We're currently in a culture that celebrates working ourselves to exhaustion. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, professionals and business leaders who carry smartphones tend to work more than 70 hours a week. And the pandemic has not helped us with this little problem at all! A recent survey by FlexJobs found that 75% of people have experienced work-related burnout, with 40% saying they have specifically felt these effects since the pandemic began.
With all of this focus on overworking and exhaustion, now is a good time to recognize the signs of burnout, not just for your own well-being but for the health of your employees too. I recently sat down with Rebecca O'Brien, an executive burnout coach, to discover the four steps she suggests in order to step into your own power and banish the blahs!
This stage is really all about identifying and observing your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Rebecca suggests when you feel overwhelmed, it's important to look at your stressors, triggers, and emotions, and assess how you're behaving due to these factors. Much in the same way that you'll have a different reaction to a problem when you're well-rested versus when you're tired, self-mastery is what allows us to know ourselves fully and in that moment act in our best interest. The best way to come back to center? Step off of the roller coaster and reconnect with nature, take a walk, call a friend, or even just step away from your laptop for a five-minute reset.
The second step is what Rebecca calls having a powerful mind and this is where mindfulness comes into play. Often it is said that depression is a way of living in the past and anxiety is looking too far into the future. So the idea of a powerful mind is all about knowing what keeps you grounded and connected to the present. Think of it in terms of looking at thoughts that aren't true around the situation (for instance, the idea that you have to work 10-12 hours a day because you'll never get through all of the work) and determining where the pressure is occurring. This step also goes hand in hand with positive thinking and gratitude. Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop and list five things you're grateful for that happened that day. This helps bring you back into the present and gets your mind off of the negative hamster wheel.
Habits are the best way to support you and clarify your energy. One easy example of a non-helpful habit is hitting your phone the moment you wake up. Many of the most high-performing executives I know have a rule of not touching their phones for the first half-hour of their day. They use this time to read, be inspired, journal and if nothing else, just enjoy a hot cup of coffee with no distractions. Take time every day with notifications turned off. Set specific times to return emails. Focus on one thing at a time. These are the habits that will help bring order to your chaotic day.
Rebecca credits this step with being the most impactful, both for your relationship with yourself and all of the relationships that surround you. While this step is often the most difficult, Rebecca says it is directly tied to creating more freedom so you can then do the work that is most impactful to you. My favorite question for executives is, what sets your soul on fire? And unbreakable boundaries is one of the fastest ways to get to the thing that sets your soul on fire. Think about your week and determine what you're saying yes to; that really should be a no. Is there a way to carve out some time for something you're passionate about? My favorite quote from a guest on my podcast this last year was, "If it's not a Hell yes, then it needs to be a no." How much simpler would our lives become if we all lived by this principle?
We've all experienced a difficult year and by all accounts, the hits seem to be continuing into 2021. By creating healthy ways to cope with stress now, we'll be doing ourselves and our teams a huge favor and will reap the rewards in the months to come. While burnout is real, it doesn't have to be our reality.
Laurie Halter is the Founder of Charisma! Communications, a successful automotive PR firm, and host of the Carearing podcast where she explores work/life balance issues for leading females. She has a passion for business and entrepreneurship, but what really gets her jumping out of bed in the morning is sharing her experience balancing life, work, and motherhood.
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