I love my job, but at 27, it became unbearable. I had a lot of major life events happen all at once, added to an increase in clients and responsibility, I hit that point no one wants to hit: burn out.
Just saying that having a healthy work-life balance is important is an understatement. The harder we work, the more stressed we are. The more stressed, the less quality work we can produce.
I believe stress, in bursts, is powerful. It helps you push for that hard deadline, speak before a large audience, or muster up the courage to close that sale. But prolonged stress is never healthy, despite it becoming the norm.
There are three different kinds of burnout, according to the The Association for Psychological Science:
- Overload – The frenetic employee who works toward success until exhaustion — is most closely related to emotional venting. These individuals might try to cope with their stress by complaining about the organizational hierarchy at work, feeling as though it imposes limits on their goals and ambitions. That coping strategy, unsurprisingly, seems to lead to a stress overload and a tendency to throw in the towel.
- Lack of Development – Most closely associated with an avoidance coping strategy. These under-challenged workers tend to manage stress by distancing themselves from work, a strategy that leads to depersonalization and cynicism — a harbinger for burning out and packing up shop.
- Neglect – Seems to stem from a coping strategy based on giving up in the face of stress. Even though these individuals want to achieve a certain goal, they lack the motivation to plow through barriers to get to it.
For me, I needed a drastic change in my life. So I sold everything I owned, lightening my emotional and physical load, and moved to Thailand to work with a non-profit. Not everyone needs to do that to revive from burnout. It just happened to work for me.
Here are some ways to prevent burnout on a day to day basis so you don’t need to make the drastic changes I did:
- Say “no” – Knowing your limits and not pushing yourself beyond them can work wonders. If you have too many ideas, only chose a few. If you have too many commitments, start to cut them down. You only have so many hours a day – focus them on the things that really matter. One saying I’ve been trying to live by this year is, “If it’s not a f**k yes, it’s a no.”
- Unplug yourself – We are constantly being pulled away from quiet with each ping and buzz. Have a set time each day to turn off your phone, step away from your computer, turn off the TV, and enjoy sitting with yourself, your friends, and your family.
- Make downtime a daily ritual – Similarly to above, make your quiet time something to look forward to. This is your time, your treat to yourself, for a hard day worked. It can be meditation, a nap, a walk, sitting and listening to music, or whatever you like. For those who feel like every moment needs to be productive, know that rest is just as, if not more, productive than constantly cranking through task lists. Giving yourself quiet moments helps you to continue working in the long run.
- Stay motivated – For those who are overwhelmed with the negative, take the little steps to appreciate the work you did accomplish each day. If you feel negative, practice deep breathing, thankfulness, or go on a walk. Moving your body or looking at what is positive in the situation helps refrain the situation.
- Break projects in bite-sized pieces – When the task is too daunting or the list too long, only focus on one small part of it. Get that done. Now just focus on the next. When we look too much at the big picture, it can feel hopeless.
These are a few things that have really helped me recover to be a productive designer again. How do you recover from burnout?