Prevent Burnout With This Science-Based Habit

Picture Of A Person Suffering From Burnout

Executive Summary

  • People mistakenly think preventing burnout is a matter of:
    • Taking more holidays
    • Becoming more more resilient
  • Dr Adam Fraser’s research has shown that regular recovery
  • According Dr Fraser’s model, you should do the following:
    • Enter a state of deep relaxation for 5-10 minutes every day
    • Do something that energises you once a week
    • Have a day of no responsibilities, plans or obligations once a month
  • You need to rest consistently to prevent burnout over the long-term

Are you feeling chronically tired and spent? Do you live from weekend to weekend and holiday to holiday, trying to manage your energy and sanity budgets? Watch out, you could soon have burnout.

I’m currently attending a work conference that’s mainly about tax,. But this year, they’ve incorporated a lot of presenters sharing their insights and knowledge about looking out for your personal well-being and growth. I want to share one of the key insights from one of those sessions about how to make burnout a thing of the past.

Burnout Sucks

The International Classification of Diseases has this to say about burnout:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.
    If you’ve ever experienced it before, you’ll know that it just plain sucks. You don’t want to get up in the morning because you know that you’re about to do another 8+ hours of painful grind. Every minute of the working day is feels like a long trudge up an endless hill.

Burnout Doesn’t Just Affect Your Work

And the worst part is that burnout flows into other parts of your life. Even though the ICD only discussed the symptoms from a work perspective, it’s nigh impossible to separate it from your personal life. You come home, and you hardly have the will or motivation to do anything. You’re not very present or engaged when interacting with your family and friends. Hobbies and things you enjoy doing don’t seem so exciting anymore. The world around you just looks beige.

So what can you do about it? Let me share with you what I heard during the conference.

You’ve Got Burnout All Wrong

Psychologist Dr Adam Fraser has been studying burnout for nearly as long as he’s been in primary and high school – 10 whole years.

From his various studies, he noticed most people suggest these two solutions to prevent burnout:

  1. Take more holidays or longer breaks from work
  2. You need to be more resilient and tougher
    But from his studies, he looked at professional partners who’ve undergone burnout and they all ranked highly in terms of mental and emotional resilience and took sufficient leave. But it still wasn’t enough. It’s not a resilience problem, it’s a recovery problem.

Regular Recovery Is The Solution To Preventing Burnout

In Dr Fraser’s words, this is what you need to do to prevent burnout:

“The key to preventing burnout was short, regular but consistent bursts of recovery.”

He and his team developed and tested a 3-layered model to help people get enough rest and recovery so that they can continue delivering at work and at home.

The Model For Regular Recovery

Dr Adam Fraser's 3 Level Recovery Model To Prevent Burnout

Dr Fraser’s model seeks to prevent burnout by building in 3 cycles of regular recovery into your life. The model says that you need to recover on a:

  1. Daily basis
  2. Weekly basis
  3. Monthly basis

1) Daily Recovery – Deep Relaxation

Every day, you need to enter a state of deep relaxation, so that your nervous system “switches off”. But watching TV or scrolling on your phone isn’t enough, because your mind is still being stimulated by all the sights and sounds flooding in.

Instead, Dr Fraser’s research suggests that these 2 elements induce your body into a state of deep relaxation:

  1. Slowing down your breathing
  2. Focusing your mind on one thing
    So it shouldn’t surprise some of you that Dr Fraser recommends doing breathing exercises or meditation. But certain other activities can also achieve the same effect, such as reading a fiction book. Whatever it is, you need to make sure that it lets your mind switch off in order to let your mind fully relax and rest.

“But I Don’t Have Time For This”

I get it, you’re busy and you don’t have time to sit there in silence amongst all your responsibilities. Fortunately, the data from Dr Fraser’s research shows that all you need is 5 to 10 minutes of deep relaxation a day to achieve the desired effects. It’s not about how long you do it for, but for how often and how consistently you do it.

It’s such a short span of time that you can easily fit it in between meetings or as a break during the day. Give it a go!

2) Weekly Recovery – Reenergise

Next, you should do something that energises you once a week. Unlike the daily recovery routine, this is something that’s very personal for everyone. Ask yourself, “What do you like to do for YOU?”

For some people, it might be going for a bushwalking or a long walk at the beach. Other people get their mojo back from having drinks with friends or a board games night. For me, I regain my energy from getting engrossed in a good book.

So pick something that energises you and schedule it in!

Even Heroes Need To Re-energise

It might feel self-indulgent or selfish,, it might even feel wrong to do something for yourself every week. But you give yourself so fully to your work and home life that you end up with nothing left in the tank. Eventually, you hit a wall and wonder why you’re not the best version of yourself.

It’s because you haven’t been looking after yourself properly. If you’re taking more out of the tank than you’re putting in, you’re going to run yourself into the ground. Like the pre-flight demonstrations always say, you need to put on your own mask before helping others with theirs.

By taking time to care for yourself properly, you’re able to be more effective and present at work and at home.

3) Monthly Recovery – “Freedom Day”

When’s the last time you were completely free, with no obligations, expectations or appointments on your plate?

Dr Fraser recommends that you give yourself a “freedom day” once a month. It’s a day where you have zero responsibilities, nothing scheduled and no productivity to be achieved.

Think about it. Your life is over-scheduled and jam-packed with responsibilities, expectations and commitment. You need to give yourself a chance to take a break from it all. Just one day a month.

Your monthly freedom day is a day where you can just – be.

The beauty of the monthly freedom day is that you don’t necessarily have to take a holiday or time off work. And it comes around often just enough that you’re not constantly craving your next leg break, because your next freedom day is only 4 weeks away.

Consistency Is The Key To Preventing Burnout

As with any routine, you need to do it consistently to reap the long-term benefits. If you only try it for a couple of weeks and spot, you’ll soon go back to feeling unrested and worn out again.

Conclusion: How Will YOU Recover Regularly?

Burnout happens because you don’t give yourself a chance to reset and recover regularly enough. It happens because you feel like it’s wrong to take time for yourself, or because you think you just need to toughen up and keep pushing until your next holiday. Let’s change that, starting now.

What do you like to do to energise yourself? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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