The Secret to Avoiding Burnout

Aug 4, 2015 | Executive Coaching Blogs, Life Coaching Blogs

Coffee is Fuel for the Rat Race

This slogan for a local coffee shop makes me laugh and cry. I love me some coffee…like, really, love it. I probably love it too much.

(Hmm…note to self: I should probably seek sponsorship from a coffee company. Each day is fueled by this liquid deliciousness.)

Here’s the not-so-funny party: we’re working (and volunteering) ourselves to death.

Those reading this blog know that the needs are great. We’re working feverishly to make an impact. According to the United Nations, “About 21,000 people die EVERY DAY of hunger or hunger-related causes. This is one person every four seconds.” With stats like this, how in the world could we slow down for four seconds?

But the reality is that we MUST re-charge IN MEANINGFUL WAYS. It is essential if we want to avoid burnout, fatigue, and general crankiness.

According to a recent study by Time, Americans averaged 16 days of vacation time in 2013. This is down from 21 days in 1978! We’re taking less full-week vacations and shorter spurts of time off.

Over the past few weeks I had been feeling un-creative, unproductive, and just plain stuck. My frustration was mounting. So I went full force into my (not helpful) habit: work harder, stay at my desk longer, and “put my nose to the grindstone.” (Where’d this saying come from anyways? It sounds painful.)

Luckily I had a few events scheduled where I was able to connect with others and gain some inspiration. Specifically I went to an event with a friend featuring Liz Gilbert and Iva Nasr. Iva did a reading from her new book, From Rifles to Roses, about growing up in war-torn Beirut and now living as a healer and one who seeks internal and external peace.

Crossword and coffeeThe combination was magic! I immediately felt relaxed and the next day my creativity was flowing! Yeehaw!

The secret to avoiding burnout is to take your nose away from the grindstone more frequently than you think you should.

As helpers in a world with so much need, we can be selfless and giving and compassionate to the people and organizations around us. These are beautiful qualities. But we must also remember to be self centered at times and giving and compassionate with ourselves.

  • Plan for fun. One client of mine feels un-productive if he is un-scheduled. So he schedules relaxation where he is allowed to lay on the couch and read. Or just lay on the couch.
  • Don’t fight frustration. Instead of trying to power through the frustration, move away from it. Get up from your desk. Go do something fun for at least 20 minutes. If you need to, just let go of the project and imagine it might not move forward at all. By letting it go, you’re allowing magic to happen.
  • Take an entire week’s vacation from work, volunteering, and technology. Don’t spend your vacation snapping pictures, scrolling through Facebook or the Tweet machine. Re-connect with those you love and the world around you. This connection doesn’t happen if you’re staring at your phone for any reason.
  • Learn a new skill/craft/art, just for the helluvit. New experiences and getting out of your comfort zone create new neural pathways in your brain. This increases your energy, makes you less susceptible to stress, more flexible, and more creative. The same effects happen with physical exercise.
  • Lose the guilt. Even though you want to live in service to the world doesn’t mean you must do it 24/7. Nothing will keep you more fired up for fighting poverty than connecting with yourself. You have to know and remind yourself of why you love this work so much.

What other tips would you add to this list to help you get past frustration and become re-energized for the work of doing good? Would you share them on Facebook or Twitter?