I love what I do, but it can mean dealing with a lot of pressure. Stress isn’t healthy, so self-care is necessary for any demanding job. Burnout, which is brought on by chronic stress, can cause problems with physical and mental health, relationships, work and more. Burnout doesn’t just happen from working (or studying) long hours, but constant stress can spiral out of control if not handled properly. If you feel you might be on the cusp of burnout, making sure to rest and re-evaluate can prevent a meltdown before it’s too late to manage projects and keep a balanced life.
Thinking about how burnout will negatively affect work can help you realize the intensity of the situation and encourage you to re-evaluate or seek help. Well-being is a major reason not to overwork ourselves, but it often gets pushed aside for external factors, like career success and study goals. If you know how burnout can affect your work, you can make prevention a priority. There’s nothing scarier than adding up tasks or worries and becoming completely overwhelmed instantly! Naturally, this affects the work’s quality. It’s tough to slow down or take a break, but it’s the best thing for you and your work.
Yep, I’m saying even at your busiest – take breaks. Not one, but many – and often. Over the years, research has shown that taking frequent breaks is helpful for productivity. The time you lose taking a short break is gained in how productive you are when you’re back at it. One study showed that participants who were most productive took 17 minute breaks every 52. Crazy, right? Another theory is to break every 90 minutes in order to regain energy that drains through during long work stretches. Moral of the story: taking breaks makes you more productive, not less, and doing so consistently helps beat potential burnout.
Another way to help curb the exhaustion and stress that leads to burnout? Power naps. Studies show that a 30 minute to 1 hour nap can prevent burnout’s effects. When the brain has time to process all it receives during long work or study sessions, it’s able to receive more and perform better. So naps and breaks aren’t only healthy, but helpful for productivity. Simply resting isn’t quite the answer though; you need to fall into a deep enough sleep that the brain can do its work, which is why you can’t quite nap in only ten minutes. 30 mins to 1 hour can even make up for some of the damage caused by repeated lack of sleep, so when you’re really busy and unable to catch Zzz’s at night, it’s worth it to snag any you can midday.
Getting adequate rest and letting your body reset is a major help in ensuring you don’t get burned out to the point of needing to seriously re-evaluate your career, school or projects. However, it’s not exactly a cure-all. Each job has its own unique stressors, and serious change like a shift in career or removal from stressful situations can at times be necessary. The best you can do is learn to listen to your body and seek support if you need it. If you think you may already be experiencing burnout, this Psychology Today article may help too.