Like many people, I was facing significant challenges and burnout last year. It was so bad that I told my team in September that I was going to take a three- to six-month sabbatical starting in December.
However, by the time January rolled around, and after just a few weeks of holidays, I was ready to go again and felt re-energized. Here are some things you can do if you are facing burnout but can’t afford to take a sabbatical.
Identify what’s bugging you: Burnout is typically caused by prolonged periods of stress which may or may not be related to your work. Identifying the underlying cause of your burnout and stress can be more difficult than it seems.
We often want to point our fingers at the challenges we are facing in our jobs without recognizing that there may be an elephant in the room that we are not giving enough attention to.
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In my case, while I felt like I was stressed about my work, the reality was that I was stressed about the factors that were outside of my control that were affecting my clients. I was overwhelmed at the thought of trying to continue to support business owners struggling with the effects of Covid lockdowns, as well as my particular struggle with vaccine mandates.
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Once I was able to verbalize my challenges and make some decisions about how to deal with those issues, my stress levels declined. Identifying the underlying issues that are sapping your energy is the first thing you need to do to re-energize.
Change your focus: Once you identify the issues paramount to your internal struggle and resolve them or at least acknowledge there may be no apparent solution to the challenges they represent, you allow yourself to move on. Giving yourself new things to think about that break your internal mental cycle of self-talk is critical to re-energizing. This may mean that you might need to take up a new project at work, change up your desk or work area, reorganize your job, or take on new clients or responsibilities.
If changes at work are not a viable option, try a new hobby, meet some new people, get a new pet. Resetting our brains can enable us to look at our lives from a different perspective.
Look outside of yourself and your work: There is a saying that “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” So often we wallow in our self-pity without realizing how good we actually have it. Look around at your co-workers, friends, and people in your community and start counting your blessings.
One of the best ways to re-energize is to focus on others more and less on ourselves. Volunteering or supporting people who need our help, our presence and our energy can give us new life and distract us from our self-awareness of our personal issues.
Be present at work: Often, as individuals, we dwell on our failures. I was recently given feedback that one of my presentations didn’t go as well as I had hoped. To be honest, I was humbled, and I was bummed out. I had let something that happened months before that was now out of my control affect my whole week. This is not uncommon; as humans, we dwell on our past mistakes, and errors and events now long past affect how we think and feel today.
Unfortunately, in most cases, there is nothing we can do to change them, and we need to move forward. We can only control what is happening to us in the present.
If we are at work, we must focus on the tasks at hand and do them with the care and attention they deserve. As they say, time stands still for no one, no matter how great we think we are. How many opportunities for joy and fulfillment do we waste every day because we dwell on past failures or are distracted by our envy of others and their social media posts?
Leave work at work: I realized early in my career that nobody was really interested in what happened to me at work, and the best thing I could do was leave my work at work. The same goes for you.
When you enter your home, you should be able to focus on those things that are important to you at home, those people you love, your hobbies, pets, chore list, friends and family. Setting clear boundaries between work and home can be revitalizing in itself. Turn off your phone or laptop, and don’t respond to texts or emails outside reasonable work hours. You might be surprised when you realize how much energy your thoughts about work were taking from your time off and how re-energized you feel going back into the office after a weekend truly without work.
My burnout didn’t go away after one weekend; it took months. But after identifying the underlying issues, leaving my work at work, and changing my focus, I was able to re-energize and re-establish my passion for making a difference for my clients.
I hope that if you are going through a similar struggle, you will also become revitalized and come to love what you do again.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.
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