Boyden’s Leslie Smith, provides real-world strategies to reclaim balance and well-being amidst the daily grind, emphasizing self-care, boundaries, and proactive steps toward a healthier work environment.

By Leslie Smith

Wake up at 4am. Get dressed. Go to the gym – only 30 minutes away. Go home to get ready, and then drive almost an hour to work. Work a busy day full of meetings, presentations, emails, phone calls, and more meetings. Pick up the kid, fix dinner, and help the children with homework before bed. Then, start working again because there was no time to actually complete the work. Go to bed. REPEAT.

This was my life for a year or two, but then it happened. BURNOUT. My health spiraled out of control. I went through many drive-thru lines, binged, stopped working out, and eventually life just came to a screeching halt. I was numb.

In this thing called life, we go through cycles. I was a high achiever, an overachiever at times – serving on boards, working, doing community service, marriage, and being a mom. My daughter and son needed me, but my job also needed me – there were events, board meetings, more and more new strategies to create and people to manage. Sometimes, I’d miss dance performances, school lunch dates and convocations, helping my son with homework, or just being present with my husband. I lost focus in my job and at home and the desire to do anything at all. I was no longer just stressed. I was experiencing BURNOUT.

Does any of this sound familiar? Work is supposed to be a place for collaboration, creating, brainstorming, and making strategic plans. It’s a place to network, achieve goals, serve others, change lives, set groundbreaking discoveries, and make things happen. However, it should not be a place where your ideas are not considered, you feel alone, ignored, abused, or given tasks that are not realistic. You could also be going through a life cycle where your priorities shift, and that’s also okay.

If you think you’re encountering work burnout, or simply want to avoid it, review a few of the symptoms below:

(Note that I’m not a mental health professional, so this is not an exhaustive list.)

If you’re feeling the burnout, you’re certainly not alone. Unfortunately, and fortunately, COVID was a wakeup call for many. Employees realized that they deserved more – more time, more respect, and more flexibility to be present for the people and things that they valued the most. Now that you’re aware of what burnout looks and feels like, the next step is determining what’s next in the journey.

Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid burnout now and in the future:

(Note that I’m not a mental health professional, so this is not an exhaustive list.)

Reevaluate your current situation. Navigate how you can reorganize your day. Set realistic goals. Assess your family, leadership, and civic commitments. Prioritize what’s most important to you. Discuss the matter with your place of employment - supervisor, human resources department or another trusted employee.

Embody a healthy lifestyle. Exercise. Eat healthy – make sure you’re getting enough protein and incorporate vegetables, fruits, and whole-food-based carbohydrates (also known as complex carbs). Sleep and nap – REST! Drink water – avoid the sugary and alcoholic drinks.

Add some form of daily stillness to reflect. Meditate, journal, sit in silence, recite affirmations, listen to soft music, read a book, or start a gratitude journal. Whether you practice stillness in the morning, midday, or before bed, stillness creates a place for your mind and body to rest, reduces stress, generates flourishing ideas, helps you appreciate your loved ones, and gives you the capacity to be productive at home and in the workplace.

Set necessary boundaries. Whether you’re working on the job, hybrid, or remote, boundaries are healthy for your personal sanity, your family, and your fellow coworkers. It gives everyone, including yourself, a sense of your availability and allows you to separate your work and personal life. If working remotely, figure out a way to decompress after work. Don’t take work into your bedroom. Allow that to be a place of rest. In the end, boundaries allow you stay happier and more productive in the workplace.

Get help from a trained professional. Therapists counsel and treat individuals for various mental and physical issues, and life coaches empower and guide you towards your professional and personal goals. If it gets to the point where you’re feeling confused, inadequate, worthless, afraid, lonely, depressed, anxious, or numb and/or experiencing memory loss or lack of clarity, find a trained professional that suits your individual needs. Do not be embarrassed. They are there to help you with the cycles of life.

Give yourself grace. Burnout at work can become work trauma if you let it. So be sure to take care of yourself as you see yourself getting “busy”. Also, if you’re already there, don’t blame yourself. Take it day by day and implement one or two of these ways to cope. Don’t try and do it all at once. Give yourself time to process and heal. And if necessary…

Seek other employment opportunities. Only you know what is important to you. If all else fails, seek a company that embodies your values, desires, and understands that work-life integration is essential to your productivity and your mental, physical, and emotional health. If that company does not respect your peace, values, ideas, and boundaries, you owe it to yourself to find one that does. You deserve it. You’re worth it.

On the flip side, I challenge employers to value their employees – treat your employees like human beings. Form relationships on both ends. Check-in with your people. Remember that they have families and possible struggles outside of work which could impact their status quo. Listen to your staff and make the necessary changes to have a positive work culture. Trust and believe, your employee performance, retention, company culture and revenue will climb through the roof! And in the end, your bottom line and reputation depend on it.

Personally, as you navigate through the challenges of work burnout, remember that you're not alone in this journey. Take proactive steps to prioritize your well-being and reclaim balance in your life. Whether it's reevaluating your commitments, embracing a healthier lifestyle, setting boundaries, seeking professional support, or exploring new opportunities, your path to resilience begins with self-care and self-awareness. You deserve a workplace that values your holistic well-being and honors your boundaries. Together, let's strive for healthier work environments where employees thrive and businesses flourish. Your well-being matters, and your quest towards balance starts now. Contact me to help you embark on this journey.

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