(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn)
For one fleeting moment, I entertained the possibility of hurtling myself over the side of the bridge and envisioned hitting the water below in a final splash. It was mile 17 of the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon, my second marathon, and I had decided to fuel with only water, which is great for hydration and cooling but little else. In my naiveté, I rationalized that H20 was the only nutritional supplement I needed for the 26.2 miles.
Scientifically, the math doesn’t work. The body can store approximately 2,000 calories, and I was expending around 120 calories per mile. Without additional fuel, it makes perfect sense that I would be completely depleted by mile 17, or 2,040 calories into the race. I hit the proverbial wall — hard. The results included extreme fatigue, lack of energy, a desire to lay down and curl up in the fetal position, emotional devastation, and worst of all, incoherent and irrational thoughts. Despite a strong desire to continue, I was burned out.
In any activity, especially work, we risk the same phenomenon. Despite being totally engaged in our work, we flame out after long, intense periods. According to Webster, burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
Here are some simple suggestions to combat burnout:
Since my fateful second marathon, I have run many more races, marathon length and longer. I now begin consuming calories around mile five and continue steady and consistent nutrition intake every 45 minutes or so. Water is no longer my solo fuel source, given its lack of calories and electrolytes.
Similarly, you need to fuel your soul frequently by doing things that create additional energy in your life. Take time to replenish, renew and rejuvenate daily. I spend time most mornings reading, meditating and running. Find what works for you. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you take care of your family, your customers, your boss and the other demands in your life? Without anything in the tank, you lack the emotional, physical and mental calories you need for your life’s marathon.
2. Slow Down
When I hit “the wall,” I was forced to walk most of the remaining miles. Don’t be compelled to slow down because something blows up in your life; be proactive and evaluate ways you can slow down now. Sometimes slowing down means saying “no” to certain meetings, requests, people and projects. It may also mean trimming screen time and the amount of information you are consuming. Put your phone and email away for certain periods of the day for focused work, thinking and strategy planning. Turn off all communications and media at a specific time in the evening, preferably hours before bedtime. Keep your electronic devices in a room other than your bedroom during sleep hours. Be present with friends, family and other important people in your life, and actively prioritize your life rather than letting your devices, work demands or outside influences prioritize for you. In short, be an agent of action rather than an object being acted upon.
Simplification can come in many forms. I find that running is the simplest form of exercise for me. I love the fact that I can run anywhere, anytime, with limited gear and with ultimate simplicity of movement. Find ways to streamline tasks and drop things from your life that don’t add value. When going through the mail, I try to decide what to do with each piece and act right then. Junk mail goes in the trash and bills get paid immediately so I don’t have go through the mail twice.
4. Reconnect to the Mission
Determine your purpose and focus on your mission. In my marathon, the goal was the finish line. That was the mission, and despite my overwhelming desire to give up, I had to remember my mission and purpose for continuing the race. A lot of training went into achieving the goal and giving up was not an option.
When you are overwhelmed with expectations, work, issues, family, etc., re-evaluate your mission. Why are you doing what you are doing and what is the higher purpose? With mission in mind, you elevate your vision and the minutia comes into perspective with greater clarity.
The last several miles of the race were not easy. I was nauseated, hot, dehydrated and weak. I walked for most of it and ran when I could, but it was more of a shuffle to the end. I have learned much since then. The race of life is too short for burnout. If you refuel along the way, slow down the pace, simplify the journey and reconnect to the mission, you can reach your finish line while enjoying every step along the way.
About the Author
Gary is the Divisional Vice President of Customer Success at Limeade and an avid runner. His love for personal fitness carries over into his daily work and fuels his excitement for wellness and improving peoples’ lives. With a trained eye for identifying his customer’s needs and a knack for knowing just what it takes to engage a population, Gary has spent countless hours designing, developing, measuring and improving successful wellness programs and strategies. He also has valuable experience working directly with physicians and hospital administrators, as well as leading and managing teams of wellness experts.
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