Mental and physical exhaustion and a feeling of being overwhelmed are all signs that you have reached a state of burnout. It’s inevitable that at one point or another in our careers we face a wall of utter despair, yet by recognising the first red flags and taking swift action things can and will ease.
Prioritise and learn that sometimes ‘good enough’ is enough: It may not come easily but writing a ‘to do list’ and then prioritising the key items is a great way to evaluate what really must be done. It focuses the mind, even if you feel it’s all in your head, and the physicality of crossing actions off the list can also appease your stress levels. For the perfectionists, letting a job be done that’s perfectly fine but not outstanding can feel uncomfortable but when you are overwhelmed and being pulled in many different directions this might be the best way to prevent workloads building up and focusing your best efforts on the key items rather than all of them.
Ask for help: You may feel uncomfortable reaching out but in most cases a problem shared is a problem halved. It may even be that your line manager or colleagues are unaware of the strain you are under and how it is making you feel. If you don’t shout out no-one can help and you will be the one that suffers. It might also be possible to delegate some of your to do list or even take on a new hire to take on some of the work. Opening up a two-way, open and honest dialogue is the necessary step to express your exhaustion and what may be unreasonable demands on your workload, mental health and personal wellbeing.
Put exercise, rest, and healthy eating centre stage: It’s a well-rehearsed patter but it’s also one that works and helps. Exercise gives you feel-good neurotransmitters, endorphins which can help bust stress levels and put things in perspective. Sleeping well is also key. A routine is helpful including going to bed at the same time each day, doing things in the same order, putting your phone away and either meditating, reading or doing an activity that helps you switch your busy mind off. When we are busy with work it’s all too easy to reach for high-sugar, quick fix snacks including biscuits and chocolate which raise your blood sugar levels and give you a temporary high followed by a prolonged low. Better for your waistline and mental state is to eat a handful of nuts, some fruit or other low calorie foods. Pre-packing some options for the day ahead will mean that you have a ready supply that is not only good for you but fills those hunger pangs.
Realign with the causes you set to serve: Remember why you joined the charity that you work for. Believing in the cause and the fundraising needs is a great way to focus your efforts in areas that are deserving. Burnout should not be part of your journey to reach your charity’s goals, however, taking part in events and visiting the beneficiaries or your charity not only gives you purpose and drive but also a sense of achievement and pride in what you are doing. This will help to lift your mood and may even clear the way to how you can reduce the workload but still achieve the aims.
Keep work and home separate: With our smart phones offering us the ability to ‘always be on’, it can be tempting to keep dipping into work emails and ‘to do’ lists. It’s important to be disciplined about the hours you work and to learn to switch off at home. If you work on a hybrid model with some working from home then use the same work hours as you would if you were in the office or switch it up to suit your work/life balance aspirations. Use, for example, the commute time you would be taking to start early and finish early. Take regular breaks away from your computer screen too. If you start to answer work emails out of hours then the expectation that you do so will follow.
Identify your stressors: Evaluate what it is that is causing the feelings of burnout. Is it the volume of emails? A lack of knowledge about how to perform your role? A lack of support from senior leaders? Do you have too many tabs and folders open on your computer? Is your email inbox groaning and you haven’t deleted any for a while? Do you need to learn to say ‘no’ or set realistic deadlines and expectations? Whatever the reason it’s time to take action on why things are getting too much but certainly pinpointing the source of the problem is the first step towards alleviating it.