Ep. 34 – Skills to Manage & Combat Burnout
What are the core skills we can develop to help us build resilience, prevent burnout and bounce back quicker if we get it? Mich Bondesio looks at simple practices you can develop to build strong foundations that help you get better at dealing with burnout.
Any resources referenced in the episode are listed below the transcript.
Creating Cadence Transcript – Ep. 34
In today’s episode I’m looking at simple ways you can build your resilience, manage stress and combat burnout.
Hi and welcome to Creating Cadence – a podcast for life and work in motion.
I’m your host Mich Bondesio, a writer, speaker, coach and consultant. It’s my aim to help high achievers stuck on the treadmill of hustle culture to transform how they work. So that they can activate more of their potential and perform better in every part of their life.
So this is episode 34, and the fourth episode of Season 6, recorded in July 2022.
Last season was about Intentional Productivity as I’m writing a book about the topic. This season I’m looking specifically at burnout, as it’s a big contributor to why Intentional Productivity is so crucial for our future health.
In the last episode I explored what’s causing burnout in our societies in general, and more specifically I spoke about the connection between entrepreneurship and burnout.
In the next two episodes, I’ll be considering ways that we can combat burnout and build better habits to prevent it from being so prevalent in both our personal lives and our work lives.
Any resources I reference will be listed in the episode transcript, which you can find at creatingcadence.co
In the first part of this two part-finale for the season, I’ll be focusing on ways you can build strong foundations that will support you in yourself, as well in your life in general.
And in the final episode, we’ll look at some work-specific strategies that you can employ to build better cadence into your days that will help you to be more productive and mitigate the stressors that contribute to burnout.
So, if you’re ready, let’s dive in.
Burnout can blindside you.
For those of you who’ve experienced it in some form before, how often did you feel like it snuck up on you?
You may have found yourself in a situation where you were going through a pressured time, but you’d been there before, and you knew that in the past you’d got through it by just keeping your head down and keeping going.
So here you are just going about your business trying to keep on keeping on, knowing that you just need to get through this one tricky bit, and it will all be ok, when all of a sudden you just can’t anymore. It all becomes too much.
Sometimes we don’t know we’re in danger of succumbing to this threat, until it’s too late.
So how do we avoid or prevent burnout and reduce our risk of being affected, when we can’t necessarily see it coming?
There are habits and behaviours that you can implement to help build your resilience and bolster your health and wellbeing so that you are better equipped to put burnout in its place before it becomes a serious threat.
As they say, forewarned is forearmed, and it’s better to know what to do before it happens than trying to figure it out once it does. Talking from experience, you won’t necessarily have the energy to fight it quickly at that point.
So what are the general recommendations for approaching and addressing burnout?
The primary thing we have to do to avoid burning out is to address the stress in our lives that causes it.
Just a note, within the confines of this podcast, this is a brief overview of suggestions. I do go into more detail in my book which will be coming out later this year.
And what I’m about to share is in some cases common sense. In some cases, the strategies may seem so simple that you may laugh and doubt their effectiveness.
But these are proven by research and studies and these are things that are within our locus of control
First, take some time and space to figure out what’s causing too much stress in your life?
Next consider, can you remove or adjust the stressors that impact on your health and wellbeing? If you can, then decide on the best ways to make that happen in simple steps.
That might be spending less time with toxic friends or family.
Or avoiding hobbies or social activities that cause high stress for you.
We can also employ physical and emotional self-regulation, to help us cope with these stressful situations better.
Mental self-regulation involves developing your self-awareness so that you can better manage your emotional response to stress. Often in a stressful situation, we can fly off the handle at someone. We can say hurtful things. Or behave inappropriately in the situation because we feel threatened.
Instead of simply reacting to a trigger (usually negatively) without thinking about the consequences, we can instead learn to pause before we respond, so that we can respond in a healthier and more appropriate way.
We build our self-awareness through practices like mindfulness, meditation and conscious breathing. These activities help to ground us and train our brain to pause.
We can also physically self-regulate our response to stress by doing what is known as completing the stress cycle.
Unlike wild animals who have an inbuilt automatic system for releasing stress in their bodies (they literally shake it off and then move on with their lives), humans need to do it mindfully and manually. Otherwise it builds up and causes chronic health issues and burnout.
So you need to get out of your head and into your body, doing anything physical that changes your state of mind in the moment.
- Movement, such as dance, yoga or vigorous physical exercise (running, cycling, even sex)
- Change your visual focus and the stimuli you’re able to see and hear, by closing your eyes or softening your gaze. This has a calming effect on the brain and body.
- Release tension by having a good ugly cry or laughing until you wet your pants.
- Or you can hugging or kissing someone that you care about. Any gentle physical touch (which includes patting your dog) releases hormones to make us feel better.
So those are all “in the moment” strategies for dealing with stress. What are habits and behaviours that we can build over the longer term to help us be more resilient to stress and burnout?
The most important practice is to get more rest. And rest is about more than just getting more sleep, although that’s a very good start.
Research studies indicate that for us to operate at our optimum, we need about 10 hours of active and passive rest per day. And most of us aren’t getting anywhere near that amount of rest.
Instead we’re trying to focus our attention on work and other responsibilities (as well as distractions) for long periods of time in our day. And that takes a lot of energy, which gets depleted over time, impacting on our physical bodies and our cognitive abilities.
So we need to find ways to give our brains a rest from external input and stimulation. And we need to create the space to rest in this way, far more regularly than we currently do.
We can rest our attention with activities that broaden and soften our attention.
These could be creative activities and hobbies where we use our hands. These types of activities can help us think more creatively and approach our problem solving with more curiosity.
Social activities where we spend time with people we care about who support us, can recharge us and help us to replenish our depleted attention and energy reserves, as well as bringing joy into our lives.
We can also engage in spiritual activities, and that doesn’t mean they have to be religious. They just need to be activities which go beyond the physical and the mental, and give you a stronger sense of purpose and meaning. That could be communing with nature, or volunteering for your favourite charity.
Active rest, where we are moving but not necessarily engaging our brains in complex thought, can also recharge our minds in unexpected ways. For you that could be running on the treadmill, regular weekend cycling or hiking trips or even mowing your lawn.
Now in certain situations, putting a stop to the cause of ongoing stress is beyond our locus of control. So what do we do in situations like that?
When we can’t remove or adjust the causes of ongoing stress, then we need to find ways to accept and work around those triggers. We can do this by reframing the situation using techniques such as planful problem solving and positive reappraisal. These help us to help us reframe and find meaning in these situations that we relate to them better. And so that we can learn to live with the stress which those situations may cause.
We can also find ways to be centred and happy that aren’t connected to immediate outcomes.
We do this by bolstering our connection to our sense of purpose and meaning. To know what is important to us, we have to know ourselves better. And that brings things full circle back to building our self-awareness.
Something that is within our control.
So think about how well you know yourself? What is important to you? How do you typically behave in specific stressful situations? And what can you change about that behaviour? Reflection practices and journaling are a great way to start building these skills.
These types of regular habits and practices support our health and build our resilience. So that we are strong enough not to fall victim to burnout. Or so that we can bounce back more quickly if we do.
We also combat burnout by connecting with what creates meaning in our lives – through our relationships, our goals, and our spirituality.
And it is in the building of small but powerful behaviours that we create the strong foundations and the resiliency to handle the stressful situations that can lead to burnout.
These foundations also sit at the heart of being intentional about your health, your wellbeing and your productivity.
The point is to take action on the things you can control. As they say in airline speak, you put your own face mask on before you help the person next to you.
And there is so much more that’s within your control than you may realise, especially if you are currently defaulting to letting yourself go through your days on autopilot.
Regaining control, and managing and preventing burnout, starts with intention.
In the next and final episode of the season, we’ll look at some work-focused ideas for addressing the issues of stress and burnout.
And you’re welcome to drop me a line with your questions or comments, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
So, thanks for listening. Until next time, be brave in making change, be open to new things and keep moving forwards, one step at a time.
Bye for now.
Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle (Emily & Emilia Nagoski)