The Leadership Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you avoid burnout? is written by Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibirum.
Back in 2009, I was at the height of my career, working in an exciting position as managing director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. I was supposedly ‘living my dream,’ helping millions of people with answers and information about wellness. Sounds great, right? Well, not quite.
I was going 24/7 with little to no time to recharge, and I was feeling things around me beginning to spin out of control. Despite my expertise on wellness and healthy living, I couldn’t seem to practice what I was preaching and was starting to burnout.
Any job, from selling insurance to answering customer calls, can drain you of your optimism and sense of purpose. If you have a nagging feeling that you’re burning out at your job (or if you’re already a five-alarm fire), start addressing the problem now.
Here are four tell-tale signs you’re approaching burn out, and strategies to take care of yourself before the walls come down. When I followed these steps —and started practicing what I was preaching — I paved an entirely new career path for myself, which led me to start my own company.
Counter the bad stuff with the good
At work, each day can’t be filled with sunshine and rainbows, but if we’re stuck in the negative, it can start to work against us and eventually lead to burn out. The good news is that we can fight against our tendencies. Try consciously injecting more positivity into your day. Go for a walk at lunch instead of sitting and staring at the screen. Start practicing gratitude by finding three good things about your day—write them down or share them at dinner with your partner, friends or family. Spend a little more quality time with your partner or kids before rushing off to reply to emails after dinner. Make these, or any small acts that lift your mood, part of every single day and you’ll start to feel different inside and out.
Map your frustrations.
When you don’t have the tools or resources you need to complete the task at hand, you’re going to feel frustrated. And when you feel that people are taking advantage of you or your rights have been violated, you feel angry. The reaction may have more to do with burnout and less with what’s actually happening in the moment.
Next time you feel frustration eroding your focus, stop and get a gut read. What caused this feeling? Was it an overdue project that you fear will put you on the chopping block? Or the idea that you don’t have the resources you need? Emotions are triggered by thoughts. When you can nail that thought and map its origin, you can acknowledge and address the feeling and nip it before it derails your day.
Don’t just sleep — rest.
You hit the snooze button six times. Your days seem flat and airless. You’re tired and can’t fathom dragging yourself out of bed. The very thing you’re passionate about—whether it’s your work, kids, or hobby —ceases to stir you. This is the hallmark of burnout behavior, and you must counter it before your life actually becomes as uninspired as you feel.
Sleep is vital. Be vigilant about getting six to eight hours a night and say no to those frequent all nighters to push projects over the line. However, sleep alone is not enough. You need time to restore your mind and heart. Whether it’s meditating for a few minutes each day, taking a yoga class, or cooking a meal. Reconnect to what matters most, retreat from the chaos and distractions, and take time for what matters most: you.
The next time you’re starting to notice the feelings of burn out creeping in, do yourself a favor by getting ahead of it and utilizing some of these tips. Because let’s face it, no one wants to be ashes on the floor.