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Productive Unwinding: Ways to Prevent Work Burnout


At times when you rest, you may have this feeling that you’re not resting enough. You nap, but still feel unrested after waking up; you binge a series, and you feel even more sluggish than energized. Perhaps this is because you have been so immersed in your work life that even in rest, you want productivity. You end up feeling guilty that you even rested in the first place.

So the question is, how do you rest without feeling guilty about not working? How do you stop this cycle and find ways to prevent work burnout? If you still haven’t found your answers to these questions, here are a few ways to handle and prevent work burnout:

Create a routine and stick to it.

The work-from-home setup has definitely caused a blur between personal and professional life — especially since everything you do is within the comfort of your own home. Boundaries have gotten hard to track, and schedules seem to shift daily due to unplanned circumstances at work, home, or any other personal concerns. What could help save you from this overwhelming imbalance is a routine. This routine need not be as detailed and meticulously timed; routines can simply be in the form of hours allotted for each commitment in a day. Creating this structure of discipline in your own life may help you find some time for clarity even in busy days, especially when there are specific hours allotted for self-care and rest. It’s important to remember that when you stick to your routine, you are not only honoring the routine itself — you’re also honoring yourself and your own time.

Listen to what our own body and mind are telling you.

Sometimes, you might find yourself already palpitating a lot from your coffee, getting a migraine while writing your new paper, or emotionally and socially tired from being in a desk, talking to colleagues almost all day. Your body and mind are giving you signals to detach yourself from work first. Yes, it’s easier to just mute these signals sometimes whenever you really want to finish all tasks already, but it is in these moments that you yourself, through your body and mind, are already giving you reasons to slow down. Amidst this occurrence of getting lost amidst the hustle, perhaps consider turning down the work volume a bit and listen carefully to what your well-being has to say. Try to acknowledge the fatigue, act upon it, and try again.

Reach out to others for help.

Asking help and advice from others is definitely not a sign of weakness and vulnerability. This initiative to reach out to others for help, may it be a drink out, a friendly brunch date, or a talk over morning coffee, truly goes a long way in helping you with your own process. This is especially helpful whenever you feel like you are already at your breaking point, but you find yourself denying this, so you carry on with work. Your friends, family members, and other colleagues can listen to you and eventually help you recognize that you do need a break; they can reassure you of the rest you deserve.

Learn when to say no.

Part of the blurred boundaries brought about by the pandemic is the illusion that you have more time, given that schedules have become relatively more flexible. Unfortunately, fitting in too much load in your schedule has several detrimental effects on your own wellness, impeding you from efficiently contributing your best at work. You may become more irritable, feel more lost, and prefer to isolate yourself from your colleagues due to the many layers of work in your pile. Again, it is important to not be blind with these signs and symptoms; more importantly, it is important to not do more work when feeling this way. Learn to say no — to another busy day, by asking for a day off; or to a new project offer, by respectfully declining and referring another colleague. One day and one no can make all the difference in the world.

Reevaluate your current situation.

It’s harmless to take some minutes off your busy schedule to take a pause and reflect. Perhaps these minutes make up the perfect time for you to ask yourself questions like “Is my work schedule too overwhelming?” or “Am I really happy and satisfied with where I am right now?” Undoubtedly, when you do something tedious regularly without finding happiness and satisfaction in it, it can lead to a sense of discouragement that potentially leads to exhaustion and burnout. This is why it’s important to ask yourself some questions and reevaluate your situation along the way. It can help you even more when you decide to have a discussion about your concerns with your employer; it can eventually help you reach a compromise on what your needs are and what the company still expects from you.

Going back to the question, how do you stop this cycle of resting with guilt that eventually makes you feel burned out? The answers to these questions actually ultimately depend on what you think aligns best with your needs, interests, and schedule. The 5 ways indicated are mere suggestions. In a nutshell, accepting these suggestions or creating your own ways depends on you. All you have to remember is that each way can only work best for you if it is meaningful for and contributive to your own well-being and overall growth.