Work-Life Balance: How to Avoid Burnout
You wake up after a full night’s sleep, and you’re exhausted. The day ahead is overwhelming, and Friday couldn’t come sooner. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Research into the work-life balance of Australians found that almost two thirds of us feel our work is having a negative impact on our health, well-being and relationships. It’s no surprise, when overtime is now worth over $128 billion annually, as workers continue to donate unpaid hours to their employers. This staggering number reveals our lives are off-kilter. We’re staying back late, working weekends, and not taking enough time to nurture our health. Our work-life balance is off, and we're suffering.
Whether you were studying for exams, getting through a busy time at work, or caring for your newborn, you’ve probably experienced burnout at some point in your life. Some of us can work at full capacity for years before we hit an emotional wall, others will feel the pull after only a couple of late nights at the office. We all react to stress differently, and it helps to have your own barometer.
Here are some of the common signs of burnout:
You've developed a negative outlook on life. You’re snapping at your partner, or find yourself hiding in the toilet crying during tea break. You’re emotional, and your reactions aren’t matching reality. You just feel “over it."
Tasks that usually take you an hour, take you three. Your concentration is poor, and you’re easily distracted. You’re making silly mistakes. Your memory is lacking. Your thoughts are muddled, or they’re racing ahead of you. You feel like your mind just isn't all there.
You’ve come down with a cold. Your muscles are sore. Your back aches, and your neck feels tight. You have a headache, or perhaps your acid reflux is playing up. You’re feeling lethargic, and are having trouble getting out of bed. You feel exhausted most of the time, even though your sleeping has increased.
You’re participating in destructive behavior to help you switch off and wind down. You're watching too much television and eating more junk food, or maybe you’re not eating at all. You’re drinking too much, or smoking more than you usually do.
How to avoid burnout?
So you’re burned out? How do you get back on track, and avoid it happening again? Here are our tips at avoiding burnout and achieving a better work-life balance.
We need work-free time, otherwise we don’t have the space to recharge. Time management is helpful here, as it gives us set times when we’re working and set times when we're off-duty. One way of tricking yourself into having downtime is scheduling in activities where it’s impossible to work. Perhaps it’s seeing a movie with your partner, dropping into a gym class, or going to the beach without your phone. This goes for parents too. Scheduling in time when you’re away from the kids will help you be more present when you’re with them.
Enforcing Boundaries and Saying No
Saying no can be hard for some of us. You don’t want to disappoint your boss, or feel like you’re not being a good enough parent or partner. But setting boundaries is the only way you’re going to put your well-being as a priority. If you feel like work is taking up too much of your time, work out a flexible working arrangement with your employer and if there’s push back, find out what your rights are. Most employers want to do the right thing by their staff, and if they don’t, well, it might be time to find another job.
Yep, you’ve heard this one before, especially on the WHLY blog, but a healthy lifestyle is crucial to your happiness. If you’ve got the basics covered, everything will be easier, and we mean everything. Eating balanced meals will keep your mood stable and your body running at optimum level. Exercise will not only give you endorphins, but it will give you a break from whatever it is that’s stressing you out. Sleep is of course, crucial. According to Harvard University, “sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep can enhance well-being."
The Internet has made our lives a lot easier, but it’s not great for those trying to escape work and have a break. Even if it doesn’t feel like work, just checking your phone for updates interrupts your downtime, and can trigger undue stress and anxiety. It can be a very hard habit to break. One way you can start is to have a no-phone time period. Start with a couple of hours on the weekend where you stash your phone, and be present with whatever you’re doing.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Achieving a better work-life balance is tough. If it was easy, we would all be very Zen right about now. Unfortunately, living a balanced life can involve a lot of trial and error. There’s no magic formula, but as we become more aware of our patterns and emotional needs, we can create a schedule that puts our sanity as a priority.
We would love to hear from you. What are your tips to living a healthy, happy and balanced life?