Crash and burn

I’ve been contemplating the issue of burn out lately. In my experience PR can drive a lot of people to crash. I don’t think it’s anything deliberate or malicious, just the nature of an industry that’s always running on deadline and in a fast, rapidly changing environment –not to mention the consistent competition (internally, with other agencies, other brands, other voices, other ideas, etc).

I recently felt close to burn out. I’m not saying this to illicit sympathy or pity, but was consistently exhausted due to the nature of my life, which features little to no down time. And I didn’t feel I had much to give, which I hate.

But I’ve developed a little checklist of things that I start to do, or ramp up when I feel a little thin, which I think saved me this time. These are all lessons personally learnt or inherited from friends and I thought to share them as they really helped me lately.

1. Strengthen your support system

Burn out can be an isolating emotion (mainly because you’re too busy to reconnect with people that you love). So for me, talking on the phone more (if that’s possible) or making time to hang out with a close friend makes a HUGE difference. Hearing their issues broadens my focus and sharing mine provides a sense of relief and reassurance. I don’t feel like I’m sinking, alone, in the dark, away from help.

2. Find an outlet

Dancing is mine. Hip hop dance to be specific. I’ve been doing it on and off for around 10 years and I love the expression, variety and focus. Classes last 60-90 minutes and during that time I forget about my ever-expanding to-do list – it’s necessary to pick up the choreography! I love how I can wear trackies and sneakers, pull my hair back, not bother with any makeup, and sweat out all my stress and frustration. There are so many different outlets – it’s such a personal thing – but nothing quite beats dancing for me. I think it’s because it’s so physical and expressive and allows me to momentarily escape.

3. Play with your routine

I was chatting about burn out with a very wise and creative friend, Lexi and she challenged me to change the mould of my daily routine so I did… in small bits. Instead of cramming activities into a weekend, Wolf and I rebelled, slept in, lounged around and watched movies. We literally did nothing. I decided not to wear any makeup for a week (and loved the fact that I didn’t need to take it off at night), changed the time of day I usually shower, wrote in a journal, cooked up a storm over another weekend and didn’t have to cook dinner after work. It was quite refreshing.

4. Find something to get excited about

It can be a tricky thing to find, but we all know excitement and inspiration can really boost energy and motivation. I prefer something impulsive, unexpected and almost rebellious. But otherwise, I chat to a creative friend, buy new music, surrender myself to a captivating read, plan a big night out, experience live music, watch a good film, explore parts of the city I don’t know, plot obscure projects (I’m a nerd) or indulge in the fact that I’m a mum and join Wolf at those massive play gyms on the soopa doopa sized slides, mazes, jumping castles… fun. OR, as one of the more recent local Tourism Australia campaigns suggests, plan a holiday.

5. Show appreciation

Perhaps this is a personal thing, but I’m almost always encouraged when someone shows appreciation for what I’m doing. I hate to get all Oprah on you but sometimes I show myself some appreciation too. I don’t think it’s the same, but it’s good and worthwhile. I like things that are a little indulgently wicked so I don’t feel like I’ve stepped out of a Tony Robbins seminar.

6. Look after the basics

This one’s last because it’s boring. Sometimes I find the most obvious and basic things the most boring. Regardless, whenever my health and feelings are at the lower end of the spectrum, I make sure I take some multivitamins, eat good food (even though junk can be so comforting and convenient), get to bed early, schedule time in to do nothing and exercise. So boring. But good.

Anyway, although the above seems to help me, but it’s by no means a definitive list so I’m keen to hear your tips and opinions. Do you feel we push ourselves to burn out more these days? And what do you do?

3 responses to “Crash and burn

  1. You couldnt be more right Catho – I find that going for a walk in the morning helps to clear my mind for the day and feel like I have achieved something rather than sat at my desk or been in meetings all day. My only excuse now is the cold!

  2. thanks for the hot tips. taking charge when you hit ‘pre-burn-out’ is easier said than done, these are such practicle suggestions.

    love the idea of breaking routine to freshen things up 🙂

    i found committing to a team sport helped me. the team environment forces you to disengage from work and take time out at least once a week – a positive social pressure to manage your day and get out of the office on time so you’re not letting the rest of the team down.

  3. catherineonline

    Thanks guys!

    Simmo – I cannot wait until it’s warmer!! Early mornings don’t work for me (wish they would) so instead, Wolf and I take a soccer ball to the park – it’s such a great way to end the day, really miss it.

    And Becs you’re so right about the social pressure. Not wanting to let the team down would definitely make me leave the office!

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