Imagine it’s 8.30am, and you’ve just rocked up at work. The instant you see the building, and walk through the doors, you feel a small shudder move down your spine, and you wonder to yourself what wonderful ‘adventures’ you’re going to have this week. What’s lurking around your cubicle, in the pantry, or the meeting room? What daunting crusade, or dragons need to be slain?
It’d be nice wouldn’t it, going on an epic journey each day. It would be stressful, death defying, but at least it’ll be fun!
But the reality is that meetings, deadlines and reports really aren’t that spectacular are they? Scary, sometimes. Death defying, well, that depends on the nature of your job. But stressful, definitely. And for most of us, that’s the reality for us when we head into work. It often comes at a slow pace, almost ninja-like and takes its time building momentum like a freight train gathering speed. And before you know it, you’re drowning in an ocean of deadlines, meetings, and everything else the company throws at you.
Some stress is a good thing, as it keeps you on your toes and that shot of adrenaline that you feel does wonders for your concentration. Those of you serial procrastinators (like yours truly) will know that feeling of finishing a 2000 word essay in 12 hours or less, having struggled to begin it at first because there was no sense of urgency.
But over time, stress builds, and from something positive it can become very overwhelming very quickly. Your mind starts racing, and you find it harder and harder to keep track of things, let alone be creative and problem solve crises. And over time, all that mental and psychological intensity starts taking a toll on you physically, where your energy is never where it needs to be, sleep is something that you used to enjoy and socialising is something you only see on Netflix.
The thing is though, stress is something that’s completely personal. What stresses you out, how you experience it, and what you do to overcome it, are all things that are unique only to you. Some of us might thrive on tight deadlines and intense KPIs, and having no direction or guide are things that stress you out. Some of us thrive on trying to meet expectations and receive praise, whilst for others, receiving any attention at all would freak us out. The worst part? It’s the fact that in different phases of life, this can change at the drop of a hat as well, and we’ll need to re-learn all these things that stress us once again.
Whatever the trigger, the main thing is that stress is as normal as breathing, and it’s something that we can expect no matter what we do. But the good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. There are good things that we can do to learn how to keep our stress at bay, and better yet, learn how to hone it so that we can make the most out of it. Cause don’t forget, some stress is good, it’s just that when it’s overbearing or nonstop that it starts to break us down.
Unlike your usual quests which require an amulet of strength, or an elixir of wisdom, or maybe even a Sword of Doom™, in most cases you’ll only need to make minor tweaks to your life to get back your groove.Tips for Preventing Burnout
Learn to set boundaries. Being able to pick and choose what ‘battles’ you fight, and by battles I mean assignments, social commitments and the like, means you get to allocate your energy and resources to the right places. You don’t always have to say yes to everything, and the better you’re able to pick and choose what you say yes to, the better you’ll be able to do the tasks that you’ve taken on. And whilst you’re at it, organise, organise, organise! Not everything is a ‘do-or-die’, and not everything is high priority. Make sure to spend a few minutes at the start of your day to triage your day’s to-do-list, so that way you can prioritise what’s vital, and leave the rest for later.
On the topic of managing your energy better, part of it is also downtime and self-care! Much like how you’d rest in a tavern and heal up with a health elixir or two, we too need a break now and then to get us back on our feet. And don’t expect it to happen either, make sure that you schedule it in so it’s a part of your routine.
And finally, always remember that quests are better done with a cadre of fellow adventurers! Or in the real world, getting support from colleagues, friends and family are a crucial way to keep that stress managed, and burnout at bay. Like Hermione and Ron to Harry, recruit people along the way with similar goals and ambitions as you, and set off on an adventure together. That way, you’ll have cheerleaders when the going gets tough, and having an extra pair of hands and eyes on a task will always make things better. And for some of us, being able to help others is a great big booster as well.
And with that, we wish you good luck on your next grand adventure. Just remember that you’re not alone on this, and to pace yourself. Do that, and you’ll be able to keep stress and burnout far away.
If you’d like to know more about your stress levels, you can find out more at Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21). And if you’ve ever wondered if you’re on the threshold for burnout, give this Single Item Burnout Assessment a go.