We often get asked how to prevent burnout. First of all we don’t really like that term because it implies that once it has happened there is no going back which is not true. But in the spirit of answering the question I put some thoughts together.
This is written from the perspective of many of our clients who are businesses which are experiencing change and who are ever more driven by their numbers and the use technology to measure, run and drive their business. I refer to spreadsheets and numbers later but even if your occupation is not driven by these sometimes meaningless digits the pressures are often similar and the answers can be the same.
Technology – The great enabler that sucks us in, creates dependency and then makes our lives a misery. That is pretty much the victim-like view of anyone finding that technology is causing them issues. The reality of it is that technology is an enabler and is designed as such. We as humans manage to adopt it, create our own dependency on it and in doing so, not so much blur, as crash the work-life boundaries to a point where for some, there are no boundaries. Some of us live in a world where, because we expect instant responses to our e-mails and texts, we think we have to provide the same. Even at 3 am in the morning because we have committed the cardinal sin of having our phone with work e-mail in the bedroom at night.
- Remove all electronic communication devices from the bedroom. They interrupt our sleep. Get an alarm clock instead.
- Do not look at e-mail or smartphones less than half an hour before bedtime. Research is proving that the light they emit leaves us mentally agitated and that is before you factor in the issues that work itself creates in the mind before you go to bed. Get some down time.
Dealing with numbers, spreadsheets, information and making strategic decisions based upon all that data are very left brain based activities. We can get stuck in that world and not spend enough time accessing the creative right side of our brains. When I say get creative I don’t mean do some “mindful” coloring which is a form of distraction technique dressed up as mysticism. I mean make something, design something, draw something (even if you are only capable of drawing stick people like I am). It is immersing ourselves in a creative process that gets the other side of our brain involved, gives the opposite side a rest and uses different energy.
Join a choir
There has been a massive surge in the growth of choirs in recent years in part caused by Gareth Malone and the Army Wives Choir. They will certainly have raised the profile and caused people to try them out but they have endured simply because of the pure enjoyment they give us. The benefits this has are several. Let start with the complete concentration on keeping in time and staying in tune and harmonising. That is a truly mindful practise which helps to destress. The second, and more powerful benefit in my opinion is the emotional experience of singing in a group. If you ever felt the tremors of emotion when you listened to a choir. Actually singing in it magnifies the experience. The challenge with work is it is often logical, rational and analytical. This is an experience that accesses essential emotions that we stay away from too often and too long.
So that’s it – Get the tech out of the bedroom, get creative and join a choir. If I were to stereotype business people I would say that two out of three of those tips are completely opposite to their common interests which is why they should be doing them. Their brains need a rest.