If you’ve experienced applying for colleges, finals week, or deadline after deadline at work, you probably know what stress feels like. Juggling different projects without a break can not only cause stress, but also lead to burnout.
Burnout happens to everyone, especially those who are working hard for a long period of time. It can manifest itself into emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. If you’re experiencing burnout, the quality of your work might decrease, or you may start to become increasingly disorganized and unfocused. Eventually, you may lose interest and motivation.
Burnout has reached new highs in 2020. Social distancing has extended the time we work or study from home—causing unprecedented and extraordinary long-term stress. In fact, over 50% of those working from home say they are experiencing burnout due to COVID-19.
Here are a few tips to manage burnout, or even better, keep it away before it starts:
Take Care of Your Body
When you’re stressed, your health might be the last thing on your mind. Staying up late working, eating junk food instead of preparing healthy meals, and pushing exercise to the side can seriously affect your mood and overall health—failing to take care of yourself is a huge mistake. Before finals week or the busy season at work ramps up, prepare by reserving time to take care of yourself. Set reminders for drinking water, making nutritious meals, working out, waking up, and going to bed. If you do, you’ll actually save yourself time in the long run—you’re a lot less effective when you’re “hangry” and sleep-deprived.
As a young professional in the workplace or a current college student, saying “yes” to everything can seem like a good idea, but it can actually be a recipe for disaster. Without enough hours in the day, you might find yourself completely overwhelmed by unfinished professional or academic projects. Our advice is to set some ground rules for yourself and be realistic about your capacity. You may want to say yes to all of the projects that sound interesting and exciting, but it’s important to prioritize based on what’s most important to avoid overextending yourself. Find things that make you happy and will propel you forward in your career, then stick with them. If you’re only doing something to please others but you don’t have time for it without sacrificing your own happiness or sleep, don’t do it.
About 40 years ago, a man named Francesco Cirillo, a student at Rome’s Luiss Business School, invented the Pomodoro technique for time management. The rules are simple: 25 minutes of real, substantive focus, and five minutes off—doing something different that you enjoy, grabbing a snack, stretching your legs, or talking with a friend. Cirillo was on to something—small breaks for mindfulness or even just to catch your breath between tasks can go a long way toward your productivity and ability to focus. You’re not doing anyone any favors if you are moving at 100 miles an hour, but only producing sub-par work that has to be redone.
If you find yourself stressed out by an activity, ask yourself why you started doing it in the first place. Why did you apply at the company? Why did you select that major? What excited you during your first week? Try and reconnect with those reasons. If you can’t, then track all of the activities you do each week and see how you feel about each of them. Try and do more of the work that makes you happy and less of the work that makes you feel disproportionately stressed or anxious.
Ask for help
Chances are, someone has been exactly where you are before. If you’re at a college or taking online classes, there are countless deans, professors, and students you can virtually connect with to help you manage your emotions and your workload. Not to mention, your family members or close friends who want to see you succeed. If you’re in a workplace, talk to your coworkers to see how they handle their workloads and project assignments. They may be able to give you pointers to help you do your job more efficiently and with less stress. Or turn to your manager! They’re there to help and guide you through your career; they may be able to help you prioritize projects and offer helpful advice.
Most importantly, know when you’ve reached your limit
Even if you adopt all of these strategies, there may still come a point where you just need a break. That’s okay! This happens to everyone at some point. The trick is recognizing it and taking steps to address it with before it causes any permanent damage. Take some time off for self-care. Disconnect. Even though travel might not be possible right now, try a “staycation”. Your body and brain will thank you for the time off. Truly remove yourself from the sources of stress and allow your mind and body a chance to recover.
While the uncertainty of the coming weeks or months may lead to unwanted stress, following these simple steps may help keep those feelings at bay. Remember, putting your health first, will allow you to be the best version of yourself!