Find a Work Life Balance and Avoid Burnout

Clinical Director Claire Small explains why rest and recovery are essential to preventing overtraining & underperformance.

Continual high-level performance in the workplace is both physically and mentally demanding and requires monitoring to ensure you do not start to suffer from Overtraining syndrome (also called underperformance syndrome. Overtraining syndrome is well recognised in the sporting and athletic population). In the workplace, it’s more commonly known as burnout. 

There are some common symptoms that you should be paying attention to. These include: 

• High levels of stress or anxiety.
• Lack of motivation
• Negative attitude or feeling cynical towards both work and the everyday
• Not sleeping well
• Low energy and exhaustion emotionally and physically
• Feeling overwhelmed, as though there’s never enough time
• Being or feeling less productive
• Not taking regular breaks or holidays
• Not taking time for yourself. Stopping activities such as exercise, reading and hobbies. 

It is not caused solely by a high volume of training or workload but rather by a number of factors that contribute to poor performance. Unfortunately, most people deal with the problem by spending longer at their desk and working harder to try and achieve the same output. 

Rest and recovery are essential elements of every athlete’s training programme and it is also important in delivering high calibre work in any environment. To win Wimbledon, Andy Murray is said to have slept 10 hours a day. 

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If you are suffering from a few of the symptoms listed above, it’s time to take a look at your lifestyle and start to take action. 

How to combat burnout

Be self-aware: If you are experiencing three or more of the above symptoms at any one time you might very well be on your way to burnout. Take the time to stop, look at the problem and try and find a solution. Pinpoint where the stressor is coming from and see if it can be resolved easily.

Sleep more: Get 7 – 8 hours sleep a night and avoid the TV, phone or computer for at least 30min before bedtime. Try and set yourself a bed-time’ and stick to it within reason. 

Stay hydrated: Sadly 10 cups of a coffee don’t count and for anyone who knows me, that is a hard fact to swallow. Drinking water will keep you focused, energised and full. This should help fight off some of those sugary cravings you get around 3 pm. 

Move more: Sitting at a desk and staring at the screen is hardly inspiring. Make sure you get up and move more. Try to get away from your desk every 20 minutes, even if it’s just a quick trip to the water cooler. Don’t try and sit in one position the whole time thinking this is good posture”. We are made to move around; slouch, shuffle and stand up when the phone rings. Here are 5 easy exercises you can do at your desk.

Get your Vitamin D levels checked: Deficiencies can lead to problems with the immune system and fatigue.

Make time for exercise: Spend 30min a day undertaking a moderate exercise like walking. You are more likely to die from being physically inactive than from the combined effects of being obese, diabetic and a smoker. Read about the benefits of physical activity on your mood, sleep and health here. 

Did you know that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day will reduce your chance of:

• Type 2 Diabetes by 40

• Cardiovascular disease by 35

• Depression by 30

• Joint and back pain by 25%

• Cancers – colon and breast – by 20

Say no: Weddings, networking, drinks, birthday’s, baby showers, helping a friend move house – the list of events we must’ attend goes on. It can be overwhelming when you think you need to do it all. Take time to say no. Yes, it can seem selfish’ but you can’t help someone else if you’re running on empty. Sometimes it’s good to put yourself first. 

Switch off: Thanks to the brilliance of modern technology we are always connected. It’s important to disconnect with tech and take time to be present in your surroundings. Try reading a book before bed, fiction has been shown to help recovery from the day. Rather than spending your lunch break scrolling, go for a walk, pop to the shops or try a quick work-out class.

Think about your work/​life balance: This has been a hot topic for the last few years and is really important when it comes to staying healthy. For many of us, work becomes our life and often as not this is something that creeps up on us. Spending those precious final hours on a Sunday thinking about our to-do list on Monday. Find something besides from work that you are passionate about that challenges you and gets you excited. It could be a new Yoga class, a book club or volunteering for a charity. Use this as an opportunity to switch off from the 9 – 5 and take time for yourself. 

Control your inner-critic: Don’t feel like your achieving as much as you should? Beating yourself up for missing a deadline? We all make mistakes and while we shouldn’t be aiming to repeat them, being negative with yourself won’t help. Rather than letting your inner-monologue talk you down, try speaking to yourself how you would a friend if they had come to you with that problem. Calling them a list of profanities wouldn’t help them bounce back, and it won’t help you either. 

Now you have these tactics in your arsenal you can try and fight over-performance. Be accountable for your self-care. We use sleep, mood and activity trackers with our patients in their Better Journal to help track how these behaviours influence each other in helping work towards a goal. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and want to use physical activity as a start,book an appointment to discuss your goals with our team. 


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