Before I coached high-level professionals, I worked 16-hour days helping Fortune 500 companies boost their profits. That life meant I experienced near burnout many times. I also had two anxiety attacks, which is when I knew something wasn’t right and that I should take it easy. But wrapped up in the pace of the world of finance I told myself I had to tough it out. And I did. I toughed it out for over a decade until I decided that this world wasn’t for me anymore. That was when I made one of the most difficult – and eventually fulfilling – decisions of my life to completely move out of finance and do something I felt more passionate about: helping people make a difference (rather than just financial profits) through their businesses.
Sadly, many of my former colleagues – even some of my closest friends – still work in that high-paced world where they can’t find a healthy balance. If you’re also a high-achiever who feels exhausted all the time, you may be wondering if you’re close to having a burnout too. First of all, it’s important to understand exactly what a burnout is. Simply put, it’s a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, pessimism and disinterest, feelings of ineffectiveness, and lack of accomplishment. It can result from working extremely long hours, taking on excessive work and putting immense pressure on yourself to exceed everyone’s expectations, including your own.
If you think burnouts are just for wimps, consider this: severe burnout can lead to not being able to work at all anymore – or even death. In Japan, working yourself to death is so common there’s a term for it: karōshi. While it’s easy to blame work, your responsibilities, or having to pay the bills for your exhaustion, the truth is it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself, to set boundaries, and to create a lifestyle that supports your ambitions as well as your overall wellbeing. I know it’s not always easy – maybe you have a demanding boss, or a young child, or debt you need to pay off – but there are always ways you can help yourself. Here are some ways that have helped and continue to help me and my clients.
Set a healthy morning routine
Being intentional with your morning habits makes the biggest difference in how centred you’ll be throughout the day. Being mindful is important because it helps you make choices that support your health and wellbeing. To help you feel present in your body, spend 15 minutes moving through exercise, jogging, or stretching. Taking just 10 minutes to nourish your body with a light meal, a smoothie – or even a big breakfast – can also make a huge difference to how you feel over the next few hours. Lastly, give your mind a 10-minute break before taking on the stresses of the day by meditating, listening to music, or spending time outdoors. These three simple steps can make a world of difference to your life, if done consistently.
Define success on your own terms
Can we be successful professionals and prioritise ourselves over work? Of course, but we often feel guilty about putting our own needs before our job because most successful people in today’s world, it seems. work all the time. But what does success mean to you? Does being successful only relate to your wealth and professional advancement, or does it also include your health, relationships, happiness and wellbeing?
No matter what your definition of success is, you need to apply it to your life, respect your own needs, and unapologetically make them known to others. Don’t be surprised to find that, as you start respecting your own needs, others will begin to respect them, too.
Learn to say ‘no’
You know better than anyone else when your plate is full. Don’t expect others to know your limits or to understand how you feel if you don’t say it out loud yourself. Saying ‘no’ to things that you don’t want to do, or simply can’t add to your list, is one of the most liberating actions that will save you from burnout.
Embrace a ‘less-is-more’ mentality
We often feel like the more we do, the better the results will be. So, we work ourselves into the ground. In reality though, the simplest actions taken at the right time can bring us the greatest results. Next time you’re drowning in to-do lists or spending hours trying to make something perfect, I’d like to invite you to take a step back and remind yourself that there is an easier way to get there, and then take a moment to find it and apply it.
Take care of your mental health
If you think sick days are only for when you can’t physically get out of bed, think again. Stress, depression, and excessive fatigue require as much of your attention as the flu, a stomach bugs, or a leg fracture. Don’t take sick leave only when your body shuts down. Take preventative sick days when your body and emotions send you signs that you need a break. Throughout my life, journaling and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) – tapping on energy points – have been life savers when it comes to dealing with emotional baggage. You could also catch up with a friend, see a therapist, or just allow yourself to have a good cry. These are all great ways of releasing negative emotions. Remember, your emotions are your GPS system: you need to listen to them, so they can tell you where you need to go.
Balance your masculine and feminine energy
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, we all carry feminine and masculine energy within us, and our fullest potential is found when we bring the two together.
Let me explain. Our feminine side is more intuitive, playful, nurturing, and creative, while our masculine side is more logical, organised, competitive, and action-oriented. If you feel overworked and burned out, you’re probably being overly led by your logical masculine side to take continuous action, disregarding messages that your intuition (feminine) may be trying to send you. To reach a healthy balance, you need to engage in more activities inspired by your feminine energy such as meditation, dance, art, and other fun stuff that just makes you happy. Sounds great, right?
Add some play to your day
We all have a child within us, but we often ignore him or her because we’re too busy being an adult, working hard, and worrying. How boring is that?
Leading play expert, Stuart Brown, says that play is not just joyful and energising, it also has an impact on our development and intelligence. Check out Stuart’s TED talk ‘Play is more than just fun’ if you want to find out more about playing your way to happiness and balance. There, I’ve just given you the perfect excuse to go be silly with your kids, explore new things, sail, paint, cook, or sing. You’re welcome.
Consuela is offering one reader of CEO Middle East a complimentary 90-minute Spiritual Business Coaching session worth 500 USD. To apply, fill out the form at: bit.ly/WinCoachingSession.
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