Stopping Burnout

The other day I talked with a friend about the idea of burnout. It’s a common issue with more busy-aholic people. They pour and pour all their time and energy into work, and suddenly they find their gas tank is empty. The interesting part I found about discussing this was my friend commented that he didn’t even know he was burnt out. It was something that just sort of snuck up on him, and suddenly he just found himself in this black pit with no energy to get himself out.

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I started to think about the nature of busy-aholic people when it came to stress and I began to recognize a pattern. When you are a busy-aholic, you would much rather focus on completing a big project than worrying about how you feel. It’s all about immediate, measurable results, and feelings don’t play into that. This causes you to neglect yourself and in really bad cases, not only ignore your stress levels but also forget to do important things like eating or sleeping.

So, what do you do about this? Frankly, I think the best answer is to stop neglecting. Recognize that your body and mind are tools, and tools work better when you take care of them. It’s much faster to cut wood with a sharp saw than a blunt one. While immediate results are awesome, taking time to invest in your mental and physical well-being is going to make you a lot more successful in the long run.

Start by just taking a moment or two each day to take stock of how you are feeling. How tired are you? How hungry? What’s your current stress level?

The next part is the challenging part. If you are hungry, tired, or emotionally unwell, set down the to-do list. It’s time to stop and actually take care of yourself. I don’t care how crazy your life is– I don’t care how much you have to do– you have to take care of yourself first.

There will probably be a part of you driven nuts by this. You might even feel guilty that you aren’t actively tackling your to-do list, but it’s important to know that taking these breaks will actually get your to-do list done faster.

Think of it in terms of the saw analogy. Imagine you give two people saws and tell them they need to cut as much wood as they can as quickly as possible. One person stops regularly to sharpen their saw, the other just keeps sawing and sawing and never sharpens. If you were to watch this race in action, you’d probably notice that not only was the guy with the blunt saw starting to saw slower and slower, but eventually, the saw would break. Stepping back out of the analogy, if that saw is your body or emotional well being, you’re in a lot more trouble than just making a new trip to the tool store.

So, bottom line, don’t let urgency cause you to take poor care of yourself. Learn to check in with yourself and make sure you are doing everything you need to stay well. If you neglect yourself, you’re not only being inefficient, but you are at risk for seriously hurting yourself.

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