First Aid for Work-Life Balance Burnout

Updated: Mar 21, 2018

As much as we all aspire to create some level of work-life balance; there will be times when juggling to keep professional and personal project requirements airborne will totally overwhelm you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been in the workforce one year, five years, or twenty-five years. You can become so exhausted that you cannot even consider how to prioritize the never-ending crisis moments.

When you find that you barely have time to breathe or eat regular meals, your first action needs to be to make your mental and physical health a priority. What can you do when you get to a point that sleep seems overrated? You are your own best advocate.

Blaming your boss or the situation will not turn things around. If you don't make yourself a priority -- no one else will. This is not the time to make a major life change -- aka Don't Quit Your Job!!! At least, don’t initiate any rash actions while your brain is working in a non-coherent mode.

Michio Kaku in his book, The Future Of The Mind, identifies a scientific basis that explains why sedentary thinking work can exhaust you both mentally and physically. He explains the human brain consumes over 20% of our total body energy even though it physically weighs 2% of a human’s body weight. Our brains work hard. Thinking requires a great deal of energy. Taking a few moments to boost oxygen to your brain may really help you begin to work more effectively – even during incredibly overwhelming situations.

When you find yourself in a situation where your brain is not thinking as quickly or as clearly as you want, there are some very simple techniques you can deploy to push much needed oxygen to your brain: stretch, move, and eat high protein snacks.

Simple stretching movements that you can perform at your desk (or a conference table):

1. Sit up straight, lean your head to your left shoulder, back to center, lean your head to your right shoulder, and back to center.

2. Sit up straight, roll your head in a circle 2-4 times. Hold your head straight for a brief count and reverse the circle direction 2-4 times.

3. Sit up straight, interlace your fingers in front of your chest with elbows pointing out to the side, flip your hands so palms face out and stretch your palms out in front of you. Hold for 2-3 breaths. Raise laced fingers over your head, bend right arm (elbow will encircle your head) and your left elbow will point downward. Stretch. Bring arms back over your head and repeat bending your left elbow.

Moving helps oxygen to circulate. Long work days and even longer commutes don’t always allow for daily workouts. You can take time to:

1. Walk around the office area. Use this break to fill a large glass of water.

2. Get outside the office environment to clear your head. Walk around the block or the perimeter of the parking lot.

3. Find a private space (cubicle, conference room) and create a mini 3-5 minute workout – shake your arms, jog in place, shadow box --any movement that helps you release excess energy.

High protein snacks really will make a difference. When stress hits, salty chips or chocolate may seem like wonderful comfort food; but if you need to get your brain focused:

1. Keep a stash of nuts and protein bars in your desk.

2. If you have access to a refrigerator, keep yogurt, cheese sticks, cottage cheese, peanut butter, or fruit handy for a quick pick me up.

3. For every cup of coffee you drink, chase it with at least eight ounces of water. The oxygen in the water will help your brain think more clearly.

Circling back to your exasperated thoughts that might have had you thinking about quitting your job -once the current crisis is over and there is a modicum of calm in your life, this is the time to work through a self-evaluation:

1. Do you feel confident about how you and your colleagues soldiered through the recent challenge? 2. Did your organization work group discuss lessons learned from the situation and put corrective procedures into place?

3. If yes, hurray – job well done. If on the other hand, you found yourself in another crisis before you could clear your desk from the previous crisis debris, then it is time to calmly begin reviewing your options and opportunities.

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