If you’re like most professionals, you deal with a lot of stress on a regular basis. Your gut instinct might be to work through this stress, but if you do, you could end up increasing your chances of burnout.
Professional burnout occurs when your stress becomes so significant that your relationship with work is practically destroyed. Even thinking about going into work can trigger feelings of stress and anxiety, and you may feel a strong urge to quit or change careers. In some cases, it can also result in physical symptoms, like aches, pains, and even increased susceptibility to contagious disease.
Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies that can help you destress and avoid burnout—before it’s too late.
How to Destress
These are some of the best ways to minimize your stress and keep your overall stress levels lower:
- Recognize and eliminate stress triggers. First, learn to recognize and mitigate or eliminate your biggest stress triggers. During the workday, when do you feel the most stressed? Can you feel your anxiety spike whenever you have to deal with a specific client? If that’s the case, have you considered firing this client, or bringing on additional help to manage them? Do you feel peak stress when you’re working with tight deadlines? If so, have you tried proactive communication to extend those deadlines? Preventing stress is easier than it seems in many cases.
- Take breaks throughout the day. Too many people try to work through their stress, fighting back by trying to get as much done as possible. However, this is counterproductive. Working hard through stressful situations can make you feel more stressed, all while reducing your productivity. Instead, it’s often better to take breaks throughout the day. Even small breaks of 10-15 minutes can make you feel rejuvenated.
- Take up a relaxing hobby. When you’re not at work, you need to spend time truly relaxing—not watching TV and periodically checking your work email. There are a variety of options here, but one of the best is to head out on the open water; getting a boat for sailing, fishing, or just cruising on the water can help your stress melt away, and according to The Yacht Market, there are plenty of affordable models to choose from.
- Take vacations throughout the year. In addition to taking breaks throughout the day, you should walk away from your job entirely as part of a vacation—and do this multiple times throughout the year. Taking several days for yourself can help you “reset” your mentality, and come back to work more focused and with a more positive attitude.
- Physically exercise. Physical exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress, helping you lower your stress levels during the day while also keeping your body in better overall condition. It doesn’t take much to see these effects; while working out an hour a day at the gym can help you get fit, you can destress with even a light amount of daily exercise, like a walk around your neighborhood.
- Meditate. Meditation forces you to be aware of your own thoughts and feelings. It’s a present-focused mental exercise that helps you filter out the negative and pervasive thoughts that might otherwise distract you. If you practice enough, it will become second nature, and you’ll be able to filter out your most stress-inducing thoughts naturally.
- Change up your responsibilities. Some people are at risk of burning out simply because their job is so repetitive. They do the same things in the same order almost every day, and it takes a hefty psychological toll. You can fight against this by changing up your responsibilities, taking on new and more exciting projects.
- Do something creative. Whether it’s part of your work or something you do in your downtime, spend some of your time and energy doing something creative. Creative outlets like painting, making music, and writing can help you process your feelings and give you a sense of achievement. This is especially true if you can develop a genuine skill in one or more creative areas—and the extra creative work can make you better capable of creative problem solving in other areas of your life.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can amplify the effects of stress, and stress can make it harder to sleep, forming a feedback loop that’s hard to escape. Try to get a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, and schedule it if you have to. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep, make time to take a nap during the day. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference it can make.
- Talk to a professional. If you’ve tried many of the tactics on this list and you’re still struggling with stress or anxiety, it might be time to talk to a professional therapist. There may be better techniques or different approaches that could work better for you, in your unique situation.
Learning to Recognize Burnout
One of the most important aspects of managing stress and avoiding burnout is learning to recognize the early symptoms of burnout; if you catch it before it’s too late, you can stop it from getting any worse. Intense feelings of stress and anxiety at work, resentment of your job, and physical ailments like frequent headaches are all signs that you’re inching toward burnout. You may also feel chronically exhausted, or you may find yourself more cynical or detached than usual. If you notice these signs, it’s important to take action.
Stress is a normal (and believe it or not, healthy) part of daily life. When at appropriate levels, stress prepares us for challenging situations and can keep us more focused and alert. But when stress becomes excessive, it has the power to completely unravel us. Make sure you keep your stress levels in check in your profession, and work proactively if you notice any signs of burnout.