26 Apr, 2022

Dealing with and avoiding burnout

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Contributors

Denislav Jeliazkov
Founder @uilearn

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Dealing with burnout is no fun for anybody. You lose all of your passion for the thing you have been working on and you aren’t your best self.

It takes tremendous effort to regain your empathy back and care about anything related to work.

I personally am a master at burning out. It feels like clockwork but every year around autumn I burn out, that’s why I want to share with you the mistakes I am doing so you don’t repeat them.

Since I started to design I always had this hustle mindset, always be pushing myself to learn new things. A day that I didn’t work felt like a wasted day. I have heard what burnout is in some weird theoretical way. What I thought burnout is at the time was people losing creative enthusiasm and stop caring about the quality of their work which often came from working long hours and tight deadlines.

However, as of 2019 we already know how burnout is described:

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • 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
  • a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

After 10 years in the industry, I had to learn how to take a rest and if you want to last long and push those pixel boundaries you should start learning how to take some quality time off too!

Walking

Somedays I reach a certain point where everything is so messy that I can’t focus at all.

While I could get 3 more shots of espresso and keep on going being highly unproductive – I go outside.

It’s proven that vitamin D3 (aka that huge glowing thing in the sky aka the Sun) has many health benefits and one of them is improving your mood.

If you leave your devices at home/office and just go out for 20 minutes walk this will help you clear your thoughts and make you laser-focused once more. Let your mind wander in this time, don’t really try to think of anything and I can almost assure you that your best ideas will come exactly on short walks like this. I treat them as mini-vacations.

I truly believe that changing your scenery helps you change your mindset.

Has it happened to you that you go to a coffee shop not having a lot to do and finish a sprint? I hope some scientist prove it why does this happen but this has happened to me almost every single time.

I feel it mainly because people that I don’t know is “looking” at me and I know I need to do some work so I do my best for 3-4 hours. Find a place you enjoy both the beverages and the surroundings and just get some stuff done but don’t force it.

Breathe

We are ancient species and we’ve evolved to treat anxieties as physical threats. When we think of deadlines our nervous system is reacting by giving us jitters and elevating our blood pressure.

This is great if a lion is coming your way to eat you but it is self-destructive against the modern workplace anxieties that can stay long into the night even if we’ve finished work and trying to go to sleep.

No – I don’t know how to control our physiological responses, but I can tell you what I do when I feel super anxious.

I just breathe.

Move away from your work area, lay down, sit and take big slow breaths. Inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds. Do this for a minute or two and you will immediately feel much better.

Laugh or have a chuckle.
These don’t require a large commitment of time or effort and can be combined into a single activity. For example, getting away from your desk and chatting with a work friend on a sofa or break-out area where you can lean back or put your feet up.

When was the last time you took time off?

It’s 2021 and we still have that C-19 lurking around. My last proper vacation was in October of 2019, so this is almost 2 years ago.

Nowadays companies tend to offer unlimited vacations, but still, the majority of that goes unused. A lot of people are scared to take time off as they will seem as “slackers” when other team members are working hard.

This is especially true when the leadership of a team is not leading by example. If you see your manager taking a “vacation” but checking Slack daily, this will inform a habit in you that you should do the same so you don’t miss on things.

Guess what, if you have done your job a previous couple of sprints and communicated with the team that you will be off for a certain period of time you won’t even be noticed that you’r not there.

Get some quality time off, delete Slack from your phone, pause all push notifications and enjoy life.
Incorporate some of these things or if not all of them. If you surround yourself with team members that are candid they will always be in the trenches with you and want you to feel better.

Our digital work is not a solo mission – we need social safety and we get empowered by people around us.

Stay mindful and keep designing,

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