Hard work is one thing, but working yourself into the ground with unsustainable habits isn’t helping anyone. Here’s how one woman identified three warning signs of burnout…and how to avoid them.
It’s the career advice we’ve heard a million times from our parents, mentors, and well-meaning strangers: Dress to impress, show up on time, work hard, and don’t complain.
But sometimes the very things we *think* we’re doing right can come back to bite us later, in the form of mental fatigue (read: easily preventable mistakes), failed relationships, or outright burnout.
I speak from experience. As an ambitious 20-something hustling through the Great Recession, I thought I was #killingit by saying yes to pretty much every writing and marketing gig I was able to secure.
And while I’m proud of my accomplishments, I’m not so proud of what I gave up in the process. I learned the hard way about the potential lasting, negative effects that over-working and under-self-caring can have on your life.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid the same pitfalls. Don’t want to burnout in the future? Invest in number one (that’s you) and refrain from doing these things in the present:
Not calling in sick when you’re really sick
The high-intensity work culture in a number of industries in America (including tech and media) has made many of us fearful of asking for time off for illness, or other personal matters.
Add to that the gender pay gap many women still face, and the pressure to compete in male-led or dominated offices, and it’s easy to see why we’ll run ourselves ragged before we’ll consider taking a sick day.
Research shows that millennials in particular aren’t very good at taking time off, even when we’re supposed to be “off.” And the vicious cycle is even worse among freelancers or those working in the gig economy, who believe being present despite illness, family needs, or mental health matters, is necessary to survive. Which makes them more likely to burnout, or else feel exhausted.
Instead of buying into this culture, take the time to tend to your physical and emotional needs as they come up. It can lead to greater dividends down the line, plus it’ll keep you strong enough to get through the tough times now.
Staying late and coming in early
Yes, we all want to work hard and prove we are go-getters. But there’s a time and place for everything. Long hours at the office can’t be sustained forever, and you’ll burn out quickly, like I did, if you keep up the crazy work-from-the-moment-you-wake-til-you-fall-asleep pace for too long.
Trust me: I’ve witnessed it happening to the people around me time and again. Since we all have access to work on our mobile devices and laptops, I get that it’s harder than ever to do a full cut-off after say, 6 p.m., but it’s so important that we do.
According to Allard E. Dembe and Dr. Xiaoxi Yao, experts on work-related health outcomes at Ohio State University, women working more than 12 hours per day were more than three times as likely to eventually suffer heart disease, cancer, arthritis or diabetes.
That means you’re literally risking your health for that potential bonus or proverbial pat on the back that might never come. And that’s not to mention the numerous studies that suggest overwork causes errors and mistakes that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Totally not worth it.
Taking work home
Taking your work home with you in the evening is one thing (read above), but bringing the toxicity of work home with you can mess up your family life and relationships in a major way.
Amy Morin, a clinical social worker and expert in mental strength, wrote in Psychology Today that it’s an issue she sees all too often at her therapy practice. The two most effective strategies to combat work stress spill-over in your home life, according to Morin? Wait for it: Adequate sleep and exercise every day.
A recent study by the University of Central Florida found that mistreatment at the office reduces our self-regulation or self-control, meaning it’s hard to control our emotions and impulses by the time we get home.
The recommended antidote is walking at least 10,000 steps a day or burning 600 calories.
While it might seem difficult to make the time when we’re already stressed to the max, remember: It’s that brisk walk or barre class that might save your sanity, your job, and definitely your BFF. She doesn’t like seeing you all stressed out like this.