It’s crazy whenever I think about the fact that I’ve been working for almost a decade. In the last nine years, I’ve worked for a total of five companies. It’s definitely been an eventful career journey, but I can still recall specific instances when things became difficult. Sometimes, it was because of the challenges brought about by upper management. Other times, it was dealing with a toxic client or work environment. Then there were times I couldn’t find fulfillment or purpose in what I was doing. And even though I genuinely loved some of my jobs (or at least, the people I worked with), there were days I still found it hard to wake up and get ready. So, in case it helps, I decided to write about how to manage stress when you’re getting burned out from work.
These are habits I consciously do when I’m feeling demotivated. To be honest, I’ve been feeling low these past few months. So I thought it was timely that I wrote an article on how to manage stress—not just for my readers but also for myself. Burnout was previously defined as a state of vital exhaustion. But in 2019, it became classified by the World Health Organization as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. A sense of exhaustion or depletion, mental distance from work, and decreased effectiveness are some of its characteristics. It’s more than just a bad day or a challenging week since we all experience those. Feeling burned out is when the demands of your job exceed the resources you have, and your tank is completely empty.
Purpose and Passion Over Compensation
I was furloughed from my previous company at the beginning of the pandemic. I was then a managing director of a content marketing agency while I simultaneously led its sister company’s online beauty magazine as editor-in-chief. This experience put things into perspective for me and in May 2020, I decided to resign. I started focusing on things that gave me fulfillment—like helping run my mom’s backyard business, Mama Jessie’s Kesong Puti. I also enjoyed creating more content for my own platforms. In September 2020, I launched a long-time dream of having my own online shop, Greta’s Junk Shop, a curation of my favorite things under fashion, lifestyle, and pet care.
Around the same time, I got an unexpected job offer from a global company. It seemed perfect on paper and I was lucky that the setup was work-from-home. I was hesitant to take it at first because I knew that my shop and mom’s business would take a backseat. But as with most life decisions, there were pros and cons. I took the job because of the compensation and because it would give me the chance to learn and grow more. But after a few months, I started to see things for how they truly were and I found that my mental health was slowly declining.
It was then that I decided to take a step back, think about my priorities, and in the end, I chose to submit my resignation.
How to Manage Stress When Burnout is Real
These past few months were definitely a challenge for me. But practicing some of these habits has helped fill my tank or as I’d like to put it, increase my mental bandwidth.
1. Take Your Time in the Morning
It took me a while to adjust to a work-from-home arrangement at the beginning of the quarantine. The pandemic is perhaps partly (or mostly) to blame for the stress and anxiety. But as the quarantine went by, there were times I’d wake up exactly when I had to report to work. I’d wait until lunch break to take a shower and change into new clothes. I eventually realized that this wasn’t healthy for me. So nowadays, I wake up an hour earlier to prepare coffee, eat breakfast, feed my pets, and have a few minutes of quiet to myself.
2. Surround Yourself with Your Support System
I belong to a very tight-knit family and whenever I’m feeling down, I simply turn to them. I don’t necessarily vent to them but little things like watching a show on Netflix together or ordering our favorite milk tea drinks bring me comfort. Having chat groups with my trusted friends where I can easily share things helps, too. And sometimes, even the nicest strangers from online communities provide solace.
3. Hug Your Pet
Scientists from Washington State University recently conducted a study that cuddling with your pet for just a few minutes can reduce cortisol levels. If you have a dog or cat at home, take some time to hug them. It’s a win-win situation for sure! I’m lucky that I have both Booboo and Bellatrix to embrace whenever I feel like it.
4. Know When to Take Breaks and When to Ask for Help
At the start of my role for the global company, I was doing so many things that I sometimes didn’t have time for lunch or dinner. I would eat in front of my computer just to simultaneously get things done. I knew that it wasn’t something I signed up for and that it wasn’t healthy either. But at that time, I didn’t have a choice. I had no other teammates to help me, and I was getting task after task directly from the client. Looking back, I now realize that I should have known to still take the breaks I deserved. I also should have spoken to my line manager to ask for help. It was only when I was at my breaking point that an intern was assigned to help out, which was a huge relief.
5. Find a Support Group in Your Workplace
Since I work for a global company where most of my colleagues are based in Indonesia, Malaysia, or Singapore, it took me a while to find a bunch of Filipinos who ended up being my support group. We created a chat group where we would vent about our day and make each other laugh. This was also very helpful since they were the only ones who really understood the company culture. I got close to my line manager as well, who I’m so thankful for. We had quick daily meetings so that she could understand my hurdles and from there, tried her best to find solutions that would help me become more effective. If you can, try to find even just one or two people in the company that you can trust. It helps to have someone understand the company culture and empathize with you.
6. Work Out Regularly
According to Harvard Health, exercise is key for your head just as it is for your heart. It reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones and stimulates the production of endorphins. These are chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. I have to admit—sometimes, I get lazy or have a hard time finding the motivation to work out. So I try to find something that I enjoy doing—such as walking around the village with my husband and our dog, biking, or doing yoga.
7. Treat Yourself
When I know that my day is going to be long, I sometimes order or make myself an iced coffee. It’s something simple that I find joy and comfort in. Prior to the pandemic, I used to get massages at my favorite spas. But because of the situation, I just bought a massage belt from Lazada that I like to use at the end of a tiring work week. I also have my regular weekly mask nights where I take a sheet mask, place it inside the refrigerator for a few minutes, and enjoy the cool feeling while wearing it. After removing the sheet mask, I massage my face with a gua sha or rose quartz roller. On some afternoons, I apply makeup for fun—even if I’m not going anywhere. Things like these may seem small but I do believe they have a positive impact on my mental health.
8. Play a Game
Playing a game at the end of the workday or during weekends helps me forget about the woes of work temporarily. It’s my way of telling myself, “Work hours are done. Get off your computer and do something fun.” This is especially crucial since working from home makes it so easy for clients and bosses to cross boundaries. I guess this is my way of putting those boundaries into place. A game I’m obsessed with is Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch. I started playing Project Makeover on my phone, too.
9. Indulge in Your Guilty Pleasure
I can’t highlight enough how important this is as well. Since we’re currently limited to things we can only do at home, I find that indulging myself in certain guilty pleasures helps increase my mental bandwidth for work. In my case, I love reading Dramione fanfiction for hours. There are times it’s all I do on weekends! And it’s something I try not to feel bad about when I think it’s unproductive because guilty pleasures help relieve stress. So if doom-scrolling on TikTok helps you relax, go ahead and do it!
I’m not the most religious person but I do believe in the power of prayer. I pray for the health and safety of my loved ones. I pray that the decisions I make bring me closer to who God wants me to be. And I always pray to say thank you. Because despite the difficulties I encounter, I’m still so blessed.
How to manage stress from work will definitely vary from person to person. But I do hope that my tips and habits help! If there’s anything that you’d like to get off your chest, feel free to share them in the comment section (anonymously, if you prefer). I’m just here to listen.
How to Manage Stress: Things I Do When I’m Burned Out
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