May 17, 2023 3 Min Read
Create Sustainable Performance: Maximize Your Potential Without Burning Out
There are few better feelings in life than achieving your goals.
Whether it’s scoring that all-important new client at work or getting excellent feedback on your 2000-word essay, maximizing your potential is simply good for the soul.
Our bodies even reward us for achievement by releasing a neurotransmitter and hormone called dopamine, which controls our brain’s reward center.
But the endless pursuit of success can sometimes cause burnout, hindering your mental health and your ability to meet your goals long-term.
Watching out for burnout doesn’t mean you have to give up on your goals – quite the opposite. It simply means staying in tune with your mental and physical well-being.
If you’re not sure how to spot burnout or what to do if you experience it, here’s a comprehensive guide on the signs to look out for and tips for combatting it.
Ready to reach your full potential without burning out?
Let’s dive in.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion that manifests in feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and struggling to enjoy work and social interactions.
Most of us have experienced burnout at some point or another, even if we didn’t have a name for it.
With 77% of US employees having experienced burnout at their current job, it’s a common issue in workplaces, especially if employees aren’t encouraged to take measures to protect their mental health. In fact, burnout is so prevalent that it’s responsible for 8% of occupational illnesses.
But while burnout is common in the workplace, you don’t have to have a full-time job to experience it. Burnout results from continual exposure to stressful situations, whether witnessing upsetting news, studying excessively, or caring for a family member.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
If you’re experiencing some of the following symptoms, you could be suffering from burnout.
- Exhaustion. We all feel tired after the occasional busy day, but continual physical and emotional depletion is a cause for concern and one of the main symptoms of burnout.
- Frequent illness. Mental health and physical health often go hand in hand, and burnout can seriously affect your immune system, leaving you at higher risk of common infections.
- Feeling trapped. People with burnout might entertain escape fantasies, wishing they could quit their job or move away but feeling trapped in their current situation.
- Procrastination and decreased productivity. You can’t stress yourself into working hard. The more burnt out you are, the more likely you will procrastinate or experience lower productivity levels.
- Isolation. Burnout can leave you feeling so overwhelmed you don’t want to (or feel unable to) spend time with loved ones.
What are the Top Causes of Burnout?
There’s no one cause of burnout. Although burnout from working is particularly common, you can experience burnout even when you’re not working.
Some of the most common causes of burnout include;
- Workload. Working long hours, juggling multiple high-stakes projects at once, and being under a lot of pressure at work or school can all lead to burnout.
- Lack of control. One thing we all crave above all is control over our lives. When you feel like you don’t have much autonomy or say in your decisions or your circumstances are unstable, this can leave you feeling overwhelmed and helpless, leading to burnout.
- Lack of supportive relationships. While independence is great, sometimes we need support from those around us who care. Lacking close, supportive relationships can leave you with nobody to turn to in times of stress, worsening burnout. The same goes for lack of support from colleagues or a manager at work during busy periods.
- Too many responsibilities. All of us are responsible for something or someone, whether that’s paying the bills, raising children, or even taking the trash out every week. But when you feel unable to handle all the responsibilities in your life, it’s a recipe for burnout.
What are some of the Best Strategies to Prevent Burnout?
As with every illness, prevention is better than cure, but we know that’s not always possible. Here are some strategies to deal with burnout, whether you’re preventing it from happening or already going through it.
Chop Wood and Carry Water
According to TaskHuman coach Liz Harlow, “creating a mindful flow in everyday chores or routines can open into serious gratitude and joy.” This is a practice that takes time to develop but simply appreciating the steadiness of our daily routines can lead to more peace and less stress.
If a primary cause of your burnout is people asking too much of you, set boundaries. Whether that’s at work or with loved ones, clearly state what you are and aren’t able to take on, and won’t budge – even if people make you feel guilty for it.
Reevaluate Your Priorities
If you’re simply dealing with too many tasks or priorities, something’s got to give. Prioritize everything and adjust your time accordingly. If anything can be dropped or outsourced, do it temporarily.
Get Enough Sleep
Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout and worsen physical and mental health. Aim for 7-9 hours of good-quality sleep a night to keep your health in check.
Ask for Help
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Speak to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings or seek support from a professional.
As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
Try Calming Activities
Activities such as yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce stress. In your free time outside of work or your studies, participate in activities that engage your parasympathetic nervous system, helping you to cultivate a calmer overall mood.
How to Perform Well and Avoid Burnout
‘Okay,’ I hear you cry, ‘I’m down with avoiding burnout, but how do I still manage to achieve my goals?’.
A common misconception about combating burnout is that it means entirely giving up on your goals or work. That idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
Preventing burnout actually makes it easier to achieve your goals. If your stress levels are under control, you’ll find it easier to concentrate and avoid procrastinating.
Remember to set yourself achievable goals rather than setting the bar higher and higher until your objectives become impossible.
Put in place a safety system you can practice whenever you feel burnout creeping in.
Safety strategies could include speaking to a trusted friend, colleague, or family member, taking time away from work, or participating in stress-beating activities such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.
Other top and most actionable takeaways that can help you perform well while avoiding burnout include the following.
You can think of this as your anti-burnout, maximum productivity checklist!
- Prioritize self-care: Make sure to set aside time for activities that you enjoy and help you relax, such as exercise, meditation, or reading a book.
- Get enough sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.
- Practice time management: Make a schedule and stick to it, avoiding overcommitting yourself and allowing for downtime.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
- Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help you feel energized and focused.
- Set achievable goals: Avoid setting overly high expectations for yourself, and focus on small, attainable goals that you can realistically meet.
- Delegate tasks: Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks to others, especially if they can complete them more efficiently than you.
- Take breaks: Regular breaks can help prevent burnout and increase productivity. Try taking a 5-10 minute break every hour to stretch, take a walk, or simply relax.
- Seek support: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or a professional for support.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can help you stay focused and calm, reducing stress and increasing overall well-being.
- Avoid multitasking: Instead of trying to do multiple things at once, focus on completing one task at a time to avoid burnout and increase productivity.
- Set boundaries: Make sure to set boundaries around your work and personal life to ensure you have enough time for self-care and relaxation.
Reaching your full potential doesn’t mean reaching goals at the expense of your mental health, and you don’t need to push yourself until you reach burnout. While many of us are different, working until we reach burnout is an unsustainable way to live, and we’ll crash, feel awful, and spend even more time trying to recover, which can lead to us feeling even more behind.
Instead, always remember that when you look after yourself inside and out, success will follow.
Need help creating a burnout prevention plan? Connect with Liz Harlow or another TaskHuman coach to get the help you need.