Make Self-Care a Priority
How often do you put your needs first? No matter how many times I encourage my clients to put their needs and wants at the top of the list, they say it’s a struggle. They’re professionals and caretakers—doctors, surgeons, busy parents and spouses—and they’re used to thinking about everyone else. They rarely put themselves first, and usually push themselves to the brink of burnout. Self-care falls to the bottom of their lists.
The burnout beast can plague professionals in every industry. No one seems to be immune. I’ve found, especially when speaking to leadership groups, that the more accomplished people are in their chosen fields, the higher their risk for burnout is because they are so invested and care so much.
Fortune magazine describes burnout as a condition that not only physically and mentally fatigues us, but also robs us of our joy and sense of professional purpose. Burnout is as significant a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as the biggies we’re all familiar with—obesity, cholesterol and smoking.
As a doctor, I tell my patients and clients to pay attention to these signs:
–A feeling of no longer making a difference
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re not at the top of your game, guess what? You won’t do anyone else any good.
But there are some people who this doesn’t seem to touch. Ever wonder why some (happy) people seem immune to burnout? Are they just oblivious to stressors? Do they take different vitamins than we do? Are they secretly yelling at the other drivers all the way home from work?
My coaching clients consistently find success when they have a solid, strategic plan in place to keep work-life balance in check—one they can use as they approach each project.
Here are six strategies you can try to help prevent burnout.
1. Differentiate Between Good & Bad Stress
If you’re like most people, at any given moment you have an endless list of things to do floating around in your head. Items range from creating an awesome PowerPoint presentation and sourcing the ideal venue for an annual convention, to getting the dog groomed and remembering to pick up your daughter from volleyball practice.
Ask yourself exactly how urgent the to-do item is. If it wasn’t accomplished today, next week or next month, would the consequences be dire…or would no one really notice?
If you let go of at least half of those “must-do” tasks, you cut down on toxic mental clutter and reduce burnout risk. How do you let them go? That gets me to the next item on my list.
2. Delegate & Delegate Some More
Ditch the “It’s simpler just to do it myself” and “I’m the only one who knows how to do this right” mindsets. You don’t have to be the general manager of everything. Ask a colleague to get price lists from a half-dozen of Las Vegas’ finest caterers and hire the neighbor’s teen to mow your lawn.
3. Keep Things in Perspective
An everyday work chore can seem easily doable or insurmountable, depending on your perspective. You know how things always look bleakest when it’s midnight and you’re starving? Remember, you can attack that boatload of emails with dread or with confidence—it’s up to you.
4. Be a Truth Teller…to Yourself
In your quest to be “Super Planner,” do you compare yourself to your colleagues way too much (always a losing proposition), set unrealistic goals (self-sabotage of the worst kind) or multitask to the point of exhaustion (major health risk)? Hit reset by deciding what your standards will be and work mindfully, every day.
5. Set Crystal-Clear Boundaries
This goes a long way to preserving your sanity. The most important boundary-setting behaviors are learning to say “no,” letting go of worrying about what everyone else thinks and making a real assessment about whether what is being asked of you is something you’re passionate about. Knowing what you can’t take on is as important as knowing what you can—maybe even more important.
6. Get Radical with Self-Care
It might be hard to see the connection between a productive phone call with a client and going for a morning run. I get it—you want to function at peak performance levels. I do, too. But with our overflowing calendars and daily to-do lists, the first thing on the cutting block can be our downtime. Failure to rest and recharge our brains leads to anxiety, depression and burnout; not peak performance.
You can reduce your risk of burnout if you regularly reassess what energizes you in your work, maintain meaningful professional connections (while maintaining boundaries, of course) and cultivate a mindful attitude toward your tasks. Deepak Chopra says we can practice mindful activity, even while doing the dishes!
Burnout is real. And so are the strategies to reduce it.
Dr. Starla Fitch is a best-selling author, speaker and certified life coach. Visit starlafitchmd.com, where you can get a free copy of her eBook, 7 Day Happiness Challenge: A Smart Plan to Reclaim Your Spark. She will be a featured speaker at Smart Meetings’ Smart Woman Summit June 24−26, at Trump National Doral Miami.