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How to Prevent Burnout

Written by

Jessica Marrazzo

Posted on

January 18, 2023

It’s a well known fact that up to 1 in 4 people in the UK experience poor mental health each year. What’s more, you’re 25% more likely to suffer from burnout if you’re working in one of the creative industries. It’s a state of constant stress that doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the location, individual, seniority or specialism. Although it can creep up on any of us at any time, there are some ways that we can be proactive about preventing burnout and managing extreme levels of stress. 

We spoke to Conscious Working founder and fashion industry veteran Gret Betchelar about how we can spot the signs of burnout, and take actionable steps to see a positive change in our everyday lives. 

The exhaustion funnel

Leading burnout expert, Dr. Marie Asberg, likens the road to burnout to an exhaustion funnel. Imagine that the top of your funnel is your optimum life. It’s a place of balance, containing all the things that you want to do. It will typically have different spheres such as work, family, friends, hobbies, exercise and interests. Now, imagine that the bottom of the funnel represents a life where you’ve stripped everything back to the things that you have to do to keep going. 

Often, there won’t be a single event that pushes you down the funnel. The journey to burnout can often be a slow spiral down the exhaustion funnel – and often it’s hard to spot the signs that you’re beginning to lose your balance. As you move closer to burnout, you’ll find yourself starting to cut out the things that you enjoy, seeing them as “optional” in your mind. You’ll stop doing the activities that nourish you, leaving you solely with the stressors that will drain your resources and energy.

Gret’s research shows that those who continue to spiral down the exhaustion funnel are most likely to be incredibly conscientious workers. That’s because their levels of self-confidence are usually closely tied to their work.

How do you know if you’re headed to burnout?

Awareness is key. Our simple assessment is a great way to check in with yourself, and identify your current state of mental health. Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you stopped wanting to deal with everyday admin, such as opening the mail or returning phone calls?
  • Are you becoming increasingly bad tempered or irritable?
  • Do you find yourself cancelling social plans or not wanting to see people?
  • Do you find yourself becoming easily exhausted?
  • Have you given up on exercise
  • Are you constantly pushing back or overshooting on deadlines?
  • Have you experienced changes in your sleeping patterns (either too much or too little sleep)?
  • Have you noticed any changes in your eating habits?

The more questions that you found yourself answering ‘yes’ to, the further down the exhaustion funnel you are right now.

What can you do to alleviate burnout?

Essentially, burnout is a state of chronic stress. So, the first thing to do is identify your drainers and sustainers. It’s a tough exercise that requires you to be really thorough and honest with yourself. Try to identify areas outside of the obvious. When you challenge yourself, you’ll find you’ll get a lot more out of it. 

Drainers are the activities, people and situations in your life that drain your energy. When you’re around them, you’ll find yourself feeling stressed, overwhelmed and depleted. They’ll pull you further down the Exhaustion Funnel.

Sustainers, on the other hand, are the habits, situations and people that give you energy and nourishment. They actively contribute to your wellbeing – whether that’s physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. They help you to feel grounded, connected and whole, bringing you a sense of peace and joy.

Take a piece of paper and create two lists: one for all the drainers and one for all the sustainers. Identify the top 3 elements in each category and ask yourself the following questions about them.

Drainers:

  • Which of these are under your direct control?
  • Can any be eliminated? How?
  • If you can’t get rid yourself of them altogether, are there ways of reducing the impact on your personal wellbeing?

Sustainers:

  • How can you incorporate these more into your daily life & routine?
  • Is your ability to dedicate more time to these areas impacted / limited by circumstances, and if so, is there a way around it?
  • If a sustainer really isn’t possible to do at the moment, is there another way to generate the feelings of satisfaction and energy?

Once you’ve collated all your answers, you’ll have the beginning of a roadmap to start to work on those areas, and rise back up to a fuller version of yourself. 
Gret Betchelar is a Wellbeing Expert and founder of Conscious Working. To learn more about her movement, as well as receive tips and advice on how to improve your wellbeing at work, sign up to her newsletter here.

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