Preventing Burn Out: Day 22 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH
From Friday 19th January, everyday for 40 days, I will be sharing something each day that has either (1) changed my way of thinking or perspective, (2) helped me get through a challenging period of transition, change or growth, or (3) changed my life for the better. I've called it '40 Days of Growth'. I'd love it if you followed along with me on this journey - contributing what has also helped you to learn, grow and change. And, if I can support you on your own learning journey, please do let me know 😃
Preventing Burn Out
Day 22 of 40 DAYS OF GROWTH
Hey there, honey! How are you doing? No, I mean: how are you really doing?
Rather than the "I'm good" or "I'm fine, thanks", it can take slowing down for more than a second and being vulnerable to notice how you're really feeling. Especially if you're a driven, hard-working person who wants to help others, it can be hard to admit that sometimes, you're just not feeling that great and you need to start prioritising yourself.
A few years ago when I was in a full-time permanent role that I was feeling miserable and overwhelmed in I heard a term from a mentor that pinpointed how I was feeling - I was "BROWNING OUT". I wasn't burnt-out or being forced by my body to take some time out to recover - I was noticing the warning signs that I was heading in that direction.
My 'browning-out' signs were:
- my coffee consumption levels creeping up from 1 cup a day to 2, sometimes 3 yet still feeling constantly tired and low energy (eep!)
- not eating proper meals, sometimes forgetting to eat during the day OR bingeing on food that made me feel sick (later that year I'd be diagnosed as being really sensitive to gluten and dairy, so this made sense in hindsight)
- having an annoying cough and sore throat that were hanging around me like annoying neighbours for more than a month
- my patience and positivity wearing out at work - not feeling engaged with or motivated to do the work and then not having the energy to work on stuff that I really cared about after work
- feeling frequently on edge - it felt like I was constantly in 'fight or flight' mode
- my skin breaking out from stress
- difficulty sleeping
- sometimes not having the energy to exercise (not a good sign as it's one of my key self-care strategies!)
Without realising it, I was feeling classic signs of 'browning-out' - the "smaller cousin" of burn-out.
What can be done when you're "browning-out" at work?
Rather than pushing through it and getting to the point of burn out, taking time to check in with yourself and take time to get back to a sparkier place is better for you and the work that you're involved with.
Below are some of my tips for avoiding burn-out when you're noticing you're getting to or are in the browning-out stage:
 HEALTHY SELFISHNESS
Sometimes saying NO is the best thing we can do for ourselves. This may come as a shock to those of us people pleasers, but it's true. Part of this is about taking control and actively managing your time. It's okay to admit that you need a time out or time to yourself.
"Most of us have been taught to think selfishness is a bad quality — and it certainly can be. But it's not admirable to neglect mental, emotional and physical well-being, and to live in the world with stress, resentment and a lack of joy" - Blake D. Bauer
Healthy selfishness feels like taking a risk. It does not mean disregarding other people's feelings and needs. It simply means we do not disregard ourselves to please others or to support others at our own expense. It means we take care of our body and value our needs, desires, feelings and dreams. Makes sense, yes?
 PRIORITISING AND SCHEDULING SELF-CARE
Even when I don't think I have the time, making the time to exercise and take 'mindful pauses' is critical. On the days when I know I won't have time for a proper lunch or a longer workout, I put spaces into my day for walking meetings, make sure I at least go for a walk around the block a few times a day, make sure I have good snacks with me (nuts, carrot sticks, muesli bars etc) and make time to PAUSE (see #3).
The Ovio PAUSE is one of the key things that helps me stay focused during long work days. I also now teach it to others in my mindfulness classes - because it's memorable and it can be done to re-center yourself in a minute or so. Essentially, it involves taking a moment to pause, notice your current experience with non-judgment and using the breath to ground yourself:
P = Pause: what are you experiencing right now?
A = Accept: accept the present moment non-judgmentally and with curiosity
U = You: OBSERVE yourself, your mind, body and environment
S = Sigh and smile
E = Engage: now you're ready to engage in the present moment :)
Give it a try!
(Note: Ovio Mindful Solutions is the organisation that accredited me to deliver their high-quality and beautifully-designed mindfulness programmes. If you'd like to know more, don't hesitate to reach out for a coffee and chat)
 MENTAL HEALTH DAYS
There is 100% no shame in taking a day just for yourself. I truly cannot recommend it enough. Rather than resting when you're totally exhausted and burnt-out, there is real power in 'resting in the middle'.
For me, if I'm taking a day just for me I like to get a good sleep, go to at least one yoga or dance class (or go for a long walk in the outdoors), do some reading, journalling, see a friend or 2 for coffee, find some dogs to cuddle and take the time to eat good food. Other people also swear by taking baths, going on a road trip (changing your location can be great for changing your perspective, plus it will feel like you've really made the most of the day by having an adventure!) and/or getting a massage. Gah! So good! :)
 EARLY NIGHT THURSDAYS
Know you won't have time to rest in the weekend but you're exhausted by Thursday? One piece of advice I got was to make Thursday your EARLY bedtime night if you know you've got a hectic few nights ahead of you. This mentor even suggested going to bed at 8.30pm (!) - it'd mean you'd have a better shot of making it through the weekend and then not feeling like a hungover dog on Monday morning as you had no chance to rest during the weekend.
Ever noticed those who've not had the chance to rest over the weekend and they're sick by Tuesday? There's a reason for it - their bodies get to Monday and they desperately need to rest, so their body makes them sick so they need Tuesday off to rest. Classic.
AN EXTRA CHALLENGE: UNPLUGGING
UNPLUG... For my fellow founders, creatives and entrepreneurs I know this can be a challenge! Especially if you're the main worker in your business or you're a creative, when you're in the flow of a project time can slip by and suddenly your aim of stopping work at 9pm may end up being you looking up from your laptop or canvas and it's 1am (I've certainly been in this boat more than once when I've been creating resources for clients or creating new website content/blogs).
Taking a day, or half a day if a day isn't realistic, to really unplug - turning off all devices and not having them with you - can be a WONDERFUL way to recharge. There's a reason why numerous authors and self-help bloggers recommend turning your phones off an hour before going to bed and/or not bringing them into the bedroom - they stimulate the brain, and after a day of 8 hours of more in front of devices (like a lot of people these days do), it can take a while for the brain to switch off. Give it a try and let me know how you feel to unplug! :)
Questions for you
Have you experienced browning-out or burnout? What did you do to move back to a place of energy and focus? If you are experiencing any of the brown-out or burn-out symptoms, how can you prioritise your self-care to restore your motivation and energy?
Sending love and care,
Further reading on "Brown-out":
Staff affected by brownout become disengaged, demotivated and lose interest in their jobs. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11866571/Are-you-suffering-from-brownout.html
Tired all the time? Can't focus? Heart seemingly not in anything anymore? You may be suffering from brown-out, the stage before burnout that's affecting around 40% of high ranking professionals and is probably screwing up an office near you. No, it isn't as dangerous as full burnout - which manifests itself as a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that can be akin to a nervous breakdown - but it's still related to a number of different longterm problems. See also: exhaustion, being 'stuck in a rut', general malaise, and red flags. https://thedebrief.co.uk/news/real-life/forget-burnout-suffering-brownout/
Side-note: I was tempted to call this blog post 'Notice the browning-out signs' but then realised it might come across as confusing as the term 'browning-out' is also used in electrician-contexts and drinking-contexts. Crazy!