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8 ways to avoid burnout

Mental Wellbeing
With Kate Downey-Evans, expert business psychologist


How to avoid burnout? Catch it early, pay attention to your stress levels and take action to improve your self-care. As the saying goes, “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.” Read Kate's 8 expert tips on avoiding burnout…

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How to avoid burnout and manage stress

You might be experiencing burnout if you’ve had the following symptoms or worry that even reading this is stopping you from doing something else. Are you:

  • Feeling snappier than usual or more cynical?
  • Having trouble sleeping or feeling exhausted much of the time?
  • Experiencing overwhelm, helplessness or self-doubt?

Our resident expert — business psychologist and coach Kate Downey-Evans from The Green Door Project — says, “It might be that you have a thousand pots on the boil, being everything to everyone and trying to do it efficiently, effectively and constructively — and failing. If so, you need to stop right now and pay attention.” According to Indeed, 67% of all workers believe burnout worsened over the course of the pandemic¹. Plus with the rise of social media and other communications making people contactable (and bombarded with information) around the clock — coupled with additional financial pressures — many are struggling. Especially women. The good news is though, burnout does not have to be a long-term condition. Kate shares how to:

  • Start identifying and disrupting the habits that lead to burnout
  • Focus on the energy sources that keep us functioning at our best
  • Put boundaries around the ‘non-negotiables’ in our week

8 expert tips to keep burnout at bay

Having a heavy workload, feeling a lack of balance in your life and feeling out of control are not alien to small business founders at the best of times. Here are some tips that can help you manage them…

1. Focus on your breathing to help you relax

Kate says, “A few long, deep breaths can work wonders to relax your nervous system. It sends a signal to your brain to calm your body down. Your racing heart rate will decrease, and your blood pressure will lower. When you are stressed your brain’s frontal cortex, the hub of creativity, is compromised and your ability to make logical or innovative decisions becomes threatened. Recognising the red flags your body sends you when you are stressed and immediately responding with some guided breathing exercises can be a speedy solution”. If you’re searching for effective breathing exercises, head to our founder Holly Tucker’s IGTV where she did a breathwork tutorial with Mind You Club founder Sophie Belle. Or read our self-care tips for small business owners article.

It might be that you have a thousand pots on the boil, being everything to everyone and trying to do it efficiently, effectively and constructively — and failing. If so, you need to stop right now and pay attention.

2. Disrupt harmful habits

What habits in life do you find constantly trip you up? What can you cut back on? “Oh, but I always do that!”, you cry. Part of avoiding burnout is to review the things in your life that are causing unnecessary stress and take proactive steps to alleviate those pressure points. Breaking the cycle and limiting the ‘to-do’ list will ensure you’re not constantly overwhelmed.

3. Look after your body to avoid burnout

If you’ve walked the dog at 8:30am, designed a new product at 9:45, and are packaging up orders at 11, having a chocolate biscuit and half a cup of cold tea for ‘lunch’ is not good. Kate says, “Keep in mind that your body is the container of all your creative brilliance, and if it is not kept nourished it will start performing like a colander rather than a racing car”. Eat properly and exercise regularly. Energy can come from different sources too. Whether it be a conversation with a friend or an afternoon stroll, identifying what best feeds your body and soul, and ensuring you regularly have those moments of enrichment, will ward off the tension.

4. Make time for nature

If the only interaction you are having with nature is your desktop background, it’s no wonder that everything is getting on top of you. Being outdoors is proven to help increase positivity and decrease stress, so although it might feel like a luxury, the time out could really do you good.

5. Speak to your friends

Kate says, “Often when we’re feeling frazzled, we prioritise work and ‘the essentials’. Speaking to friends falls off the list but it’s one of those things that can be so restorative mentally and help you get off the hamster wheel for a moment.” Plus a problem shared is a problem halved. Reach out and talk to people. It’s likely to help.

'Take time to recharge' and 'take the nap' pin badges
Keep in mind that your body is the container of all your creative brilliance, and if it is not kept nourished it will start performing like a colander rather than a racing car.
Two boxes of matches called Tuckers Strike of Inspiration on a red background

6. What are your non-negotiables? Ring fence them

  • Non-negotiables might be things like picking your kids up from school twice a week, or doing a weekly personal training session in the morning.
  • They are the actions that give you energy and make you feel good, so are the handful of things on your list that you should most protect.
  • If the rest doesn’t get done on that day, it doesn’t matter as you can’t possibly fit everything in.
  • Identify ‘moments of flexibility’ within your week.
  • Then if a supplier asks for a meeting at 3pm on a school run day, for example, you can say, “Sorry, I can’t do Thursday afternoon, however on Friday we could have a discussion anytime between 11 and 2”.

One of the frequent blockers for many of us is that we believe we have no time, but actually, Kate says. “There’s always time. You have 24 hours, and how you use that time is largely a choice.” By working out where you will and will not compromise, you can prevent burnout and help eradicate guilt about what you have and haven’t achieved in your week.

7. How to recover from burnout? Be a flame not a firework

Consistency is key. Building weeks that blend vital moments of rest and enrichment with the must-do tasks, and ensuring your body is well-fuelled and cared for, will help you function productively and creatively. Disrupt negative habits, identify and protect your non-negotiables and you’ll soon find that ‘burning out’ is one of the important things that comes off your ‘things to do’ list.

In an ideal world we could fit everything into a single day, but more often than not something has got to give. Looking at your week and identifying the zones of flexibility and the ‘non-negotiables’ will help put you in control.

8. Think ‘How does mindfulness help with burnout?’

Finding an activity that we can really focus on can help us notice the subtle changes in our physical health and slow down the process. When you’re free of judgement, you’re able to be more open-minded, which in turn can help prevent burnout.

8 ways to avoid burnout: key takeaways…

Kate’s 8 key ways to avoid burnout are:

  1. Focus on your breathing
  2. Disrupt harmful habits
  3. Look after your body
  4. Make time for nature
  5. Speak to your friends
  6. Ring fence your non-negotiables
  7. Be a flame not a firework
  8. Learn how mindfulness can help with burnout

We wish you the very best of luck.

Burn out lotion by Liz Harry

Sources: 1. Burnout statistics

Images: 'Burn Bright Don’t Burn Out' candle — by Nic Joly, 'Remember To Breathe' flag — by Emma Giacalone, 'Take Time To Recharge' pin badge, 'Take The Nap' pin badge and 'Avoid Burn Out' lotion —by Liz Harry Designs.

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