Stop, Drop, and Roll. How to Overcome Burnout and Build Resilience
Jenn DeWall, Speaker, Resilience & Employee Well-being Strategist
People are tired. According to Bamboo HR, Employees are unhappier than ever and they are dubbing this next era post “The Great Resignation” as “The Great Gloom”. This poses many challenges for organizations and leaders from absenteeism to disengagement.
Burnout can feel like the norm in today's workplace, and if you're feeling it, know that you’re not alone. Burnout is something to take seriously not only for the impact at work but also for your health. The challenge is that many people are unsure of how to overcome it. It’s easy to say “I’m burned out,” but what do you truly do? Self-care and exercise feel nice in the moment, but eventually your mind wanders back to your to-do list and the feelings of overwhelm. It’s not addressing the root cause of burnout.
Burnout, simply defined, is the accumulation of unchecked stress over long periods of time. Think about how easy it creeps in. You’re working on a big project (stressor), then you’re assigned another task, more stress or someone quits, and the stress continues to build, leaving you feeling that you’re always behind and never going to be able to do it all.
The truth is, you can’t do it all. You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. If you are feeling burned out. Here’s what you can do. Using the familiar “Stop, drop, and roll” that many of you were taught to do if you were ever on fire. Think about burnout as being on fire. You need to put the fire out.
Stop. You have to make a choice, a decision to say I no longer want to feel this way, I’m willing to change. My favorite coaching question to ask yourself is, “How long are you willing to feel burned out?” If the answer is no more, then you’re ready to do something. If you don’t have the urgency to change it, you will not change it.
Drop. The drop step is reflecting, it is the time to do the root cause analysis. What is driving your burnout? Typically it comes down to expectations. What expectations can you drop or reduce to still be successful?
Internal expectations. Your own expectations of what you should be able to do in a day. For achievers this is typically very high, you put the expectation on yourself that you should be able to do it all. This expectation is created for many reasons from Imposter Syndrome (I have to show that I can or else), low confidence, to comparison. What are the internal expectations you’re placing on yourself. Write a list. Reflect, Are these expectations reasonable or ideal? Many of us are operating from ideal expectations and that’s driving the burnout
External Expectations. These are the expectations that others place on you. It might be workload, being a parent, or any other what I call “adulting responsibilities.” Reflect, Are these expectations real or perceived? For example, is someone really expecting you to respond to that email at 4:00 pm on a Saturday or do you just think they are expecting that from you? If they are real expectations, where can you start to set boundaries? Can you say no to work? Can you have a conversation about burnout and reasonable expectations? If you feel that you can’t, it might also be a sign that the culture doesn’t have the built in psychological safety and respect for well-being
Roll. Once you make the choice to change and identify the root cause, now you can start to take action to move forward and extinguish the burnout. What can you do?
Shift your focus. Find something at work that brings you joy and try to shift some of your time to that area. For example, instead of being bogged down in customer problems, find time for a passion project or project that doesn’t drive up your stress response.
Boundaries. Boundaries are to keep people in your life, not out. They are there to protect your health, time, and mental capacity. Where can you start saying no?
Practice self-compassion. This is a learned practice and something that does NOT come naturally to achievers. Where can you be a little softer? Where can you give yourself grace?
Close your stress cycle. Chronic stress happens because you’re never closing your stress cycle, meaning you’re living in a constant state of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Actions that close the cycle are: mediation, exercise, sleep, laughter, crying. Think about anything that is going to give your body a release. And no, it’s not that glass of wine or great reality show, those are just distractions.
Commit. The final step is to commit. What can you do to build your own resilience? This could be learning to let go of mistakes, or adjusting your expectations of success to something that is more reasonable instead of the ideal that achievers prefer. Weekly reflection journals can help build resilience and a growth mindset. Questions to ask: What was a high from this week? What was a low? What did I learn? How did I grow? What can I adjust? What do I need to let go? Take some time to think and intentionally adjust your mindset through reflection.
Remember, you can do anything but not everything.
Make the choice to stop living in burnout. Reflect on what you can change and what you can drop. Then roll, take action. No one will ever want your success or happiness more than you, you've got to choose it.