It’s been a wild and bumpy ride over the past eighteen months for everyone, everywhere! Burnout is rampant in many workplaces, and HR professionals are often the most underrecognized workplace heroes, just as vulnerable to burnout as everyone else. If you are feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually drained, you need to pay attention to your own ‘burnout’ meter’ and take care of yourself, so you can better take care of others.
You know you are toast when you're always exhausted, not laughing, highly critical or cynical, disengaged, or feeling overwhelmed. We can burn out when we're not feeling appreciated, when "it isn't fair," when work is meaningless or ‘just too much,’ when we have values dissonance, or when we're bored and ‘Zoomed out’.
Burnout behaviors can look a lot like victim behaviors. And the best and fastest way to move from victim to victor is to take control where and when you can. We often have far more control over our lives than we think we do and we need to hold on to it when we can. We control our own attitudes, behaviors, choices, what we say and do, and who we say it to. By strengthening and filling up our personal resilience "tank" we can take back more control over our lives one little or big chunk at a time.
Growing or increasing our resilience is a process, not a trait. It can feel like ‘death by a thousand cuts’ when we lose some of our resilience and if can feel like a victory every time we fill up our ‘resilience tank’, even one drop at a time. We can fall into unhealthy habits that don’t serve our well-being. And yet, we've all bounced back from tough things in our lives, so we know we can do it. The problem is, we often forget our wins when we are burned out and focus too much on what isn’t feeling good or what isn’t working for us. Here are seven strategies that have worked for my clients and for me. I recommend starting with number one and then add another and another without leaving any behind.
- Believe in yourself - remind yourself every day that you've solved many, many problems before and are able to do so again. Remind yourself about what and who “I am” vs. what and who “I am not.”
- Identify the root cause of your pain and create a plan to address the root cause, not just the symptoms.
- Reach out to others for support. It is NOT a weakness to ask for input, perspective, and help from people you trust. In fact, it demonstrates your awareness, emotional intelligence, and wisdom to acknowledge when you need help. If you had a broken arm, you’d seek help. This is no different. Pain is pain, no matter the source.
- Find your empathy and compassion - acts of grace and kindness actually change your brain and body chemistry!
- Control instant gratification urges that cause you harm - mad shopping, eating, drinking, quitting in a huff…
- Stay calm vs. reacting to a triggering comment or action from someone. BREATHE deeply in through your nose and out your mouth – for 1 full minute or more, and notice how quickly you can begin to ground yourself before making a response. This helps you create the space that Viktor Frankl calls ‘our last human freedom’ - to make choices that serve us vs. choices that damage us.
- Laugh as much as you can in as many ways you can - movies, cartoons, jokes, friends…whatever brings you joy or pleasure.
It’s up to you to raise your awareness about how you are truly feeling. Denying your exhaustion won’t fix it and it is not a ‘badge of honor’ to burn out. Filling up your own ‘tank’ of resilience is not a selfish act, it’s a selfless one. Your people at work need you, your family needs you, and the way you can be fully there tomorrow is to take care of yourself TODAY!