I have a TON going on. I have a hard time focusing at work when home has so much happening and vice versa, so I’m not getting much done on either end. My head is not in the game and stress is getting to me.
“Burnout” is serious stuff. Chronic stress leads to exhaustion, cynicism, and detachment, and that’s no way to live. You deserve far better. You likely got yourself into it, and you can get yourself out with a little reflection and planning. Take a few deep breaths (count to 4 on the in-breath, 7 on the out-breath) and label two pages: one says HOME at the top, and the other, WORK.
Choose one category of “to-do’s” to map now, so you can see the competing demands. Once you’ve listed tasks on one page, assess and label each item as A, B or C priority. A = critical, B = important, C = helpful. Are self-care items on your list? If not, add a few. On the WORK list, include breaks for movement, socializing and nutrition. At home, include priorities that help you unwind from work, and rate at least one of them “A”.
Congratulations! You’ve just eliminated worry about what you should be working on first and next. Begin to tackle A’s first, your critical tasks. Your brain offers better attention to each task if you’re not second-guessing your use of time. You’ll be interrupted during tasks of course, but prioritization brings peace of mind. It’s a smart move to meet with your boss about your WORK list to align expectations. Can you get on her or his calendar and ask for input?
Now that you’ve got your head back in the game, you probably still have an overly full plate.
Streamlining a task list is a lot like cleaning out a closet. Push yourself to let go of what you don’t have to keep. What might you be able to decline, delegate or delay? Those 3 D’s help the busy professional survive a packed life. Your old and new blessings are also part of the solution. For what are you most grateful? What gifts and opportunities surround you at this very moment? How often do you notice them?
If you hold high expectations, I salute and join your pursuit of excellence. The downside is that we can make life harder for ourselves and others as we struggle to accept periods of rest and anything less than A+ outcomes. The truth to tell yourself is that perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s a sure route to burnout. Where can you be kind to yourself and others? What was your last act of self-care? As eager as I was to create this column for you, I exercised first for improved task focus. I notice that movement factors prominently in many of our coaching clients’ self-care menus.
To create your own menu: document ways to recharge that take a minute or two (breathe, stretch, meditate, pray) and a few that require an hour to full day. Some involve others, and some are solo pursuits. Gift yourself small joys and enjoy the ensuing calm. Baby steps count!
More coping suggestions for when it all seems too much: Rest. Hydrate. Ask for help and have reasonable standards. Give love to a living thing. Find humor. Schedule future fun. Enjoy the arts. Question negative self-talk. Try a smartphone app for guided relaxation. Journal. Read. Stretch. Cook. Color. Count blessings. Tinker. Create. Forgive. Learn. Streamline and simplify. Show appreciation. See more of the people who lift you up, less of those who bring you down. Remember that this, too, shall pass and act immediately on your plan to beat burnout.