Good Preventive Medicine: How to Avoid Burning Out
A substantial percentage of professional working people will experience burnout at some point in their lives. Don't let it happen to you! Take action before you place yourself at risk.
Set priorities in your own life
Identity your core values, and develop your schedule accordingly, making time for people and activities most important and meaningful to you.
Share your feelings with others
Express emotions...frustrations, disappointments, and painful experiences, as well as joys and accomplishments. Don't dam up your feelings -- like a pressure cooker with no escape valve, you could explode.
Make sure you have time off
Schedule regular vacations, whether you feel you need them or not. If you absolutely can't be away for two weeks or longer at a time, plan a number of extended weekends and other mini-vacations. Make sure you have some time during the week when you're not being phoned or "paged" by clients, customers, or employees. Share responsibilities with colleagues.
Get advice from other professionals
Call upon your colleagues for their opinions and support. Every person in business has a difficult client or customer from time to time and can benefit from someone else's views to see the situation with greater clarity and more objectively.
Learn how to set limits
Learning how to say "no" is highly important. Remember that saying "no" to values which you don't hold is an opportunity to say "yes" to those which you do. You simply can't do everything and you may have to put your own needs first at times. That's OK.
Define your business
Burnout can result from a clash of expectations. If you see your business one way and clients, customers, co-workers see it quite differently, you're headed for conflict and pain. To bypass the pain, carefully define your business and communicate this definition to everyone important to, or connected with, your business. Make sure others know what you are as well as who you are. When operating your own small business, this is absolutely essential, since entrepreneurs can easily fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everybody...a sure setup for burnout.
Spend some time by yourself
Time spent alone -- away from customers, office staff, colleagues, and even family members -- can be psychologically healthy and nourishing. Treat yourself to short breaks from the hustle and bustle of the world to catch your breath emotionally and put your life and its meaning in perspective. Do the things you enjoy doing and pamper yourself during these self-enhancing "mini-retreats."
Nurture the relationships that nurture you
Make sure your primary relationships -- spouse or significant other, children, parents, and friends -- are getting adequate time and attention. Quite apart from diminishing you, having satisfying primary relationships will strengthen you and bring greater balance to your life...making you more -- not less -- effective in your job or career.
Be alert to excuses for overwork
"My clients need me." "These people really need my help." "I have too many demands on me." "Without me, the whole office will collapse." You've heard these excuses before... you may have used more creative ones yourself. But when you give in to overwork, you're relinquishing personal power and control over your own professional life. If you're overworking, you've got to learn to manage better. Better management -- not longer hours -- is the answer.
Rejuvenate yourself regularly
Find something in life to nurture and elevate your spirit. It can be music, dance, meditation, sports, massage, prayer, yoga, painting, Tai Chi, hiking in the mountains, visiting the ocean, or anything else you enjoy that makes your spirit soar. Take time for avocation, recreation, and spiritual pursuits; revitalizing your self in this way will allow you to maintain proper balance and perspective in your life.
Seek the right doctor if you need help
If you think you may have a problem, seek the right doctor for the type of problem you're having. If you're stressed out and your marriage is falling apart, seek marital counseling. If you think you're depressed, see a psychiatrist or psychologist. Find the right resource for whatever is bothering you, and don't wait, as waiting could be your costliest option. Remember: you can get the help you need in confidence without jeopardizing your professional status.
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