Although the beginning of a new year can be filled with excitement and positive change, it also can be challenging or mentally exhausting to work on a number of intense projects with high expectations.
Even when you're successfully executing on hard work, a busy lifestyle can still weigh on you, even if you love your job or company. When this happens, you can run into one of the most dreaded mental conditions: burnout.
Burnout is so common that the World Health Organization now classifies it as a legitimate health condition. According to the WHO, burnout is a mental health "phenomenon" characterized by "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."
This condition especially impacts millennials. A 2018 Gallup study found that 30% feel like they're in a constant state of burnout at work, while 70% say they feel burnout at least sometimes.
While burnout is common, it isn't just isolated to people who dislike their jobs. In fact, a Journal of Personality study reports that being passionate about your job can cause you to take on too many tasks, or become obsessive about your work. In turn, this can cause eventual burnout.
To help you combat bouts of stress, low motivation, or exhaustion, I talked to six HubSpot employees to learn how they fend off feelings of burnout.
1. Acknowledge that burnout exists.
If you work in a fast-paced career or a competitive field, it can feel like you're headed directly towards burnout at certain times. Rather than fearing it or denying that it's happening to you, it can be helpful to admit that you're only human, you might run into crazy amounts of stress, and it might hinder your energy and motivation.
Once you admit that burnout is a solid possibility in your own work life, you can start to take steps towards avoiding it or maintaining a work-life balance. These steps could involve planning out vacations regularly, scheduling non-work hours, or trying stress-relief activities such as meditation.
According to Maggie Butler, a senior marketing ops manager, the best way to pull yourself out of burnout is to recognize those feelings when they emerge. Then, take preventative measures.
"I think it's impossible to avoid burning out at work, especially if you are passionate and give a lot of energy and time to your career," says Butler. "So why not plan for it? Planning to take time off from work and do whatever recharges you is key to keeping burnout at bay."
2. Create a "Smile File."
When you're tasked with a tough project or feel like work is piling up, it can be helpful to motivate yourself by reflecting on the accomplishments you've made in your role so far. This has proven to be beneficial to Lisa Edwards, a product marketing manager who logs many of her pleasant work moments in one folder -- which she aptly calls her "Smile File."
"I've been keeping a Smile File in my two years at HubSpot. Anytime someone says thank you, compliments my work, or says something funny, I take a screenshot and put it away in this folder," says Edwards.
Here's an example of a message that Edwards screenshotted and saved in her Smile File after a presentation:
"When I get really stressed about work or bummed about not totally nailing a project, I flip through the folder and it always makes me smile and feel better," Edwards explains. "In moments of imposter syndrome, it's especially great to flip back and see compliments from people and remind myself that I'm indeed good at my job."
Aside from compliment and achievement-related screenshots, Edwards says the folder is also "full silly things that my awesome coworkers say, too."
3. Use the Pomodoro Technique to ensure that you take breaks.
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity strategy where you schedule spans of time into work time and break time. The idea behind the technique is that taking regular small breaks and one larger break each day will keep you more productive.
However, Matt Eonta, a senior manager of project management in our creative department, says the Pomodoro Technique can also be a useful way to avoid immediate work stress or feelings of burnout.
"I found myself being much less productive working from home than I was at the office, and so I decided to adopt the Pomodoro Technique. It's been a huge help to my productivity, and it's helped me avoid burning out because it's designed to be prolonged periods of deep focus work, followed by short breaks to recharge and reset your mind," Eonta explains.
"Setting an actual timer is super helpful here, and when I "earn" my long break, I try to go outside and throw balls to my dog or something," Eonta adds. "Also, knowing I have a break coming will keep me out of unproductive rabbit holes like Instagram and text messaging until they're allotted a short window."
"Overall though, it's nice to get up from my desk at the end of the day and realize I was able to move around a bit throughout the day, rather than seeing six to seven hours fly by without having taken a break for anything," Eonta shares.
4. Switch out screentime for relaxing activities.
Aside from preventing mental burnout, you should also take steps to prevent physical fatigue that can make burnout more apparent. When your body is tired, sore, or drained, this may play a role in you feeling mentally drained.
While Eonta says he goes outside and plays with his dog on breaks, he also aims to prevent eye strain that can add to feelings of exhaustion.
"My eye doctor told me that every 20 minutes, I should try to focus on an object 20 feet away and focus on it for 20 seconds. It helps keep my eyes from burning out from constant fluorescent light and blue light computer screens." Eonta explains.
Lucy Reddan, a senior manager in our growth and email marketing department, similarly shared that she rests her eyes and tries other relaxation activities instead.
"Sometimes there can be intense periods of work, and your hours working are longer than normal. To cope with burnout, because it can sometimes be hard to avoid, recently I've started to limit screen time in the evenings after work," says Reddan. "Turn on some music, lie on the floor and do some nice slow stretching. The music takes my mind off thinking about all the jobs to be done, and it always feels great to get your body moving."
5. Try yoga and meditation.
Yoga allows you to release endorphins by working out, while also priming your mind for examination. The combination of yoga and meditation can help you relax after a long day, but these activities can also make you feel more productive.
"I didn't realize I was burnt out until I started taking up yoga," says Krystal Wu, a social media community manager.
"Yoga along with meditation has helped me physically and mentally to just do something that betters myself," Wu shares. "It became clear that it was the perfect balance to help me recover from burnout in my day to day life and have more peace of mind."
6. Take time off when you need it.
If you love working or worry that you'll fall behind, taking time off can be especially hard to do. However, it can be key to relaxation, resetting your mind, and gaining a solid work-life balance.
"I was one of those people who would rarely take any time off because 'there are some many things to be done,'" says Irina Nica, a community and influencer relations manager. "Even when I did, I still let some work slip into my day, even if that meant only checking my emails. I'd be lying if I said this way of being constantly connected didn't pay off at all, but overall, I was quite tired most of the time."
Nica explains, "I was probably close to burning out on a number of occasions. Fortunately, over time, I’ve changed my views on vacationing and it’s been great for my productivity."
"I learned to disconnect in the evenings and during weekends," Nica adds. "Now, aside from the regular summer and winter holidays, I take a long weekend trip every now and then. That helps me relax and refreshes my perspective."
Maintaining a Happy Work Life
While you can take the above steps to prevent burnout in your job or daily life, you can also take steps to ensure that your work life is keeping you happy and healthy. Happiness at work is not only fulfilling, but experts say it can also make you more productive and effective as an employee.