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5 Strategies to Manage Stress and Burnout

Posted Mar 30 2012 10:58am

A colleague recently shared her experience at a workshop on identifying stress and burnout. She didn’t realize how to close she was to burning out. Having that new awareness, she admitted, opened her eyes to her actions and effectiveness at work.

Stress and burnout

Six years ago I left the corporate world because of stress and burnout. As a self-employed professional the tendency towards burnout, I notice, doesn’t go away. Or maybe it’s just me. It’s easy to think about work 24 hours, 7 days per week. I have an easier time shutting off my computer than I do shutting off my mind.

Can you relate?

Below is a short list of symptoms you might experience if you are on the road to burnout.

  • Disengaged with your work (when stressed you might be overengaged)
  • Lose motivation and hope (when stressed you lack energy)
  • Detachment and depression (when stressed you might feel anxious)
  • Emotional distress (when stressed is physical)

When you are stressed lose focus, energy, and confidence. Not to mention how stress affects your health. How you relate with others is impacted, too (ie, conflict in the workplace is often associated with depression). You aren’t as effective as you could be when you are letting stress get the best of you.

Below is a short list that I use to avoid burnout, re-energize and re-focus, even when short on time.

  • Tune in. I like to journal. It’s a low-risk way to release my thoughts and feelings without sharing them with others! (Sometimes I share, sometimes I don’t want to share). A recent journal entry looked something like this: TIRED TIRED TIRED TIRED. That caught my attention. I needed to tune in to that message and recognize the need for a break.


  • Deep breathing. To settle your thoughts, relax your heart rate, and slow things down before you speed up again. This is the easiest way I’ve found to relax during the day. 3-5 deep breaths is sometimes all I need to feel better.
  • Take a vacation day. Or ½ a day or ½ hour. Unplugging is hard. Earlier this month I went to Florida for a few days and left my laptop at home. I still had my iPhone, but without the computer I wasn’t tied to a table somewhere. Start small.
  • Get some exercise. It’s easy to forgo exercise thinking you have so much to do. When in fact that is when you need a break the most. Boost your energy and creativity with a walk, some stretching, or your favorite dance moves. Move your body! You’ll rest your mind, boost your energy, and improve your mood (Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in the body.)
Business people walking
  • Get help. If the strategies above do not help, consider seeking medical attention, coaching or counseling to talk through some of the issues you’re experiencing and learn appropriate strategies for you.

You are a motivated individual. Give yourself permission to slow down once in a while to stay on track, healthy (physically and mentally) and stay effective personally and professionally.

Your turn: How do you avoid burnout? What strategies work for you?

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