9 Ways to Shine Brightly without Burning Out

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9 Ways to Shine Brightly without Burning Out

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Whenever I share with others that I am working in the space of helping people preventing and overcome burnout, I would often get the same response; “Wow, that’s so needed in our society”.

And so, I took a plunge of faith yesterday and volunteered to host a lunchtime dialogue on burnout at the Singapore Service-Learning Symposium 2018. I believe that the dialogue of burnout should be one which is embraced, especially for people working with others such as in the education, social services and healthcare sectors.

As I sat at my table with my food, I half wondered if I would sit alone for the whole of the lunchtime. After all, out of all the “dialogue tables”, mine seems to be the only one which is focused on one’s self while the other tables were interesting enough as they covered topics about how we can help and collaborate better.

I am thankful though that some soon came along to join my table. We had candid conversations about what burnout is, about our individual experiences with burnout and how each of us took steps to overcome it.

Burnout is not simply being stressed. It is the state of experiencing the effects of chronic stress which includes sustained fatigue and physiological effects such as illness, loss of appetite etc, poor performance and a resultant sense of being ineffective as well as increased cynicism, irritability and detachment from others. You can see some of the telltale signs here.

Summing up the conversation we had, here are some “tips” on what the participants found helpful in overcoming burnout:

  1. Recognizing I’m Not Superman / Superwoman 
    For some, the eventual realization that we all have finite physical, mental, emotional and time resources helps them come to terms that they cannot continue running on empty. At any one point in time, we may have many roles to play, at home, at work and in our communities. If we try to do everything ourselves, we may spread ourselves out so thinly that we end up not being able to fulfil our roles effectively.


  2. Voicing It Out 
    Having the above recognition is but the first step. We can continue running on empty or start to take proactive actions to cope. One such way is to simply be frank about the challenge with face and to ask for help.


  3. Love Thy Job / Role
    For some, rediscovering the love of the job is also a helpful way to overcome burnout. As we navigate through burnout, it might be a good idea to also take stock of our jobs/roles, to find back or even discover what we can love about the job/role.


  4. Time for Me
    Regular “Me-time” has been described as some to also be an effective antidote to burnout. Some may choose to whisk off to another country to be with nature and turtles or to find a quiet corner to “regroup”, pray and reflect. Whatever form the “me-time” takes, it helps to step away from whatever may be draining us out and breaking us down.


  5. Guarding the Border
    One of the things that I have found to help me avoid burnout is that or drawing margins in my life. I have intentionally drawn up a border at 6pm to separate my work and relationship time and I would diligently guard it; I try to complete my work before 6pm and leave the best of my post 6pm to my family. While it might be difficult on some days, I managed to by and large keep to the “pattern” because I have come to realise that family is far more important to me than my work.


  6. Taking the Chill Pill
    Someone shared that often times, we may “major in the minor” and fret over things that, in the larger scheme of things, does not matter at all. It helps to pause to ask ourselves what how does this anxiety and fretting measure up against the greater scale of things? And sometimes, it may just be that we need to learn to “let go” of our grip on certain things.


  7. Faith
    Some shared how their faith helped them significantly as they prayed and took the matter up with God.


  8. Confidante
    Having people you could go to and share some deep conversations, ventilate and who can help you process through things and even show you your blind spots is all so crucial for some. After all, according to psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, we all have the need to belong and be loved and having close ones who we can be with during our down times would often prove to be all so helpful.


  9. Choosing Our Day’s Battles
    Whenever we bump into anyone on the streets and ask how they are doing, we would often than not get the same response about us being busy. Whether it is being busy at work, in school, in our families or our communities, most of us hardly have any breathing space any more. And sometimes just looking at our to-do list is enough to make us feel overwhelmed and stressed up. It is at times like that that we need to choose our battles to fight for this moment; we need to prioritize what we have prioritized. I shared how certain apps, such as Microsoft’s To-Do (with its “My Day” function), has helped me to focus and refocus on what I can do for the day. You see, I maintain at least two lists; one for my personal life and one for my work. And each list can go on and on with tonnes of things to do. But just as I had mentioned in point (1), I recognize that I have finite resources. And so, not only do I need to discern and choose my battles for the day, I need to also be realistic about what I can achieve in the day. So at the beginning of each day, I would review my lists and move those I would choose to work on to “My Day” list. And then, I would further prioritize which I would work on first. So far, this has helped me to keep burnout at bay.

Today, I remain thankful to the people who came by and joined me at my table during the symposium yesterday. I am thankful for our short but impactful conversation on burnout.

Indeed, you have fire in you. Shine brightly and don’t burn out.




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9 Ways to Shine Brightly without Burning Out

by James Lim
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