Recently, the World Health Organisation classified Burnout as a medical condition. I’ve suffered from this before, but before it was recognised as anything other than working yourself into the ground.
For a while, deteriorating mental health was the mark that you were ‘hustling’. Hustling is a term I’ve grown to detest over the years. To me, it’s the same as ‘banter’. The word banter gave permission for people to be rude. The word ‘hustle’ gives employers permission to work their employees into the ground for the ‘greater good’.
What is burnout?
I’m sure it manifests itself in a whole bunch of different ways. For me, it felt like I was drained of all energy. I was working in a creative job without the energy to be creative. I felt sluggish like everything was a giant, unrelenting effort.
It’s not always a sudden thing. It might start by you working like a machine and feeling as though you’re on top of everything. You’ll probably be winning at life, you might even feel a bit wired and find it a challenge to get to sleep.
Over time, though, things that brought you enjoyment (inside and outside of work) will begin to merge into one big lump of things you just don’t care about. The little joys of every day fade away and instead, joy only comes when you get to sleep.
How can I prevent burnout?
If you’re not experiencing any of the feelings above, it doesn’t mean you’re immune to ever feeling this way. I know a lot of people who have suffered from anxiety and depression over the years who thought mental health problems were mythical issues before suffering from them.
The Maya Rey philosophy is born out of how prevention is better than cure, so here are some suggestions to try to weave into your daily lives.
It seems so obvious and yet I know (from speaking to other humans) how rarely people get 8 hours of sleep per night.
I’m very strict about this one. I get it, there are loads of reasons that 8 hours is completely unachievable – children, for one. But, whenever it’s possible, try your best to make it happen.
Sit at the dining table, have dinner with your family and talk. Talk about your days, about the news, about the weather. Whatever. Just talk.
Dinner time is such a good opportunity to switch off from the day. Don’t eat it in front of the TV or in touching distance of your mobile phone.
Exercise doesn’t mean sweating it out at a high-intensity exercise class (although I can vouch for those, they’ll make you feel SO good).
Exercise could be as simple as choosing to take your bike to the shop rather than your car, or walking the dog, or taking the stairs instead of a lift.
You don’t have to be in workout clothes in order to exercise, is what I’m getting at here. But moving your body – especially after long periods of sitting down – for around 30 minutes a day, can do you the world of good.
An extra 30 minutes
Dependent on my needs, I choose where I’m going to spend 30 minutes throughout the day. If I’m tired, I’ll go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual and read.
If I’ve got loads of energy, I’ll book a last minute exercise class. If I’m feeling really focused and creative, I’ll do half an hour extra work.
This has really helped me to listen and respond to my body’s requirements. It also gives me permission to cut myself some slack if I need to.
I hope these tips help you. As I said, prevention is so much better than cure and having to cure yourself of complete burnout will require a lot more time than simple, actionable everyday steps.