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November 3, 2021 (Updated April 3rd, 2024)

Stress awareness week: How to avoid burnout at work

by Caragh Medlicott posted in Lifestyle, Quick Tips.

Ayoa | Stress awareness week: How to avoid burnout at work
As we approach the end of stress awareness week it seems an ideal time to talk about what we can do to prevent burnout in the future. After all, stress management is something we should practice every day – not just one week a year.

There’s no denying that stress is often an unavoidable part of working life and something we all have to deal with from time-to-time, but when the stress continues for a sustained period of time or at a great intensity it can lead to burnout. It’s occasions like these where we must learn to take a step back and to prioritize our mental health. One way to do this is to take preventive steps to avoid burnout and keep yourself in a happy, healthy condition all year round.

Burnout is officially defined by the World Health Organization as ​​“a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Keep reading for our top tips on how to avoid burnout and manage stress in the workplace.

Plan your week ahead of time

This may sound like an obvious step, but sometimes the most basic principles are the easiest to overlook. In the thick of the work week we can forget that planning the week means more than just writing a “to do” list with everything we need to get done on it in one notepad braindump. Instead, true planning is about prioritizing tasks from most urgent to least urgent and also organizing your work in such a way that you can pivot and be agile when things change (which inevitably, in the workplace, they sometimes do). Using a tool like Ayoa means you can view projects and tasks in a variety of different visualisations – so you can pick one that suits you best. Plus, you can see specific, personal tasks from across different projects in just one place using the My Planner function. If you struggle with procrastination, why not try Brian Tracy’s “eat that frog” method where you deal with the task you are dreading most (your “frog task”) first – so that the rest of the day is freed up so you can work through the tasks you feel more motivated to tackle without the weight of the “frog” task looming over you. By working in this way you can stay ahead of the curve and avoid any stress accumulated through pressing deadlines and scattered workloads.

Take breaks

When your workload is full and it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day it is still really important to make time for breaks. Of course, it’s tempting to keep on powering through – it might feel that stopping for a break when you’re super busy will only make things worse in the long run. This is because people think that hours worked necessarily equals productive output. However, the truth is that working non-stop is one sure-fire way to increase your chances of burning out. Pushing yourself to keep going past your limits is like continuing to run after you’ve twisted your ankle – it’ll only make the injury worse and your recovery time will be much longer as a consequence. By contrast, taking breaks not only gives you time to refuel but it means you can come back to your work refreshed and full of new ideas. In fact, science has linked daydreaming to improved creative thinking and innovative ideas – so while you might think that staring out the window watching the clouds go by is time-wasting, it might just be leading you towards your best idea yet.

Know when to ask for help

It’s great to be able to work independently and to show the world what you’re made of, however, it’s important to remember that you’re only human and everyone needs a little help from time-to-time. When it feels like things are too much and everything is getting on top of you, it’s time to take a step back and ask for help if you need it. Whether it’s asking for more guidance from your manager, splitting your workload with a colleague and even taking a break from work altogether if things are getting really tough, there’s absolutely no shame in admitting you need help. In fact, by being honest and transparent about your stress levels you can help breakdown stigmas and encourage other employees to do the same. One key element of being a good worker is knowing your own limits and limitations – asking for help ahead of time can help to persevere your wellbeing as well as nurturing a wider culture of positive wellbeing and mental health acceptance.

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Caragh Medlicott

Caragh Medlicott is a freelance writer and interim Editor of Wales Arts Review. After graduating with a First-Class Honours degree in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff University she began a full-time writing career in Wales. She is the author of several published short stories and was shortlisted for the Lunate 500 award in December 2020, and a finalist in Narrative’s 30 Below competition in 2021. She is a regular contributor to BBC Wales' The Review Show.

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