6 Ways You Can Start the New Year Off Right and Avoid Burnout This Year
Burnout is a condition caused by excessive, persistent stress. Usually associated with being overworked, burnout has severe consequences for mental and physical health, from worsening depression to being more susceptible to illness. It’s possible to prevent burnout by being vigilant about the early signs, reducing stress, relying on others, and making healthy lifestyle choices that make it easier to cope with stress.
If you feel like you just survived 2021, you’re not alone. It was a tough year for many people. The pandemic dragged on while the demands of work, home, and family continued.
When stress threatens to overwhelm, it’s easy to get burned out. This is a real phenomenon characterized by stress, detachment, profound fatigue, and an inability to perform normally.
This year can be different because it’s possible to prevent burnout. While setting your goals for 2022, consider how you can boost your mental health and avoid getting burned out.
What Is Burnout?
Psychologists describe burnout as a state of exhaustion—emotional, mental, physical—that is caused by long-term stress. The term originated in the 1970s and referred expressly to people in the caregiving profession, like doctors and nurses.
Experts now widely accept that all kinds of people in various jobs experience burnout. This includes homemakers and unpaid family caregivers.
Burnout may not be an official mental health diagnosis, but it is a real phenomenon that affects many people. It’s most associated with work, but you can get burned out trying to juggle a schedule that includes other obligations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) records burnout as an occupational phenomenon rather than a medical condition. According to the WHO, it causes:
- Mental distance from your job or extreme negative feelings toward it
- Reduced job performance
Symptoms of burnout are similar to those of depression. They overlap in terms of fatigue, reduced productivity, and feelings of hopelessness or being overwhelmed. It’s essential to see your doctor if you have these symptoms. If you have depression, treatment can help.
Is Burnout Preventable?
The consequences of burnout are serious. This is both a mental and physical condition with complications ranging from worsening mental health to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
It is possible to prevent burnout by managing stress. You may not be able to change or eliminate everything that causes stress, but you can cope with it better. A combination of lifestyle changes and coping strategies can keep burnout in check.
How To Prevent Burnout in the Coming Year
Last year posed significant challenges for most people. Even without a high-pressure job, many people struggled due to the pandemic. Both together only added to the recipe for burnout.
Take charge of 2022 and refuse to submit to the stress and pressures that create burnout. Here’s how to do it:
1. Eliminate or Reduce Sources of Stress.
Before 2022 starts, cast a critical eye over the previous year. Take a hard look at the elements in your life that cause you the most stress. Is it work? A relationship? Responsibilities at home? Stress is the foundation of burnout, so if you can change, reduce, or eliminate any of its sources, you can avoid it.
Realize, of course, that it may not be possible to get rid of everything causing you stress. You should be able to make some changes that reduce it. If your work is the biggest source of stress, consider looking for a new job. If that isn’t possible, talk to your boss about your role and how you can change it.
2. Share the Burden and Ask for Help.
Before your responsibilities get to the point at which they cause you to burn out, share the load. If work or home chores threaten to overwhelm you, ask for help. This is hard to do, especially for someone driven and ambitious, as many people who get burned out are.
It’s important to realize that everyone, even the most capable people, needs help from time to time. You would help someone feeling overwhelmed, right? Reach out to those you trust and who can take on some of your tasks, at least for a little while.
3. Reshuffle Your Priorities.
If you’re like most people vulnerable to burnout, you put a lot of energy and time into your work. Maybe you loved it once, but with burnout, you no longer find purpose or meaning in it. You probably never engage in other activities you once enjoyed.
Reflect on where work fits into your life and shift priorities. Even small changes can make a difference. Set boundaries at work and say no to extra projects or covering for others. Make time for things you really enjoy, like hobbies or nights out with friends.
Don’t forget to prioritize self-care too. This should be a big priority in your life. Find time for practicing relaxation exercises, like meditation or yoga. Take time to simply do nothing. Give yourself hours-long breaks from your devices.
4. Make an Exercise Plan, and Stick With It.
The New Year is a popular time to set and fail at workout goals, but physical activity is so important for managing stress. To avoid the typical resolution failure, make exercise a lasting lifestyle change.
Set small, realistic goals that you can stick with for a long time. For instance, it’s not realistic or helpful to say you’ll exercise enough to lose 100 pounds this year. There’s no plan to achieve it, which will just leave you feeling more overwhelmed.
An example of a more manageable goal is to take one walk every day. Even if you only manage to get out for five minutes at a time, you will be active daily, and this mitigates stress.
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5. Prioritize Sleep.
Perhaps even more important than exercise is sleep. Adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but most do not. According to the American Psychological Association, inadequate sleep is linked to stress.
Poor sleep and stress exist together in a cycle. When you don’t sleep enough, you feel more stressed. Stress, in turn, makes it harder to sleep and contributes to insomnia.
A focus on getting enough sleep can mitigate stress and reduce burnout chances. Go to bed and get up at consistent times, seven days a week. Make your bedroom comfortable. Put screens away before bed and avoid heavy meals and alcohol within a couple of hours of bedtime.
6. Know the Symptoms of Burnout and Address Them Early.
Despite your best efforts, stress may get the better of you at times. Awareness is essential for avoiding a complete meltdown. If you can recognize the signs of burnout and quickly, you can turn it around. These are some of the characteristic symptoms of burnout in the typical order of progression:
- You keep pushing yourself to work harder on a project, at work, or at home.
- Your own needs, like adequate sleep and exercise, have fallen by the wayside.
- You put the blame for your troubles on external factors.
- You have less and less time for any other activities besides your work or other responsibilities and withdraw from family and friends.
- Your behaviors become more aggressive and irritable.
- You begin to feel detached from your life and as if you don’t have any control.
- You feel empty or anxious and may turn to destructive behaviors as a result, like drinking excessively.
- You feel depressed and hopeless.
Be vigilant about these signs. If you notice them, slow down, take time off, get more sleep, do something fun, talk to a friend, or get outside for some exercise.
When to Get Professional Help
If you get to the point at which these tips don’t help, or you start to feel extremely fatigued and unable to carry on with normal activities, it’s time to reach out. Mental health professionals have experience with burnout. They can provide therapy and a plan for taking your life back.
Don’t let burnout get the best of you this year. Take steps to prevent it. If those fail, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We all need it sometimes.