5 Ways to Keep Yourself From Burning Out

July 11th 2016

Even if you love your job, you can fall victim to burnout if you're not careful.

It's easy to see why young people in particular get overwhelmed by their work and responsibilities. Many young people have lower salaries than their 1980s counterparts, exorbitant student loan debt, and long hours at the office.

A 2015 study from the University of Kansas found that women in particular are more vulnerable to burnout than men in the field of journalism, and other research has shown that many Millennials are at risk of burning out.

So how do you stop yourself from burning out and/or falling out of love with your work? Experts recommend a broad range of practices that can improve your mental health as well. Here are some of those tips:

1. Exercise

The Mayo Clinic states on its website that exercise can improve the way people handle certain challenges:

"Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also help you get your mind off work and focus on something else."

Dr. Jennifer Carter, who formerly worked as a counseling and sport psychologist at the Center for Balanced Living in Ohio, told the American Psychological Association in 2011 that she often recommends exercise to her patients in psychotherapy:

"I often recommend exercise for my psychotherapy clients, particularly for those who are anxious or depressed."

2. Sleep

Staying up late to watch Netflix might seem fun in the moment, but sleep is more important. The Mayo Clinic recommends getting up to eight hours of sleep each night as a way to avoid burnout:

"Sleeps restores well-being and helps protect your health. Aim for at least 7-8 hours each night."

Research backs up the idea that well-rested people come to work in a better mood. A 2012 study published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience found that poor REM cycle sleep may be connected to higher emotional reactivity, "both at behavioral and neural levels," the researchers wrote.

3. Find a creative outlet.

Paula Davis-Laack, a former attorney who founded the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute, wrote in a 2013 Psychology Today piece that creative outlets can help prevent burnout. Having faced burnout herself in the legal field, she understands the experience:

"Burnout interferes with your ability to perform well, increases rigid thinking, and decreases your ability to think accurately, flexibly, and creatively (Noworol, et al., 1993). Even if you aren’t able to flex your creative muscles at work, having some type of creative outlet will keep you engaged and motivated."

Carol A. Bernstein, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at at New York University, told The Wall Street Journal in 2015 that even though it's hard to know whether hobbies are responsible for an increase in happiness, finding meaning in something “certainly increases resilience and decreases burnout.”

4. Get some support.

"The number of people who say they have no one with whom they can discuss important matters has nearly tripled in the past two and a half decades," Davis-Laack wrote in her Psychology Today piece. "The more I burned out, the more I just wanted to hole up in my office and avoid people, and that was exactly the opposite of what I should have been doing. I didn’t want to let people know how awful I was really feeling because I thought it meant I was weak. It takes time and effort to maintain social connections, but supportive people are the best inoculation against burnout."

The Mayo Clinic also recommends seeking help from one's support system at work and home to stop the burnout from occurring.

One can also seek help through technology. The 4-year-old app Happify was designed to help users deal with "constant negative thoughts" through "effective tools and programs to take control" of one's emotional well-being, according to the company's Google Play page:

"Struggling with everyday challenges and being gripped by negativity is toxic to your emotional and physical wellbeing, your relationships, your performance at work. So when you start to turn the corner, and begin to learn the new habits of successful engagement with life, everything starts to look brighter and better."

5. Be kind to yourself.

“It can be as simple as taking a brisk five-minute walk to the mailbox and back, grabbing your favorite cup of coffee or allowing one entire hour of uninterrupted time to just be," Christine Louise Hohlbaum, the author of "The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World," told Psych Central in 2012.

Hohlbaum added that it's important to practice self-care during particularly challenging parts of the day:

“If afternoons are particularly difficult for you, plan some time to just breathe then.”

Another way to be kind to yourself is to sign up for Shine, a daily text message service that enables users to live a more intentional and positive life.

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