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How to Fight Burnout

Money, workplace anxiety, and family demands are the three key ingredients for burnout—and it can have lasting consequences. Find out what burnout is, and what you can do to fight it. Let’s take a closer look.

May 29, 2017
  • Student Tips
How to Fight Burnout

When Icarus flew too close to the sun with his wax wings, he fell. Hard. He literally burnt out. Too much, too fast, without listening to reason. Sound familiar?

The race to the top. The pinnacle. The apex of excellence. Answering your calling. Giving it your all. It’s what you strive for, but at what cost? Exhilaration? Or exhaustion? Or falling into the sea, like poor Icarus?

The inability to maintain a healthy work-life balance while you strive and reach and aim high is called burnout. And no one is immune.

Let’s take a look at some telltale signs of burnout, what it does to you, and what you can do to fight it.

stress in ufficio

1. What is burnout and how do you recognize it?

While not a clinical term, it’s used to describe people at the end of their rope. Running on empty. Stress is the primary cause—which results in exhaustion, cynicism, inefficacy, depression, fatigue, and malaise. Add to the list insomnia, forgetfulness, impaired ability to concentrate, a propensity to get sick, and loss of appetite. Another telltale warning? The desire to avoid social situations—isolation and detachment.

Consider the case of a patient described in Management Today, who’s been there and back. A corporate high flyer, he made junior partner at a successful startup. At the same time, he had his third child.

Shortly after, he went to the doctor, complaining of severe headaches. When his doctor told him to take time off, he refused.

“I didn’t want to show weakness,” he said.

The result? He said, “The worst part was not only feeling completely bedraggled but, instead of wanting to talk about it, all I could do was work. It was my first major setback and it happened too late in my career. It felt as if it was partly my creation. I really defined myself by my work and I felt I had failed because I couldn’t cope. But in fact, it was the making of me. I’m a very firm believer that you have to see the dark side in order to know what you’re capable of.”

He felt out of control—at work and at home. During moments of clarity, when he could look out from under the fog, he knew he needed help—and he got it.

It took him seven years to recover with the help of his wife and two psychologists and a life coach.

How do you avoid burnout? What steps can you take in your life so you don’t have to put yourself through agony? See #2.

2. How to fight burnout.

Young businessman meditating, eyes closed, isolated grey wall background. Stress relief techniques at work concept. Take a deep breath.

a. Meditate

If you are studying for a MBA in Business it might help to meditate. It works. Do it every day. When you shift your brain to a neutral place—away from work, family, friends—and your mind moves inward, something magical happens. You feel your chest rise and fall, you become conscious of your air moving in and out, and your rib cage expanding and contracting.

Why is this important? You’re focused on the simplicity of living. Make meditation a habit of mind at least once daily and you will inoculate yourself against burnout each time. You’ll take yourself away from work, family, and friend stresses—and bring yourself inward, focused on nourishing your body and mind.

Businesswoman taking a break from work outdoors, horizontal

b. Take a break during the day

MBA students should unplug, leave your phone and computer at your desk and take a walk. Have lunch someplace other than your desk. Do something entirely unrelated to work. Tackle your toughest challenges at work in the morning—then step away. Restore your mental fortitude. The work will be there when you return, and you’ll return ready to tackle it.

Woman wearing hat standing in ballet pose on country road

c. Take a long weekend

That exhausted feeling that you just can’t shake probably means that you need a longer break, but not necessarily a two-week jaunt. Plan a three- or four-day weekend regularly. You’re not checking email or available by phone. Go someplace close, or even plan a “staycation” where you unplug and recharge at home.

Give your body and mind some space away from work regularly.

Selection of healthy food on rustic wooden background

d. Eat well and sleep enough

The boat doesn’t go if there’s no fuel and it can’t float, right? Your body works the same way. Being sleep-deprived and hungry doesn’t put you at your best.

Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at the same time every night, limiting your electronics usage before bed, and letting your body wake up naturally. Not possible? Find a balance that works. Sleep is the body’s way of recharging—like a battery.

The same goes for eating. Eat regularly, and eat plenty of the good stuff—greens, veggies, and fruit. Don’t skip meals and get copious takeout when the mood strikes. Treat yourself, but don’t let your eating habits increase that miserable feeling that might already be seeping in.

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