You would think that avoiding burnout would simply be a matter of not crossing a threshold of fatigue.

Burnout is not that simple.

Burnout And Creativity

Burnout is often work-related because we are increasingly expected to be not only highly creative but also highly productive – like creativity machines.

Robert Fritz, author of the bestseller, The Path of Least Resistance, writes that when we are creating there are two parts to the process:

  1. Stretch: which occurs when we work and expand ourselves in the work.
  2. Consolidation: which occurs when we take a step back afterward, rest and assimilate the results of the work.

Both parts of the process are necessary and support each other. Our fast-paced economic system keeps many of us stuck in the stretch phase of creating. If you are stretching and not consolidating, you are headed for burnout.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is not just an emotional problem. Merriam-Webster  defines burnout as:

“Exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

Burnout usually occurs for one of two reasons:

  1. Lack of rest or rejuvenation (overwork)
  2. Lack of motivation or reward

Over the past 50 years rest has acquired a bad reputation. You can rest when you are dead is how the thinking goes.

However, work and rest are two complementary sides of the same cycle and they enhance each other. We know this intuitively because we love getting a good night’s sleep after a day of positive and productive work and love going to work when we feel refreshed and on top of our game. When the cycle is working well we feel positive momentum; when not, we feel drained.

Burnout can also occur when:

  1. …the work we are doing work that doesn’t suit our skills or interests.
  2. …we know we are not interested in a particular job or task and force ourselves to do it too often.
  3. …our work environment is fear-based and highly political.
  4. …we have too many emergencies, both at work and at home.
  5. …we are sick or a family member is sick.

When we are well we can withstand some turbulence in our lives. When rough spots last too long they start to debilitate us. Life is not meant to be a long emergency.

Assessing Burnout Potential In Your Life

To assess burnout potential in your life, evaluate each aspect of your life below on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being low in stress and burnout potential and 10 being extreme burnout potential.

  1. Consider your physical condition:
    1. You are strong and have physical reserves, you may have the ability to withstand long-term stressful situations.
    2. Your resilience is lower, you need to be careful about how much stress you tolerate and monitor yourself for physical burnout.
    3. You become fatigued easily.
    4. You are sick or get sick easily.
  2. Consider your work situation:
    1. Are you valued?
    2. Are you doing work you love?
    3. Do you have the skills you need to succeed?
    4. Do you work with people who are good for you?
    5. Is the organization well managed?
    6. Do you have to overwork too much?
    7. Are you compensated well? Are your benefits good?
  3. Consider your relationships:
    1. Start with your family. Is it a warm, loving and supportive family or are you generally frustrated by the unhappiness in your family?
    2. Do you have close supportive friends?
    3. Do you have a community you are a part of?
    4. Are you happy with your social life?
    5. Are your work relationships good?
  4. Consider the time of year:
    1. Are there certain times when you are more overloaded than others and at risk of burnout?
    2. Are there times when the people around you are overloaded and your responsibilities increase as a result?
  5. Consider the totality of your life:
    1. Do you have burnout in some or two area spilling over into others?
    2. Do you see the potential for burnout to develop in an area in the future?
    3. When you look at your burnout assessment how does it look to you? piece of cake? manageable? serious burnout potential?

There are no right answers and no score to determine your burnout potential. Your assessment is a map of your current situation so that you can easily get a high level view of your current situation.

With your assessment in hand, it might be useful to consider whether your burnout challenges are people challenges, time management challenges, or a need to develop skills. Sometimes we lack a skill set that could make our life easier, save time and reduce stress.

Steps To Prevent Burnout

There are many things you can do to prevent burnout:

  1. Strengthen your body first. Improve your energy by getting a great night’s sleep, exercising, keeping hydrated and eating well. Detox your body since toxins can build up causing debility over time.
  2. Learn to meditate to relieve stress and help you with emotional balance. It works wonders.
  3. Make a list of all the areas you want to work on and set priorities for them.
  4. Research on the Internet about the issues you want to take on. Do not be afraid to tackle large issues like career choices and family problems.
  5. Do not be afraid to cut back on commitments that are too draining.  Your other commitments will benefit from your improved attention.
  6. Upgrade your skills to keep yourself marketable and functioning well.
  7. For the tasks you hate, you have several options: drop them if they are really unimportant, break them up into small bite size work units so that you only have to so it for a short time, delegate them, or trade your undesired task with someone else’s undesired task.
  8. Determine what is most important to you so that you increase your time spent on your high value activities and therefore increase your satisfaction.
  9. Treat burnout as a life-time concern that you can eliminate but taking good care of your life.

Everyone’s life matters and everyone deserves to enjoy their life.  Accept the reality of change and plan to be resilient but also make sure you can say no.  You do not have to carry the world on your shoulders.

When you are proactive, flexible, mindful about commitments and take excellent care of yourself you are doing what is necessary to beat burnout.  Good luck!

(Photo credit: Burnt Match Between New Matchsticks via Shutterstock)

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