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BURNOUT: The Four ways to approach After-work Recovery.

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Try reconstructing your time outside of work to get better.

Burnout can really take away your quality of life.

It stems from chronic work stress and can quickly steal away your happiness both at work and outside of it.

There is an even more menacing aspect to burnout where, left unchecked, scientific studies show that it can lead to Depression and Anxiety as well as a wide range of physical conditions such as heart disease and musculoskeletal pain.

Burnout actually has three components to it:

  1. Emotional exhaustion (feeling tired, drained, frustrated and fatigued)

  2. Cynicism or detachment (caring less about coworkers or clients)

  3. A loss of satisfaction in one's work (feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment).

Although a big part of why you're suffering from burnout is the design or scope of your job itself (e.g. your boss, workload, culture), there are still many things you can do to deal with burnout starting from now.

So yes, your recovery journey can very much start here.

Avoiding the vicious cycle of burnout.

One misconception that many people have about recovering from burnout is that it's something to deal with later, or when we finally manage to get through this "tough period".

In that way, many of us try to fight burnout by tackling it straight on.

We view our work as a finite amount of things to do. So we try to be more productive. We think that the sooner we get things done, the better we will get.

Yet really, doesn't that only add to more stress and self-imposed pressure?

Plus, you know how it is, work is never finite. How many times have you finished a project only to be landed another one. It goes on and on and on.

If your mentality is like the above, you've probably found yourself in a vicious cycle of trying to do more and do more, only to get less and less happy and ever more burnt out over time.

Stop. This. Now.

There are Two Parts to Burnout Recovery.

These two parts relate to how we try to recover during work hours (internal recovery) and outside of work hours (external recovery).

In a nutshell, some ways to embrace internal recovery is to give ourselves relief from stress by using short periods of time during work to reduce the stress present in our mind and body.

This can include taking short breaks to have a coffee, doing breathing exercises, tuning in to your favourite music and giving it your full attention for that few minutes, or switching tasks when you're feeling mentally or physically exhausted.

It makes sense to put in place some of these practices when you have a few minutes between pieces of work or meetings.

Instead of using that time to check your emails and constantly needing to be productive, go do something relaxing like the above.

For this article, we are actually focusing much more on external recovery.

Why? It's the one thing that we have much, much more control over, compared to say, redesigning our job scope.

Research has also found that people who reconstruct their time spent outside of work are better able to recover from burnout. So it's a really good place to start.

It's important too to start practicing these every single day.

So read on about the four types of activities you can start doing with your time outside of work, and start recovering from burnout today.

The FOUR types of After-work Burnout Recovery.

What you do outside of work really matters when it comes to recovering from burnout. We all know that checking our emails or messages late into the night isn't going to help, but what else?

Well, here's the juice from psychological research into the four types of after-work recovery activities:

  1. Psychological detachment - not thinking about work.

  2. Relaxation - taking a walk in nature, listening to music, reading a book, doing nothing on the sofa.

  3. Finding Mastery - such as seeking out opportunities to do things unrelated to work such as learning languages or pursuing sports and hobbies

  4. Gaining Control - choosing how to spend your time and doing things the way you want to do them.

1) Psychological Detachment

The first is Psychological Detachment and it really is the core to recovery. What it is is simply to not think about work, outside of work.

There are a few traps that we fall into in the case of this.

The first is our good old smartphone, complete with WhatsApp and work Telegram groups and email notifications and the like. It very much blurs our work-home boundaries and if anything, this should be the first step to rectifying it.

Stop looking at them. Tell your boss if you have to.

Another trap is our after-work activities with colleagues. Sure, a nice drink after work paired with a venting session on how crappy your boss is always fun.

Yet, meeting friends, colleagues to socialise and relax is not going to allow psychological detachment if the conversation revolves around complaining about work.

Let what happens at work, stay at work.

2) Relaxation

There are so many forms of relaxation activities you can try, it's really about finding the right ones for you.

The key is to choose activities based on how they make you feel.

If scrolling through social media creates negative feelings or reminds you of work, then don't look at it!

Same if watching Netflix's Squid Game becomes a metaphor about climbing the corporate ladder for you and you watch it in utter disgust.

Choose activities that genuinely make you feel relaxed and happy. For example, research finds that sports and exercise have been shown to be particularly effective for workaholics, as it forces them to psychologically detach from work.

I myself really enjoy sports like basketball, since it's virtually impossible to focus on work and play at the same time.

It's really about what takes your mind off things and gets you to "wind down".

3) Finding Mastery

If your work tends to be one where you 1) feel inadequate or ineffective or 2) don't have much control over your job (it's dictated by your boss or seniors), then finding mastery outside of work is the way to go.

Finding mastery is about taking up an activity or seeking opportunities that are personally satisfying and meaningful for you.

It helps you feel like you're growing.

This can include all sorts of things of course, but some ideas might be taking up a new language, learning an instrument, starting a blog (hmmm) or pursuing sports and hobbies.

It helps you feel like your life is progressing and that you are in control of the narrative.

So if the root cause behind your burnout is due to your work being too low a level for you, or even far too difficult for you at this point, then finding mastery in other areas of your life is one way to get your sense of self-efficacy back.

4) Gaining Control

Lastly, gaining control is about recognising that you have the choice on how you want to spend your time and do things the way you want to do them.

This is especially useful when you currently perceive your work as something that it outside of your control.

Every single one of us have a general desire to want to control how our life unfolds. Knowing that we are in control helps to lower stress and increase our psychological wellbeing.

It takes away feelings of learned helplessness - the idea that no matter what we try to do, things don't get any better.

So think about it. Whether you fully embrace it or not, your time outside of work is absolutely yours.

No one can take that away from you.

Hell, I'd really like to just put this out there, but if you're stuck in a job where your work and boss also commands your time outside of it, then maybe it's time to look for a new job.

Get out of there.

It's affecting your mental wellbeing.

Of course, you might also be dealing with factors outside of work like a newborn child or relationship problems. If that's what's happening, it's not a small wonder you are burnout.

You're stressed at work and outside of it.

In that case, if it's possible to take a career break, do go for it. I know many people who've done so, and for the better. I think we all starting to realise this by now, but our mental health should really come first.

Otherwise, if leaving your job is not something that's possible right now, do talk to a mental health professional who can at least listen in. They can really help in addressing the issues in your life, whether at work or outside of it.

For now, take care.

Thanks for reading this article. I hope you take care of yourself and if you ever needed any help, you know where to find me. Take care, Hernping.


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