Burnout is real. Let’s fix that.

Worker burnout is real. Stress can lead to burnout when you put out a disproportionate amount of effort without taking in what is necessary to regain balance from that stress.

And, unfortunately, burnout continues to rise in the American workforce. According to a study done by Indeed.com, 52% of survey respondents experienced burnout in 2021—up from the 43% who said the same in a pre-Covid-19 survey. Fifty-three percent of Millennials were already burned out pre-pandemic, and they remain the most affected population, with 59% experiencing it.

As a former spin instructor, I know a thing or two about avoiding said burnout. And I’m so grateful for that experience to be able to apply it to my current position as an associate recruiter and help educate others.

Here are a few takeaways from some research and my life lessons as a spin instructor. For two years, I lead about two to three classes per week.

Don’t neglect your work-life balance…or your burners.

I know, you’re thinking, everyone says that. And work-life balance is the buzzword phrase used too often, but the concept still applies. Having a balance between your career and your life outside of work is key to not burning out.

Speaking of burning, when researching for this blog, I ran across another work-life balance metaphor that seems to be more accurate: The Four Burners Theory. Think of your life as a stove with four burners. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.

The first burner represents your family.

The second burner is your friends.

The third burner is your health.

The fourth burner is your work.

The theory says to be successful; you must cut off one of your burners. And to actually be successful you have to cut off two. You’re probably thinking, but wait, I want to have it all! The good news is, there are ways to work with this theory and choose the right approach for you. These include:

  • outsourcing some parts of your life i.e. buying takeout instead of cooking
  • embracing your limitations, such as working smarter, not harder
  • breaking your life into seasons, shifting the importance of your burners over your lifetime as your priorities change

No matter how you get there, separating work from your life will help mitigate the risk of burnout.

“Burn” calories to burn stress.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times, exercise is good for your health and helps you destress. But did you know that even half an hour of activity can improve central nervous system response, according to a study by Philipp Zimmer, Ph.D. He said, “Exercise provides what’s called a cognitive regeneration strategy. Basically, it provides recovery for your cognitive processes and nervous system so they can function more effectively.”

And doing regular exercise produces even greater benefits. It helps prevent the build-up of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can have negative mental and physical effects over time. Keep in mind that the exercise doesn’t have to be high impact like spinning or running. Low impact options such as walking or yoga are a great start. Either way, the ultimate goal is to be able to walk into work the next day feeling rejuvenated instead of starting stressed.

Get competitive in your community.

If going to the gym or the yoga studio isn’t your thing, join a local league for adults. Atlanta has a long list of clubs to join such as kickball, basketball, dodgeball, cricket, ultimate frisbee or even bocce. And other cities have many of the same offerings. Find what you like to get your juices flowing. If you find something active that you enjoy doing – it doesn’t matter what it is.

Participating in these sports leagues not only provides an outlet to blow off some steam but gives you access to a community as well. Bonding with a group of people who share the same passion as you also serve as a support system. For anyone who played team sports in high school or college, you know that putting your blood, sweat and tears into a game can bond you with your teammates for life.

And speaking of sweat and tears, another outlet that can be great for the truly competitive-natured person is a fitness center like Orangetheory or HIIT. You set your own achievable goals and compete against yourself (and sometimes with others in the class). But for the most part, you’re aiming for personal records. You control how much you get out of it based on how much you put into it. And there’s no better feeling than reaching that PR.

And remember to reserve time to unwind.

I personally love to unwind after a hard day at work with a nice glass of wine, my favorite food and a chat with my mom. To me, food brings happiness. I love dark chocolate. And I don’t have to feel guilty indulging in it because it’s rich in many mood-boosting compounds (but go easy, too much of anything is not good for you).

There are several components of other foods that may influence the serotonin levels (aka the feel-good neurotransmitter) in our brains, including tryptophan in protein-rich foods, carbohydrates (what?! Yes, but only the good kind), folic acid found in beans, spinach, broccoli, etc. and…alcohol. Yes, even alcohol can help boost serotonin levels when you drink it in moderation.

Where there’s food and drinks, there are usually people socializing. After all, many social events revolve around food, drinks and people looking to connect with others. And while having friends at work is great, it’s good to meet people outside of work. That way, you don’t end up at the bar down the street from the office with co-workers talking excessively about work. Life goes on outside of work and having that secondary support system of friends is always a good thing.

The final takeaway.

I fully realize this list is just scratching the surface of ideas to prevent burnout. There’s meditation, sleep habits, therapy and many, many other strategies to consider. But the point I want to make is this: do what’s right for you. If that’s exercise, great! If it’s not, that’s ok, too. Find what works best for you and capitalize on that. Life is short – way too short to be stressing out about your approach to avoiding burnout.

About the author

Allison Gaede serves as an Associate Recruiter at Synergis. She specializes in finding top talent for our clients in the creative space. Before joining Synergis, she was an instructor at Twisted Cycle where she brought fun, inviting energy to each of her classes to make each member feel loved, included and important. She also educated members on exercise and health-related topics. Allison graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her three-legged dog, Pogo, and loves to exercise.

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