23 Practical Ways to Manage Burnout so You’re Always Prepared When Stress Hits

In a society that glorifies being constantly busy, burnout is all too common. So learning to manage stress and burnout is essential to anyone’s wellbeing. Last week, I introduced what burnout is, what leads to burnout, and my four-pronged approach for managing burnout. This week, I’m providing you with some practical ways to manage the many dimensions of your wellbeing to reduce the effects of stress and burnout. 

Look after your physical health with good nutrition, movement, sleep, rest, and recovery.

From the perspective of a certified health and wellness coach, it’s obvious why physical health sits at the foundation of overall wellbeing. When the physical self is stressed out, it’s harder to manage all the other dimensions of our wellbeing. Too often I see clients in poor health facing an uphill battle as they struggle to manage burnout. 

  1. Improve your eating habits. Mounting evidence shows that supporting your nutrition and overall health can help to protect your ability to manage and prevent burnout. Inadequate food portions, dysregulated hormones, and metabolic functions affect our immune system and brain function, which can leave us feeling “off.” Get started with my FREE complete approach to healthy eating program
  2. Address your nutrient deficiencies, gut disturbances, and underlying health concerns. Adequate testing and review of pathology is a great way to begin pinpointing where your physiology could be affecting your wellbeing. Seek the support of a reputable nutritionist to support you. Explore my nutritionist partnered program.
  3. Get enough quality sleep. Sleep is essential for healthy neural function, productivity, and memory. Sleep can also help to avoid poor decision-making and serious physical illnesses associated with sleep deprivation. (1) (2). View my 10 sleep tips here.
  4. Ensure a healthy amount of exercise and movement. Physical activity improves brain function, memory, productivity, and of course, overall health. (3, 4)(5) Sedentary behavior, including the long hours you spend sitting at work, causes changes in brain structure and may adversely impact cognitive function. Make an effort to break up your day with exercise and movement or use a standing desk. Simple rhythmic and repetitive movements like walking, hiking, cycling, dancing, or even going through some yoga poses can significantly reduce stress.
  5. Rest and take more breaks. Downtime helps us to accomplish more. Research suggests that the default mode network is involved in generating creative ideas, which may explain why some of your best ideas arise while washing the dishes or taking a shower. (6

Calm your nervous system with relaxation and mindfulness

When stressed, our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) is activated. Adopting calming techniques and practices to activate our calming parasympathetic nervous system helps soothe our nervous system and make way for clear and rational thought.

  1. Adopting calming mindfulness practices like deep breathing, guided meditation, yoga, qi gong, drawing, painting, etc., has been shown to reduce burnout among professionals. (7,8,9) Practicing mindfulness, even for a short time, increases positive emotions while reducing negative emotions and managing stress. My favourite mindfulness apps are Smiling Mind, Headspace, and guided meditations on Youtube. 
  2. Get off technology. Modern devices are revolutionary, but overusing them is often a symptom of an underlying problem. If you notice that you spend too much time glued to your devices and letting them get in the way of simple pleasures or distracting you from work, try device-free days/times or plugging it in in another room when you are not working.
  3. Do nothing or sit alone without your devices and allow yourself to daydream and boost your imagination. Alternatively, adding some basic yet pleasurable activities to your schedule, like having a bath or cooking, can create more space in your busy life.
  4. Take a break/go on a holiday. In the book ‘Pause’ author Rachel Omeara suggests planning a regular break to re-gather, forward think, and decompress. Scheduling in a long weekend with a day off every now and then gives you something to look forward to.
  5. Explore your mindset. Work with a coach, therapist, or practitioner to bring more awareness to your past, thought patterns, limiting beliefs, desires, values, personality, energy levels, and traits. Often awareness is the first key to any big change and, while challenging, can set you off on your way to making adjustments to your reactions and future choices. Explore my health coaching options here.
  6. Develop compassion for yourself. In the book ‘The Burnout Fix,’ author Jacinta Jimenez says that if we adopt an actively compassionate stance toward ourselves, we are better able to process and move through stressful times with rationalism. Rick Hanson also has some excellent resources on self-compassion that are worth exploring. 
  7. Have fun! Play is essential for our health and wellbeing; it ensures mental flexibility, helps us adapt to a changing world, and relieves stress. In the book ‘Rest,’ the author shares how engaging in mentally absorbing activities helps to develop satisfaction and a connection to your inner child (who’s still in there!). Try chess, puzzles, team sports, dancing, shows, mountain climbing, or cooking – anything that you find deeply rewarding!
  8. Walk. Creative thinking is an excellent antidote to feelings of burnout. Studies show that walking increases the production of brain chemicals that moderate our response to stress helping us feel good and increasing creativity. This could be why we have the best realisations when walking!
  9. Cultivate gratitude. When you feel burnout taking over and are disconnected from feelings of contentment, cultivating gratitude can give you instant relief. Adopting practices like gratitude journaling, sharing gratitude over dinner, writing thank you notes, or expressing appreciation can be helpful.

Improve your organisation systems 

We’re humans, not machines. With the rapid pace at which our modern world is going, we have lost touch with our innate functionality as humans. It is little wonder we end up overwhelmed by the mounting tasks, endless to-do list, and unlimited options we have. 

Find ways to work more efficiently so that you can work less but still get the same amount done without sacrificing your health and wellbeing. 

15. Prepare yourself to be productive. Do things differently and eliminate distractions. Research indicates that distraction “rewires” our brains, and we can become so conditioned to getting interrupted that we end up distracting ourselves! (10) Phones and social media are two of the primary distractions that impact our productivity. So, plug them away from your workspace.

16. Plan, set goals, and prioritise your tasks. When you work reactively instead of proactively, you end up disorganised, stressed, and unfocused. Developing a consistent routine, setting goals, and establishing priorities are the foundations for creating some stability in your workday (and life!) Setting weekly and daily plans for what you will complete means you work with more intention. Download my time management resource here.

17. Schedule. Schedule your time better by grouping your appointments into specific chunks of time. Take advantage of your most productive/creative hours (usually early in the day) for high leverage tasks, schedule time to respond to emails and social media posts, and return non-urgent phone calls to work more efficiently.

18. Embrace delegation. The inability to delegate is a significant contributor to burnout in the workplace. To determine which tasks you can delegate, ask yourself, “Do I really need to be doing this, or could it be done faster, better, or cheaper by someone else?” 

19. Play up your strengths. Putting your unique abilities to work and working with your strengths can help you achieve extraordinary results in your business and your life. (11) Your strengths are what you should be spending most of your time on! Complete a VIA strengths assessment to determine which skills and strengths you should be spending the most time and energy on.

20. Make a to-don’t list. Find yourself doing things you know don’t serve you? Try listing things you would like to aim NOT to do and work to hold yourself accountable.

Seek the relevant support

Successful people seek out support and connection. As humans, we are wired to thrive when we have strong social connections in our lives. Support can come from many places, from your family to friends, co-workers, or health and wellbeing professionals. The broader your network, the more diverse it can be, helping you feel the most connected. 

People who interact with colleagues and friends who are different from them have more cognitive flexibility and are more resilient in the face of change. They also have better ideas because they’re exposed to a range of perspectives. 

21. Find the right team to collaborate with you to reduce burnout. In a collaborative practice model, doctors work alongside care providers, such as nutritionists, natural healers, and health coaches, to provide a holistic level of integrated care to their patients. If you haven’t explored a range of support options yet, it could be what’s missing from your strategy for the prevention, management, and treatment of burnout.

22. Find the time to get together and share a group experience with your co-workers. Much of my work in schools has been supporting staff to create more opportunities to build relationships both in and out of work. These shared experiences create shared memories, something to anchor to and think back positively on. The connections built from these incredibly powerful times should not be overlooked when seeking to build a more positive culture in a school or workplace. Download my relationship-building ideas here.

23. Build connections with co-workers. A 2006 Gallup study showed that having just one good friend at work increases your morale and engagement levels up to seven times more than if you didn’t. Remember that notion of switching things up. Practice switching up your social habits and developing connections with people who are different from you. 

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found these 23 tips for managing stress and burnout useful. You may want to begin by incorporating some of the ones that resonate the most with you now and then, work on adding more of these to your stress toolkit later down the line.  However, be sure to focus on your physical health first and foremost as it’s the foundation of overall wellbeing. When your body is strong, well-rested, and nourished, it’s primed to take on more and be more resilient to stress. 

Consciously calming your nervous system and creating balance between work and play, is another essential component for your overall well-being. And then, creating systems to streamline your life so you can work smarter not harder will help you feel more in control of your time.

And finally, seeking a diverse support network will allow you to tackle your physical and mental wellbeing from a holistic angle. 

If you’re interested in finding out if 1:1 Wellness Coaching can provide you with the support you need to manage your stress and overall wellbeing, be sure to book a discovery call with me here so we can discuss your wellbeing goals and how I can help!

Sources

  1. https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress
  2. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ce42/7217e0dcf2e47b5af717ef4f2b986ee0f90b.pdf
  3. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0195549
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6127206/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5580641/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410786/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26571279
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26571279
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30120849
  10. https://msu.edu/~ema/AltmannTraftonHambrickJEPG.pdf
  11. https://resources.strategiccoach.com/the-multiplier-mindset-blog/what-is-unique-ability
  12. Book: Rest – Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
  13. Book: Can’t even: How Millennials became the burnt-out generation. Anne Helen Petersen
  14. Book: Overworked and overwhelmed – Scott Ebling
  15. Book: Pause – Rachel Omeara 
  16. Book: The Burnout Fic – Jacinta Jiminez
  17. Book: I’m so Effing Tired – Amy Shah

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