How To Avoid “Burning Out” At Work

Dec 08, 2017 6 Min Read
burnt out, overwhelmed, overworked, emotional wellbeing
What You Need To Do To Ensure Your Batteries Stay Energised

As leaders, we are expected to be highly present, have clear and consistent insights, maintain significant levels of energy, and stay grounded regardless of circumstances. Yet, in today’s world of relentless change, this can be challenging. When’s the last time you focused on you? It’s not selfish; it’s necessary.

There’s an infinite amount of work to be done, especially as the leader in your organisation. Sometimes, you just need to put the brakes on, because there will always be more work.

Your mind is active all day long with some 60,000 separate thoughts each and every day. With all of those thoughts, it’s not surprising that your mind becomes so loud that we lose focus. We know we shouldn’t get freaked out and anxious, we know staying present will enable us to find better solutions, we know we should be getting a good night’s rest to tackle the situation with a fresh mind the next day, but we can’t always get there without help.

We’ve been hijacked. Our patterns are in charge. We’re human.

If you don’t take time to pause and decide to keep going on your current path or change a few things that will make a big difference in your life, you may burn out. It’s okay to take a look and say: “Hey! This isn’t working”, and implement a few changes that will steer you towards a destination that is less painful.

No one has time to process every single blip in their life. We can’t track down the source of every pattern and sometimes it’s not a pattern, it’s just life. We experience burnout when we resist and when we create meaning. So how do we take care of our health and stay mindful of what’s important when life throws us a curveball?

Here are tools that my executive coaching clients use that have empowered them to avoid burnout.

Resistance versus Allowing

Look at 10 things in your life/the world that you don’t want/like (tacky wallpaper, etc.) and:-

  • Look at each one and say out loud “I do not consent to you” (it’s not OK that they are there). See how that feels in your body.
  • Now look at the 10 things again. They didn’t disappear even though you didn’t consent to them.
  • Now look at each of the 10 things again. Say “I consent to you” for each (heck, they are there anyway, not much point in resisting this fact — consent isn’t approval, it’s just acknowledgment). See how that feels in your body.
  • Reflect on the feelings associated with not consenting/resistance to it versus consenting to/acknowledging it.

Optimism isn’t universal consent. It’s OK if things aren’t OK with you.

Notice what it’s like to let them be not OK and yet acknowledge that they are there without energetically resisting them.

Manoeuvres of consciousness

First, think of something you are resisting. Now take the following steps.

  • Negative Evaluation (three minutes): Say out loud all the things you don’t like, what’s bad about them, what you can’t stand. Really trash them. Do you notice what the feelings are here? Break state (ask non-sequitur questions; count to 100; shake your body out).
  • Curiosity (three minutes): Now get really curious about these situations. How did they come to be? What is familiar about them? What good things come from them? What are the feelings here? Break state again.
  • Amazement (three minutes): Now become amazed that they came to be. Wow! This is fascinating! What’s amazing about them? What are the feelings here? Break state.
  • Full Appreciation (three minutes): Now honour everything about this situation/state. Yes! This has been so very helpful in order to bring me to the next level. What are the feelings here? Break state.

Now do a short Outcome Frame below. Map out a clear vision of your desired state for 15 minutes minimum — bask in it, ask each question in detail.

Outcome frame

  1. What would you like? This must be something you can create and maintain.
  2. What will having that do for you? What benefits will it bring you?
  3. How will you know when you have it? What criteria or proof will there be?
  4. When, where, and with whom would you like it? Give an idea of the scope and timing.
  5. What of value might you risk or lose?
  6. What are your next steps?

Emotion Wheel

Use the Emotion Wheel (see Figure 1) to help understand what you are feeling. The centre feelings are the “core feelings.”
Figure 1: Emotion Wheel

The Emotion Wheel can help you get to the core emotion you are experiencing, increase your emotional vocabulary and make connections you may not have otherwise made.

Choose the meaning

No matter what happens outside of us, we always get to choose what we make of it on the inside. Example: Lots of things are changing, lots of short notice client requests and deadlines.

Meaning-making option #1: This is so stressful! I am emotionally exhausted by this, it’s all too much!
Result of this meaning: Missed deadlines, incomplete work, stress for yourself and those around you, low quality work, no fun for anyone.

Meaning-making option #2: Yes! Change means movement and growth and a chance to really shine and pace myself. I will show up fully to serve our awesome tribe. How great that I get to tap into my awesome brain to become even clearer and find even more solutions.

Result of this meaning: Empowerment, choice of how to respond versus compulsively reacting, support of yourself and others, shine my light, honour my company values, choose my reality.

Which meaning would you like to make? Our words shape our reality, and meaning-making and reframing are key to shape our reality.

What if nothing happens to us, it only happens for us to help us grow?

The key to avoiding burnout is to visualise who you want to be, set your intentions and get out of your own way.

Reposted with permission.

Check out this video and pick up tips on how you can outsmart the feeling of overwhelm.

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Christine Comaford is a leadership and culture coach. She is best known for helping her clients create predictable revenue, deeply engaged and passionate teams, and highly profitable growth.

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