This article was written by freelancer Charlie Duffield
A little while ago, an essay from Buzzfeed News branding millennials as the burnout generation, went viral. It sparked commentary about the structural and socioeconomic factors which make “adulting” (i.e. being an adult) so hard.
Most of the points are valid, but of course, there are ways to try and make life a little easier. Perhaps you’re unhappy at work, or feel overwhelmed by responsibilities, and a never ending to-do list. If anxiety and exhaustion are your default status, here are six ways to re-centre yourself and avoid burnout.
Success means different things to different people. It can take a while to figure out, but be honest about your values, and what really makes you happy. Does success mean striving to become CEO of a FTSE 100 company, or carving enough time out of your day to attend your favourite dance class? Perhaps it means cutting back on your spending to afford a week’s holiday in the sun, or gaining a promotion at work? Success is personal; once you know what makes you tick, ignore your social media feed and act accordingly to reach your dreams – and don’t give up.
Practice positive thinking
When we’re bombarded with depressing news stories 24/7, it’s unsurprising so many of us feel stressed and melancholic. The world nowadays is a scary place. The good news is that you can train your brain to think more positively, and the benefits of an attitude of gratitude have been scientifically proven. Start by writing down three things you’re grateful for every day. It might sound corny, but consciously focusing on positive things – however big or small – has emotional benefits which can boost your overall wellbeing. When practicing gratitude, the hypothalamus in the brain is stimulated which regulates stress, as well as the ventral tegmental area, which helps to produce feelings of pleasure.
Remember that you’re not a robot and there’s only so much one person can do! You might be feeling burnt out because you’re overburdened by responsibilities. Boundaries are essential to a healthy life, but setting and sustaining them takes practice. Start by identifying your limits, then pay attention to your emotions and be assertive when stating your needs. Try saying no to small things at first. Don’t attend work or social engagements which you don’t feel are worthwhile, or if you need some time to relax and recharge on your own. Also, remember to set boundaries and time limits for your digital devices to quell information overload and make sure that you’re able to prioritise yourself as well. Scrolling on social media can steal so much of your time, but try apps like Forest and Moment to monitor your phone use.
Learn to manage stress
Stress is that feeling of being under abnormal pressure, and can be triggered by various aspects of day to day life, such as issues at work, relationship problems, trauma, poor health and family conflict. Most of us experience some level of stress, however when stress is prolonged it can lead to burnout and damage our physical and mental health – and it’s now a serious problem. In 2016-17, The Economics Foundation reported that 526,000 workers suffered work-related stress, leading to 12.5 million working days lost in work time.
Getting some form of regular, moderately vigorous exercise is a great way to release intense emotions. Practice techniques to work smarter, not harder, so you’re able to use your time to maximum effect. The biggest single cause of workplace stress, in 44% of cases, is workload, so in the office communicate with your colleagues if you’re struggling and see if they can offer support. Moreover, the benefits of enough sleep have been well documented for a reason; aim to get a minimum of eight hours if you can. Even taking a nap – as long as it’s 45 minutes or less – can revitalise your mind, boosting your concentration and productivity. We’ve also written about the best ways to combat stress here.
When you’re not feeling your best, it’s easy for everyday worries to spiral out of control. With increasing uncertainty, it’s common to worry about the state of the world and your personal circumstances, but worrying excessively is a waste of energy and could leave you in a negative headspace.
One technique to try is to schedule dedicated worry time; this could be fifteen or thirty minutes every week, when all you are allowed to do is worry. You can empty your mind of absolutely everything that’s been concerning you, and help reduce any anxiety. Likewise, if you’re swamped with household chores and life admin, set outside an afternoon to blitz through as much as you can. Time-blocking could help you feel more in control of what’s going on and actually able to make progress.
Let go of perfection
Simply vow to be good enough. This can be difficult in our culture which sets unrealistic and unattainable standards, but be kind to yourself and embrace the mess. No one is truly perfect, and making mistakes and failing is part of the process of trying, learning and ultimately succeeding. Don’t base your self-worth on external accomplishments and try and ignore the pressure from society to reach life stages at a certain age; everyone’s path and journey is unique, and all your experiences – the good and bad – make you who you are.
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