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Practices to Combat Burnout

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Burnout is a word we are all familiar with and have probably experienced.  In today’s work world, it feels like burnout is inevitable.  For women and BIPOC women particularly, the demands of the work world feel heavy on our shoulders.

The good news is that burnout can be prevented.  By learning a few key concepts and developing a handful of vital practices, you can become burnout-proof. 

Let’s talk about three skills and practices you can develop to keep you from burning out:

Realign your values

Burnout happens when we lose sight of what’s important to us and ignore what matters to get the job done. A great way to ensure you don’t burn out is by taking the time to think about your values. Values are the qualities in ourselves that we take pride in.  They represent who we are and who we want to be.  When we are clear on our values, we prioritize infusing our work with what matters most to us.  If family is a value, then we make sure we only work at work, so we can be present for them.  If compassion is a value, we start with expressing compassion towards ourselves and adjust our schedule so that we can get proper breaks, eat lunch, and rest more.

When realigning values, try this:

Set aside 15 mins to write out what matters most to you in life and what qualities you are most proud of in yourself.  Then based on the list, choose one of those values, and write out how you can express them at work.

Establish and protect your boundaries.

I can’t say this enough: the fewer boundaries you have, the more likely you are to burn out. As a result, developing boundaries can save your personal and professional life.  There are many areas of our lives that require daily boundary work.  Perhaps it’s with technology like cutting down our screen time or putting our phones away before bed.  It can be developing boundaries around work, knowing when to take a vacation, or not answering emails after the workday is done.  We can set boundaries around colleagues or family, learning to say “not now” or “no” without guilt.  Taking the time to develop strong boundaries can protect us from burnout and create healthier relationships in our professional and personal lives.

Suggested practice:

Pick one type of boundary you would like to reinforce in your life.  Some ideas include:

-Develop a time each night where you put away all electronics.

-Practice saying “not now” or “let me think about that and get back to you tomorrow,” when people ask something from you.

-Take email off of your personal phone. 

-Put an out-of-office message up when you leave work for the day.

Develop Self-care Practices that work.

Self-care is an essential component of preventing burnout.  However, it’s only effective if we know how to create the right type of self-care in our lives.  Meaningful self-care is more than a massage and a fun happy hour.  It’s cultivating practices daily that restore our mind, our emotions, and our body.  Impactful self-care should be able to be done in 15 mins or less, consistently.  The goal is to create short bits of rest in our day.  

When building a self-care routine, try this:

Make a list of small ways to take care of yourself during the day.  Potential examples are:

  • Schedule your annual exams
  • Keep a water bottle filled and with you all-day
  • Spend a few minutes catching up with a friend
  • Take a break during the day and watch or read something for fun
  • Do an act of kindness for someone else
  • Find ways during your day to laugh
  • Take a short walk

Burnout can be prevented.  Aligning your values with the work that you do, reinforcing your boundaries, and building small moments of self-care throughout the day can go a long way to keep you professionally vibrant.  Try these practices and see how they help you in both your professional and personal life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelley Bonner, LCSW, Expert Company Culture Strategist, Award Winning Podcaster, and Founder of Burn Bright Consulting, transforms workplaces by reducing burnout and bias, resulting in increased innovation and inclusion. She has been called “revolutionary” by Anita Hill and “a benchmark in her field” by the Pentagon. Kelley provides a framework for leaders to understand the deeper organizational issues that lead to symptoms of burnout and how to solve them at their core. Having served on the Gender Policy Committee for the White House as well as the International Women’s Economic Security Council, Kelley impacts culture and policy across the globe. She was also hand-picked by the Biden Administration to develop a national framework for workplace safety and harassment. Kelley is a thought leader in the realm of sexual assault, sexual harassment and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. She has worked with several federal and international organizations to create safer environments and strategies for violence prevention, including the U.S. Military, Library of Congress, National Academy of Sciences, The United Nations, and NATO. As a licensed therapist with both a masters in social work and in criminal justice, Kelley built the number one behavioral modification program for the New York State men’s prisons to reduce violence through policy development and program evaluation. She also hosts two daily podcasts called Burn Bright and Black Girl Burnout, with over 50,000 downloads. Kelley currently resides in Bethesda, Maryland where she enjoys the fine arts, reading, and traveling.

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