Stop, revive, survive: 6 essential steps to sustain your energy

We often push ourselves to burnout by increasing the pace of work and continuously raising the bar for quality. It's like we believe that working flat out shows how committed we are to our jobs. But let's face it, being a workaholic doesn't magically make us finish tasks quicker or better.

If you manage to maintain high brain activity levels for a long time, you're only getting closer to the moment when your energy will run out. Studies say we hit our max limit around 55 hours per week, but trouble starts brewing well before that. By the halfway mark, we're already losing steam and focus. So, keep an eye on your energy levels and ease off when you're overdoing it. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Step 1. Define your work boundaries — and document them

Consider it as drafting your personal work agreement, akin to the one your employer signs with you. Document (or record verbally, though writing is clearer) what you're comfortable with regarding work. Outline how much time and effort you're willing to invest and what's off-limits. This includes late-night work, missing family events, or being constantly available. Add any other essential details you deem necessary. Keep this agreement accessible, track your adherence to it, and revisit it periodically to ensure it's still relevant. Remember, these boundaries extend beyond work:

— Aim for a solid 7-8 hours of sleep.

— Disconnect after work and on weekends.

— Incorporate regular exercise into your routine.

— Prioritize nourishing meals.

Step 2. Talk to your boss

Your manager has a lot of tasks requiring attention, and they may not know that you need help. While initiating this conversation may feel daunting, seeking guidance from your manager and openly discussing your challenges can prove highly beneficial in the long run.

Just steer clear of diving too deep into personal stuff or getting super specific about your feelings. If you really need to vent, save it for a chat with a therapist. For one, your manager might not be equipped to handle that level of personal stuff, and two, not everyone gets how important keeping personal info private is. You don't want those details coming back to bite you later on.
Need help starting the conversation? Here's an example:

"Hey, I've been wanting to chat about something that's been on my mind. Lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed by the workload, especially this quarter. Working long hours during the week and even on weekends is starting to take a toll on my well-being, and I know it's not sustainable. I've given it some thought and came up with a few ideas I'd like to bounce off you:

  • Bringing on a new team member to assist with high-priority projects.
  • Delegating some tasks to lighten my load and distribute the work more evenly.
  • Taking some time off to recharge and come back refreshed and ready to contribute.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we can prioritize my well-being moving forward."
Nik Ershov, Waverox founder:

«From my perspective as a manager, I can add that it is essential for a teammate to give a detailed overview of how they want to rearrange the process (adding new team members or delegating, etc) and what measurable results the company will get. It is vital to be structured and show that you do not just care about yourself but also about the business interests».

Step 3. Establish supportive daily routines

Daily routines are like anchors that keep us grounded and boost productivity. Start your day with calming activities like meditation or a quick workout. Take a longer lunch break to socialize at a nearby café with coworkers or friends, rotating locations for variety. Alternatively, opt for short 15-minute breaks throughout the day to dance, practice breathing exercises, or simply rest in a quiet spot. Wind down before bed with a soothing shower and some leisurely reading.

Stick to two golden rules: consistency and minimizing smartphone use. Make these routines second nature, and steer clear of screens, as they can hinder relaxation and heighten stress. The only exception is for mindfulness practices or using relaxation apps.

Choose rituals based on your current priorities: whether it's nutrition, exercise, stress management, focus, sleep, or achieving a healthy balance.

Step 4. Choose the right type of rest

Effective rest should either completely relax you or provide a stark contrast to your usual routine. But remember, the goal is to relax, not to add more tasks to your plate! Complete relaxation means minimal effort on your part, with everything taken care of by others in a safe, comfortable environment. Opt for activities like floating tanks, massages, meditation, yoga, or simply spending a day in bed. Outdoor activities like picnics or hammock swinging also work wonders. And of course, don't underestimate the power of a solid 8-hour sleep.

Alternatively, seek activities that offer a sharp contrast to your daily grind. If your weekdays are packed with social interaction, aim for solitary activities like a peaceful stroll in the park. Conversely, if you're glued to a computer screen all day, prioritize social gatherings to recharge your batteries. Leaders accustomed to guiding others may benefit from structured workouts led by a trainer.

For an extra boost, choose restful activities that stimulate oxytocin. Oxytocin, often dubbed the "bonding hormone," is triggered by acts of support, touch, or simply being near loved ones. Engage in heart-to-heart conversations, hug loved ones, or indulge in massages and spa treatments for a deep sense of connection and relaxation.

Step 5. Set aside thirty minutes every day for activities that bring you joy and fulfillment in life

These are often simple things we tend to put off in favor of more pressing tasks or procrastination. Take a moment to reflect on what matters to you beyond work. What were your dreams back in school, college, or before burnout when you had more energy? What memories would you like to cherish on your hundredth birthday? These reflections might lead you to deeper connections with family or like-minded individuals, or perhaps to new hobbies unrelated to work. They might even help you find greater meaning and value in your current job.

Step 6. Cultivate mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness is highly beneficial for both preventing and recovering from burnout. Often, burnout creeps in when we place too much importance on work outcomes. Mindfulness enables us to broaden our perception and detach from our emotions and thoughts - all the mental chatter that can weigh us down.

Mindfulness is commonly described as directing your focus inward while being mindful of your thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings. Engaging in regular formal and informal mindfulness exercises helps us gain insight into our current state, including how our body is feeling. Informal mindfulness exercises may include such simple things as listening to your favorite music — if you are noticing the melody, observing how your body feels and moves without judgment, or focusing on the words of the song or the sound of the instruments. Similarly, you might find mindfulness while taking your dog for a walk, appreciating nature, or even doing household chores. However, it's worth mentioning that without prior formal sitting practice, it can be challenging to recognize when your mind drifts during these informal activities.

Formal practice can include the very popular noting technique: periodically (every few seconds), label what you see, hear, or feel. This can include tangible sensations (like the environment around you, sounds, or physical sensations) or more abstract experiences (such as mental images, thoughts, or emotions). Initially, connecting with your body might prove challenging— when burnt out, we often lose touch with its signals. Focusing on positive emotions like joy or tranquility can also be difficult. If your mind wanders during practice, avoid self-criticism and gently guide yourself back.

Alongside these 6 steps, prioritize basic self-care: regular exercise and nourishing food. If you notice improvements in how you feel after incorporating these practices, you might not need to reduce your workload. But always remember: rest and self-care are just as crucial as any prescribed medication. Neglecting them only pushes you closer to burnout.