We’ve all had the experience: Monday morning, and the alarm sounds. The feeling of dread awakens you with her tugging voice, saying how there are so many things to get done, but you’ll never have enough time and all of the tasks are so tedious. Most people, even if they enjoy their job, have experienced feelings of being overwhelmed, or have felt stifled as a result of being bogged down with paperwork or mundane tasks, leaving little room for creativity or stimulation. And because we associate the word “work” with an experience that is inherently taxing, it’s easy to fall into habitual negative patterns that can drain our energy, if we’re not conscious about taking self-care into consideration.
So, here are some simple practices that require little time (maybe even just a shift in mindset), that will help you to avoid burnout in the office:
1. Practice triage.
ER doctors are taught that if a patient comes in with a stopped heart, broken thumb, and a nosebleed, the first step is to focus on getting the patient’s heart beating before they can even begin to think anything else. Similarly, if you feel overwhelmed by the number of tasks you have to get done – today, tomorrow, and in upcoming weeks – train your mind to focus only on what needs your immediate attention. This takes some practice, as most of us have gotten into the habit of focusing on the future, rather than the present moment, but this causes unnecessary stress. The moment you become aware that you’re worrying about something you need to do five days from now, stop, breathe, and return to the present moment. Ask yourself: What can I put my attention on right now?
2. Don’t be afraid to say no.
Self-care means identifying what you need in order to feel centered, and then, making that your number one priority. This could look like saying no to taking on a new project when your boss asks or requesting for more time if a tight deadline feels stressful. While we’ve been taught that a good employee (and person) needs to please everyone, the truth is when we neglect our needs, we become sick, stressed, and exhausted.
3. Stop complaining about how busy you are.
It’s become more socially acceptable to complain about our busy schedules and workload than to discuss how much free time we have and enjoyable it is to rest and take time to do nothing. If you find that your life is particularly busy, break the habit of continually talking about it. Likely, you’re unconsciously using your business as a way to validate your worth. You may not be aware of exactly why you keep talking about your schedule, as it just seems to pop into your mind as you make small talk, but the truth is, some part of you feels more important because you’re so busy, and because of this, you continue to tell the same story, and thus, manifest a tight schedule.
4. Integrate play or creative projects into your daily schedule.
While it may seem counterintuitive to do more when you’re stressed, the truth is that our subconscious minds continue to work on problems and project, even when we’re not directly working on them, so, taking a fifteen minute break to knit, play a game, or do a puzzle, will actually help, as a brief respite from a major project is often when we get our best ideas. By taking a short break and shifting focus, you use other parts of your brain, and while you relinquish your mental stronghold on whatever task or problem you’re working through, you allow for new ideas and solutions to emerge.
5. Release the need to be perfect.
Perfectionism is a tool that our mind uses to beat ourselves up. It slows us down because we think we can’t finish a project until it’s 100% to our liking, and it causes anxiety. If you’re stressed at work to the point where you’re overeating, fighting with your partner, or not taking the time to do things that you love, then it would serve you to adopt an 80% mindset, meaning, giving every task 80% and letting that be good enough. Rather than spell-checking your legal brief for the fifth time, stop, declare its completion, and do something that brings you joy.
With just a few shifts, you can transform how you feel at the office. Most stress stems from unhealthy behaviors and ways of thinking, and with a little mindfulness, you can tend to what you need to have an easier work life and experience more peace and bliss.