary thought will no longer draw you down.
11. Be accountable
Accountability is something we’re all familiar with but rarely put into useful practice. You can use accountability to drive your personal development and avoid burnout. The trick is find somebody you can trust to give the down and dirty on what you’re trying to do and how you’re moving forward. For best results, have your accountability partner NOT be a relative or somebody you’re dating. They typically won’t have the capacity for objective review of your progress. People who love you will often make excuses for you and you want to avoid excuses at all costs