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Burnout is Real: Here's How to Avoid It

By Sarah Nelmes, Professional Recruiter

I was exhausted. I was burnt out. I was angry. I was frustrated. Every time I hit a roadblock at work, it was the end of the world. I’d find myself huffing and puffing over miniscule issues. I’d try to avoid interactions with coworkers, eating lunch by myself at my desk and working remote as much as I could get away with it. I was doing my job but I was constantly in a bad mood. The worst part? I didn’t even realize how miserable I’d become.

Then I went on an 11 day vacation. My colleague took on all of my projects while I was out and assured me he had things covered, that I should put up an out of office and not check email or worry about work while I was away. And guess what? That’s exactly what I did. I checked out. I snoozed notifications. I let my out of office redirect all the requests and questions and messages, and trusted my colleague to oversee things in my absence. I’ve gone on vacation before with this intention, but at some point I’ve always checked in, only to sob into my tropical rum drink (you know, the one with the fruit on a sword and mini umbrella) at the mess I’d have to clean up when I returned. But this time, I listened. I took my colleague’s advice. 

Actual image of me, taken by a real camera (not a cell phone), unplugged and vacationing.

It seems simple, right? Just enjoy your vacation. Your company gives you PTO, so use it. Why is it so much easier said than done? You feel liable if things go wrong while you’re out. It’s a great feeling to be needed and important, but it’s also a great feeling to let go of your responsibilities for a little while and really invest yourself in an adventure. 

I walked into the office on my first day back hearing Lizzo’s Good As Hell in my head and greeting coworkers like I was a celebrity. I was back baby, and I felt great. I felt refreshed. I felt ready to take on the world. I felt… happy. I felt good as hell. 

Taking time away showed me that things won’t fall apart if I take a vacation; a REAL, checked out vacation now and again. Companies have PTO because everyone needs a break every now and then. Some businesses even give an “experience bonus” which involves paying employees a lump sum to plan and go on a vacation (brb, pitching this to my HR Department).

In today’s work culture, it can be easy to overcommit and stretch yourself too thin. There’s a stigma that leaving on time or not being available 24/7 means you’re not a hard worker or dedicated to your job, when I found it was the opposite. I came back from vacation thinking more clearly, I was more invested in my work, and I felt more creative in thinking of new solutions to problems. I realized I needed that time away to come back and be my best self. 

Not everyone has a ton of PTO or the funds to plan a vacation, but there are ways you can work smarter to avoid burnout. Here are my tips:

Be Present:  When you’re in the office, your home office, your favorite coffee shop, or wherever your “office” is, be present. Be engaged in what you’re doing and give your all to your work. Limit distractions by hiding your phone so you’re not tempted to check your Instagram likes, and close out your inbox so you can stay focused.

Adjust your hours:  If you have colleagues in different time zones that you need to collaborate with, see if you can adjust your working hours earlier or later. If you’re truly putting in quality time during the work day, you deserve to have your happy hours and afterhours be work-free.

Set limits on working longer:  When you must log on outside of normal hours, and let’s be real it happens, try to set a time limit for how long you’ll be working. Give yourself a set amount of time to complete a project or task, and as soon as you hit that limit, sign off. It’s also okay to ask for help or support. 

Tell someone who can help you manage the workload:  If you’re swamped and will miss a deadline or aren’t making headway, tap a coworker for help or have an honest conversation with your boss about your workload. Most supervisors want their employees to be happy and successful, and if you’re not in a position where you can achieve your goals, they’ll work with you to get you there. 

Taking a break from work can help you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, more creative, and eliminate burnout. Different professions have different levels of stress, and while the tactics above might not work for everyone, hopefully we’ve given you a few ways to manage your daily grind in a healthy way. 

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