Stress-busting tips to beat burnout - United Way Alberta Capital Region

Stress-busting tips to beat burnout

December 1, 2021


This post was a collaboration between United Way of the Alberta Capital Region and the Community Mental Health Action Plan.

Mental health has been an ongoing concern, even before the pandemic caused social isolation and increased stress at home and work.

Burnout can easily happen when we feel overwhelmed by increased stress and a lack of support systems.

To help the community overcome stress and burnout, the Community Mental Health Action Plan sponsored a Creating People Power workshop on burnout with Workplace Mental Health Consultant, Brandy Payne.

What to look for when stress turns into burnout
Burnout doesn’t just apply to work; we can also burn out when caregiving, volunteering, housework, and even hobbies become overwhelming.

Overwhelm happens when your workload and expectations are higher than what you have the time or energy to accomplish. It’s the yellow light on the way to burnout – if you feel yourself here, it’s time to start supporting yourself so you avoid burnout.

Burnout is usually a result of chronic, unmanaged stress. Those suffering from burnout are exhausted or depleted, mentally distanced from their work, and find that their performance suffers.

Burnout means you’re only able to manage essential tasks. It shuts down your creativity, and it’s easier to make mistakes. You may also find that working and other relationships are impacted because your emotions lie closer to the surface, and they are easily triggered.

Triggers, Stressors, and Response
There are two parts to stress: the stressor and the response. Stressors are events or conditions that can cause stress. Many stressors may seem like small problems but can have a deeper root cause. For example: leaving the cap off the toothpaste (small stressor) can trigger stress, but it stems from feeling behind on housework (deeper root stressor).

We can’t always control our stressors, but we can control how we respond to them. If you can’t change your stressor, determine how you can minimize its impact.

For those stressors that we can change, write out a plan on how to address the problem and identify solutions that will help make things better.

TIP: If improving a situation means you need to have a tough conversation with a colleague or loved one, give yourself time to prepare. Practice what you want to say and write notes to guide you through the discussion to make sure you stick to your plan.

The 5 elements of self-care
Self-care is incredibly important to preventing and treating burnout. The more self-care we implement, the better we respond to stress.

There are 5 elements of self-care:

Physical: Moving your body

Mental: Flexing your creative muscles

Spiritual: How we connect ourselves with a higher power (such as meditation, prayer, walking in nature)

Social: Meaningful interactions with others

Practical: Things to support our daily life, like cooking and cleaning

TIP: Build self-care into your day by picking one self-care task from one of the categories and put it in your calendar. Don’t have time? Just pick one task from one element to do. The small things will add up and positively impact your well-being.

Tips for managing stress
Schedule breaks. Our brain needs to take breaks and pushing through in your work may cause you to get more frustrated. Be sure to set a balance around your time, including turning off notifications.

TIP: Consider a tech sabbath, meaning you go a portion of the day or the whole day without sitting at your computer or picking up your phone.

Prioritize. Pick your top three priorities for the day and schedule when you will do them. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to getting them done.

TIP: Try the Pomodoro Technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on your work; then take a five-minute break. Repeat 4 times, then take a longer break (15-30 minutes)

Negotiate flexibility. If you are working overtime on projects, make sure you’re talking to your supervisor and/or coworkers about flexing that time out so you can rest and recharge.

TIP: Try tracking your time to see what projects take more time than you anticipate and to make sure you’re taking adequate breaks.