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How to manage stress and avoid burnout before 30 (and after)

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Today I’m going to start slightly differently than usual. I’m going to ask you to read the two following statements:

A) I only go to work because everyone has to. I often find myself feeling drained, unappreciated and anxious, no matter my position in the company. Especially on a Sunday.

B) Our company gives me great opportunities to develop myself personally and professionally, and I’m enjoying the challenges I face every day. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it’s been eight ours already.

If I now asked you to pick one of these claims, which one would you choose? Would your choice be immediate and without hesitation, or are you somewhere in between the two, and it took a minute to decide?

Putting the way you feel about your job and your life in general into words can help you realize whether you need a change or not. If you picked A, you probably do. According to statistics from the American Psychological Association, one third of Americans claim they are living with extreme stress of which the major cause is work and money. Are you one of those people? Or have you been noticing signs of too much stress in your team? If the answer is yes, it’s time you did something about it. The best time to start with burnout and stress prevention is yesterday.

The Signs

There are several indicators of stress that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whenever you notice one of these signs in yourself or members of your team, it’s time to address the issues asap. The most common signs of stress and possible upcoming burnout are the following:

  • Anxiety, depression
  • Irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Apathy
  • Frustration and hopelessness
  • Reduction of efficiency due to loss of motivation
  • Headaches and muscle tension
  • Inclination to seasonal illness

The Prevention

Luckily, we’ve got ways to deal with these symptoms, and the solutions are sometimes surprisingly easy. All we need to do is to stop and shift focus from the wrong stuff to the right stuff.

Balance your diet 

One of the things that has the biggest influence on the way we feel on a day-to-day basis is the way we eat — what, how often, and whether we take time to eat or do three other things at the same time. Some of the basic tips for a healthy diet are

  • eat regularly, smaller portions at least 5 times a day;
  • include protein and reduce carbs and sugars;
  • reduce alcohol and caffeine intake (you may think they’re helping, but they actually only increase stress);
  • consider using herbs and nutrients that have positive effects on nerves, sleep and concentration; and
  • drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Enjoy your time off

I know your job is important to you, and especially if you’re a manager, you may suffer the “superhero” syndrome — a feeling of being essential for everything that’s going on in the office.

In fact, the world isn’t going to end if you take a week or two off to go and spend some time with your family and friends, preferably out-of-state and with your work cell phone turned off. But it’s not just the holidays. Wherever you get out of the office, focus on your hobbies, on maintaining a healthy dose of social life and just do things that make you happy, whether it’s going for a game of snooker with friends or a Counter Strike session.

Build relationships on and off work

Surrounding yourself with the right people and building up positive relationships can have a fantastically energizing effect on your psyche. Try being more social in the office, initiate small talk with your team, share your thoughts and listen to others. People around you (in the office and outside of it) can be a reliable safety net in times of need, as well as endless sources of positive energy.

Get moving

Your level of activity is critical to stress. The ideal situation is to work out or exercise at least 30 minutes per day, even if it’s just a walk in the park or playing soccer with your kids. Don’t be afraid to get into more challenging exercises that will make you sweat — the shift of focus on your physical side together with the sweat and waves of endorphins coming from the movement will serve as an excellent way to relax and get your mind off stressful things. When you come back to them later, feeling stronger and energized, you may even find new angles and solutions that you haven’t seen before.

Even at the office it’s recommended to take a 5 – 10 minute break every hour / hour and a half to do a little stretching and walk around. It may not seem like it, but even this little bit of movement helps clear your head and reduce the stress level.