04 Jul 3 Steps to Mastering Burnout
People may tell you that Burnout is a gradual decline over years of Chronic Stress, but that doesn’t help when you wake up one morning to the sudden onslaught of panic, fear and constrictive exhaustion.
The word burnout is used too often in social circles without a real foundation of understanding of what it really means.
The general conversational “I’m so burnt out at the moment” is a parody in itself. If you’re able to stand there with a glass of wine in hand telling people of your troubles, then it’s safe to say that you’re not yet in Burnout.
Not everyone who suffers chronic stress will reach that edge – the Burnout cliff, falling in to the deep cavern of burnout disrepair.
Predominantly it’s the over achievers, the type A personalities, the high performers, who have the pleasure (or not) of reaching that milestone.
The sad reality is that these high achievers are also those people who are running the world, soldiering on for the sake of the company, opting to burn the candle at both ends to ensure the profits are high and invariably have no time to focus on themselves.
Focus on what’s important, not what’s ‘right’.
As high performers, we’re habitually running on a subconscious program that tells us instinctively that other people’s needs come before our own. If given a voucher for a massage or night away, we’ll stash the voucher in the bottom of our drawer to grow dust whilst we continue to tell ourselves that we don’t have time for such extravagancies.
The flip side to this state of mind however, is that the less we look after our own mental state, the more we effect those around us anyway. Where we think we’re helping others, during our climb to the top we lose our sense of both humour and compassion. Think “ripple effect” and you’ll understand that your own mental state is not a selfish focus, but a much needed requirement for long lasting relationships.
Understand the bigger picture
As a business leader you may be well versed in looking at the bigger picture when strategizing your 2-year business goals. Most over achievers I know have a life goal or a retirement plan, but lose sight of their short-term personal goals. Knowing how you want to arrive at that life goal is as essential as making that picture.
It strikes me as ignorance more than leadership when the victims of Burnout neglect to be able to answer the simple question of “What adventures did you partake in over the past 2 years? What holidays or celebrations do you have to look forward to in the next2 years?”
It really is very simple; human brains produce feel-good chemicals when they look to the future and feel excited about an event. If we have nothing to look forward to in the immediate future, we slow the production of those chemicals and our sense of wonder fades.
How often have you heard your children ask “How many days is it until my next birthday?” when their last birthday was only a few sleeps behind them? Be like your children, find something to look forward to, but plan it with your loved ones or your friends, thereby holding you accountable to be part of the outcome.
Give your brain a rest by Hemi-synching
Your brain needs a rest just like every other organ and limb of your body. However, unlike the rest of your body, the brain does not rest when you fall asleep. In fact paradoxically, your brain works overtime to send neural command to your body telling it to repair, whilst also recapitulating on your thoughts and activities throughout your day.
Your brain needs only two things to feel refreshed and ready for optimal action, yet these two variables are often lacking in the lives of those nearing burnout; fresh oxygen (stagnant office air doesn’t count) and neural downtime.
As high performers, we spend most of our waking time working in our left analytical brain hemispheres. It is within the left hemisphere that our sympathetic nervous system resides; the same hemisphere that controls our Sympathetic Nervous system which tells our brain to create the stress hormone, Cortisol.
In order to reduce this stress hormone, without taking up meditation or going for log walks on the beach, we simply need to heed our brain’s natural tendency to switch hemispheres every 90 Minutes.
If you spend your days fighting with numbers for the yearly board report, get out of your desk at the 90-minute mark and have a meeting, or create a colorful diagram for 20 minutes, thereby giving your brain that natural switch to the creative right side, kick starting your parasympathetic nervous system (think calm).
When you do this, you’re performing a ‘Hemi-synch’, giving the left-brain a rest whilst the right takes over control for a while.
Remember, we may be more powerful than super-computers but we’re not meant to be living at full-speed-ahead at all times. Even the latest laptop needs to be powered down on occasion to avoid a potential crash.
Your life, your relationships and your mind are more important than your budget and investments and it’s not the world you need to save first, it’s yourself.
Is it time to own up and make a few simple changes?