Beyond Burnout: Using Mindfulness Hacks to Work Less and Earn More

As a mindfulness-based educator, Eastern healing arts expert, and frequent workplace wellness consultant, coach, and presenter for over two decades, I’ve witnessed remarkable strides in the number of organizations and businesses that offer Eastern healing modalities (yoga, reiki, Tai Chi, meditation, among other self-healing practices) to their customers, teams, and associates.
We’re truly making progress in promoting these and other mindfulness-based practices to others. However, we don’t often practice what we preach.

At a recent mindfulness-based caregiver retreat, I asked the group of massage therapists in attendance if they themselves received regular massages. Not one hand went up. I then queried the dozens of health promotion experts, caregivers, and healing arts providers gathered if they had ever put together a plan for their own self-care. Less than 10 percent of the room responded affirmatively.

Whereas almost everyone in the room appreciated the value of self-care to reduce stress, prevent burnout, and shore up costs, most participants were so busy helping others get well, they’d failed to notice their own escalating stress and fatigue.

I got to thinking if healing arts practitioners aren’t practicing self-care, just how bad is it? The answer is very.

The Crisis: Unhappy Employees, Skyrocketing Health Care Costs

A recent study suggests that 70 percent of employees are both unhappy and disengaged. Over a million people miss work daily due to burnout and unmitigated stress.

With more than a third of our lives spent at work, we devote almost 47 percent of our time thinking about something other than the task at hand.

Of those Americans able to afford insurance, 43 percent say that they can barely afford their deductibles. Deductibles have risen 63 percent over the past five years. In addition to these concerning statistics, most Americans are finding out-of-pocket medical expenses so exorbitant, that many avoid seeking medical attention when they desperately need it.

In healthcare settings, burnout has reached epidemic proportions. It’s gotten so bad the doctors and nurses are eschewing the term burnout altogether and replacing it with “moral injury.”

Sleep-Deprived and Burned Out

On top of all this, over a third of American adults are sleep-deprived (receiving less than six hours of sleep per night or less), and most lack quality nutrition and adequate hydration. Most chronic diseases that kill us, could be prevented through eating better and moving more. We don’t sleep well, we tend not to eat well, and we burn out doing the very things we thought we’d love. The Harvard Business Review finds that a whopping 80 percent of employees are close to being burned out.

Each day, most of us face some sort of internal conflict or conflict with another person at work or in our relationships.

Given all this dire news, I ask you:

Are you feeling exhausted all the time?

Are you starting to dislike or even hate your job?

Do you feel like you lack both capability and capacity at work?

Do you no longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy?

In environments of tight deadlines, conflicting expectations, perfectionism, workaholic tendencies, and changing rules, we are all at risk for burnout. Not only can burnout be harmful to emotional and physical health, but it can also damage our personal and professional relationships.

So, what can you do to either prevent burnout or keep it from happening in the first place?

1 Forget Work-Life Balance, It’s All About Integration, Baby The first thing you can do is to understand that every person has core emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. These core needs don’t stop at home, they extend into work because we’re one complete person. There’s no point thinking that you can leave home at home and work at work. You can’t. The answer lies in resisting seeing work and life as a dichotomy, but rather, understanding that work and life are integrated. The key then is to figure out how to best integrate your work and life, so you can find peace and prosperity in everything that you touch and do.

2 Good Stress vs. Bad Stress Stress is a part of life and every type of stress isn’t bad. In fact, the type of motivational stress that urges you to complete an important project, simply kill it during an audition or interview, or complete a marathon? Well, that’s good stress, otherwise known as eustress.

However, bad stress is the kind that pumps you full of too many chemicals like an over-toxification of cortisol and adrenaline. That’s the kind of stress that if left unchecked can create any number of chronic conditions, diseases, and debilitating health problems.

3 The Difference Between Stressed Out and Burned Out They seem alike, but stress and burnout aren’t the same. Simply put, stressed-out means “too much of something.” Signs of being stressed (in a bad way) can include overreacting to events or circumstances, increased anxiety, sweating palms, irregular emotions/hyperactivity and over-functioning that can lead to a weakened immune system.

Whereas, burned out means “not enough of or depleted.” Signs of burnout include disengagement, blunted emotions, feelings of helplessness, loss of motivation, and depression. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that will negatively impact every area of your life, if not interrupted and treated by trained professionals.

4 Seek the Path of Mindful Self-Care Whereas it’s so tempting to put the oxygen mask on someone else before yourself, you can’t help another person if you yourself can’t breathe! That’s why learning burnout prevention and treatment techniques for every aspect of your life is so important. You must put the mask on yourself first.

Researcher Catherine P. Cook-Cottone defines self-care as: “the daily process of being aware of and attending to one’s basic physiological and emotional needs, including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and the environment as needed to promote self-care.” She concludes that a “steady and intentional practice of mindful self-care is seen as protective by preventing the onset of mental health symptoms, job/school burnout, and improving work and school productivity.”

Learning to take care of ourselves and put ourselves first, can be hard at first, particularly if we’re used to ignoring our needs. However, by beginning to adapt daily stress reduction techniques like meditation, acupressure, progressive muscle relaxation, and simple breathing exercises into your daily lifestyle, you will see immediate results and improvements. In addition to consulting with a counselor and a stress reduction coach, you can also commit to walking more and taking short breaks after every 90-minutes of intense work.

5 Make it Fun AND Profitable Find an easy, fun, daily workout that you enjoy. No matter what you choose, commit to a self-care regimen that isn’t location-dependent.
To get off that hamster wheel of unrelenting stress, practice mindfulness in which you’re aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations, tastes, and sounds moment-by-moment. Whether it’s attending to your mental, physical, and/or spiritual needs, mindfulness allows us to pay attention to what’s going on inside of us and all around us with increasing appreciation, less judgment, and greater awareness. Not only is mindful self-care good for your health, but it’s also good for business. The ROI on mindful self-care yields an amazing 316% increase in productivity! That’s great news for any of us who wish to start living mindfully and reaping the rewards in every area of our lives.

Michelle Courtney Berry, MPS, CISD and CEO of Courtney Consulting Enterprises, LLC is the author of Mindful Nation: Why Laying Down Rather than Leaning in Can Save American Lives.” She’s also a Top 10 Mediation Expert as rated by Asaya Mind, a National Best Meditation Teacher by People Maven, an invited meditation trainer, and healing arts expert at "Awesomeness Fest,” and a two-time TEDx speaker and two-time SXSW presenter. Read more at www.michellecourtneyberry.com and find her on her Common Genius profile here: bit.ly/commongenius

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