Dealing with Burnout – 3 tips for finding happiness in life and work

5th May 2021

During the pandemic leaders have had to reinvent their businesses, as well as provide emotional and financial answers to the crisis. We’ve had to problem-solve speedily, take risks, and do things differently to keep pace with changing technological, social, health and political demands. We’ve had to also communicate on new platforms, trying to establish rapport and collaboration technologically, with over-reliance on verbal and facial cues.

Remote working has further presented us with enormous pressures on our time in our home lives too. Blurred boundaries have added to our “To do” lists. Whereas before we could go to the office and partly compartmentalise these issues, we’ve found ourselves in a position where we are having to juggle running a home whilst working as well as caring for children and parents. We’ve had to show our loved ones more attention amidst uncertain times, whilst often feeling confused ourselves.

Many of us are grieving the loss of loved ones and feeling overwhelm due to financial concerns or job losses and changes. It’s no wonder as leaders that we are finding ourselves feeling burnt out, after months of challenges.

So, what is burnout actually?

Mind, the Mental Health Charity says the following about burnout:

“Burnout isn’t technically a diagnosis in itself, but instead it refers to a collection of symptoms. If you are experiencing burnout you may feel completely exhausted, have little motivation for your job, feel irritable, or anxious and you may see a dip in your work performance.”

Burnout is often a gradual process and doesn’t always mean that you are not able to function at work. However, it’s important to be self-aware and take action when you notice any of the signs in yourself or your teams.

Burnout can happen gradually, due to a lack of self-care in your work and home life. According to the World Health organisation burnout can show as:

1. Feeling tired and exhausted

2. Feeling apathetic, negative, dread or disinterest in your job

3. A feeling of unworthiness and lack of satisfaction with work achievements

According to a recent survey by Monster, 69% of people working from home are experiencing signs of burnout. With offices re-opening this does not bode well for leaders or our teams.

So as leaders, what are the key things we should be doing for ourselves to not only spot these signs but prevent acceleration of stress into burnout?

Tip 1

Mental wellbeing fluctuates and you need to be self-aware of how you are feeling at any given time.

· Make time daily to ask yourself how you are feeling about life and work. It may help to give yourself a score out of 5 and if your score is lower than 3 decide how you are going to deal with issues that have arisen. Make Mental Wellbeing part of you daily action list.

· Have a mentor or a coach. Especially in these times, having someone you can confidentially talk to is vital as you may not have that outlet at home or you may not feel ready to be totally open about how you feel to others. It may also be that you pursue counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. Having a workplace employee assistance program for any member of the team (including yourself) is also a good place to start.

Tip 2

Self-compassion can help you to be kinder to yourself when things aren’t going well. None of us are perfect and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are all vulnerable members of the human race. So, practice being kind to yourself and talk to yourself as if you are your own cheerleader.

· At the end of each day write down 5 things you were grateful for that day. It could be something small but the process of gratitude is important to stimulate your endorphins and prevent your brain from dwelling and whirring around in fight-flight mode. If you are not into journal/writing, try dictating this gratitude list into your phone when doing a minimum half hour of daily exercise

· When you have said the wrong thing to someone or made a mistake or if you are feeling overwhelmed, acknowledge the following to yourself “I am having a moment of difficulty”. Tara Brach, a leading figure in the field of self-compassion, advocates a similar self-compassionate approach as a way of taking stock but also acknowledging to yourself that you are struggling with something without judging yourself harshly for it.

Tip 3

One of the major causes of burnout as we’ve discussed is lack of boundaries or conflicting boundaries. Identifying where these boundaries are encroaching on your mental wellbeing and taking immediate action to rectify, can go a long way to help you start to regain psychological and physical control

· Before you say “yes” to any work meeting, or plan any key new initiatives, ask yourself what benefit this will have to your overall work and life purpose. If necessary, say no or put time limits on meetings and tasks. Practicing techniques like the Pomodoro method (25 mins work/activity and 5 mins break) can help retrain your mind to schedule and work in a more efficient manner

· Learn to give and receive feedback. By becoming receptive to feedback as a leader, you can adapt your style and behaviour to be able to connect better with others and will therefore be more likely to encourage commitment and loyalty. It may be difficult at first but if we take the approach that nothing is personal and that it’s all worth it to become happier in life and work, then it will become a habit to ask for feedback. In the book “Atomic Habits” (James Clear, 2018) it’s emphasised that practicing regular habits can greatly contribute to self-improvement. Making feedback part of your team’s daily routines can also encourage efficiency and values-led behaviour, all of which can minimise overall organisational burnout

· Take a half an hour a day to do something that brings you joy. Humans need to have a top up of the “feel-good” hormone, dopamine so that we feel rewarded and motivated. Good levels of dopamine are important for helping with learning and concentration, which will all

help keep the brain active and reduce unnecessary burnout. A way to keep these levels good is to always have one thing to look forward to every day. If you have a half hour every day doing something you enjoy, this can greatly enhance your wellbeing. This can be as simple as reading for 30 mins, planning a holiday, cooking a meal, talking to a friend, learning a new hobby or taking a bath. Whatever it is, do something for yourself every day that is preferably not work-related and that rewards you for your efforts.

Practicing healthy habits, tuning into how we feel and seeking help when we need it will help us manage new pressures and keep our wellbeing on track.

For coaching on effective wellbeing strategies contact Crest Coaching & HR on or telephone 07702298363. You may also want our free e-book “From burnout to brilliance”, please sign up here and we will get your copy to you.

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