Movement and deep breathing allow your body to complete its stress response cycle by releasing tension that has built up through the day, say Emily and Amelia Nagoski, authors of “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.” Give yourself any physical activity that doesn’t require much thought. Walk, take a Zumba class or scrub the floor. “I dread the thought of women looking for information about how to deal with burnout and being told to clean their kitchens,” Emily says. But light housework counts as movement and can help if you’re the type who loves spring cleaning. Even better, engage in physical activity with friends instead of plugging your ears with headphones. Shared laughter and togetherness help you feel safe and lower stress levels, the Nagoskis say.
“Look at the balance between job demands and job resources,” burnout expert Paula Davis-Laack says. A job demand is “anything in your work that takes consistent effort or energy,” she says, such as meetings, emails or finding new clients. Job resources are “motivational, energy-giving aspect of your work.” That list includes high-quality relationships with colleagues, autonomy, the opportunity to work on new things, having a mentor and receiving clear feedback. If your job demands are high and job resources are low, ask your boss for small changes to shift the balance. Davis-Laack calls these small shifts TNT: tiny noticeable things.
Employers influence burnout, too. “Organizations should enforce reasonable work hours,” says Dan Schawbel, author of “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation.” Companies can prevent employee burnout by developing a culture that encourages vacations and breaks. In France, for example, the Right to Disconnect law gives employees time away from email and phone calls after work hours. Promoting flexibility programs also helps prevent burnout because it allows employees control over when, where and how they work, Schawbel says. Think 30-hour workweeks, telecommuting or job sharing.
In our mobile society with families often far apart, and in a day and age where religion is on the downturn, many don’t have a community to turn to for help. “When bad things happen, who do you go to?” psychologist Sheryl Ziegler asks. “It used to be the leader of the church. I’m not saying you must go to the church you went to when you grew up, but that spirituality piece is valuable, no matter your beliefs. If you don’t have a community, make one. It’s that important.”
— Jenny Rough