Returning to work after a long break, especially when it’s because of stress or burnout isn’t easy. Before you decide to return, make sure you’re fully prepared to not only delve back into high-pressure situations but also deal with it adequately.
In the aftermath of a burnout situation, self-care is the most important thing to focus on. This includes addressing the bigger elephants in the room like seeing a mental health professional until you feel equipped to handle work pressures and the smaller elephants like making small but sure changes to your daily routine.
The point of all this self-care is to start prioritizing your mental health over work and identifying the first signs of chronic stress. Not just that, you should be able to take a step back if need be and avoid putting yourself in the situations that led to your breakdown in the first place.
How you approach work can also make or break your relationship with stress.
Stress management is the most important skill you should develop to prevent another spiral. Work at a steady pace, and don’t try to multi-task, even if it’s something you’d usually pride yourself on. If you see yourself falling back into old patterns of approaching work or managing stress, don’t be afraid to speak to your bosses about your responsibilities, and your therapist about stress management techniques.
While some things like company policies on mental health are out of your control, there are always smaller steps you can, nay, need to take to ensure your mental wellbeing in the workplace.
The smaller things can have a bigger impact than you think.
For instance, visualise what a serene office space is to you. Try and replicate that as best as you can, whether it’s having plants on your desk or a space where you can go to take a breather and collect your thoughts. Organise your desk and clear the clutter. You’ll instantly feel more in control of things.
Touch base with your colleagues frequently. If you help them out when you’re not as occupied, you can count on them to help you de-stress when you’re wound up. It’s a good social support system to develop outside of your family and friends, and you’ll be surprised how far a little work solidarity can go.
You might also have to make active changes to your lifestyle. The negative effects of stress are only compounded by a sedentary lifestyle. Cut down on caffeine, sugar and greasy food, especially when you’re working late hours. Stay hydrated- it’s worth the hundred pee breaks you have to take, trust me.
There’s also little therapeutic things you can turn to if things start to get stressful, or even just because they make you feel good about yourself. Keep a positivity journal, try going to yoga or meditation. These things can help you rediscover the simple pleasures of life while also providing an outlet for any frustration or stress that’s building up.
Once you’ve had a mental health scare or a burnout episode, it can be easy to forget about it and continue the very behaviour that led to it. Resist the impulse. Instead, clearly chart out goals and tasks, identify what the signs of burnout look like on you (irritability, frustration, anger, etc.), and actively make changes to your sedentary lifestyle. Before you know it, you’ll feel good as new and your mind will deal with stress like a well-oiled machine.
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