It's already been a year like no other. Here are 6 ways to avoid burnout when returning to work.

In 2020, it often felt like the days blurred together in a repetitive haze. 

With the global pandemic in full swing, mental illness spiked to a level we had never seen before, and our typical workday routines were upended to allow for working from home. 

It was thanks to this, that many of us set forth a date, both consciously and subconsciously, for change.

Jan 1, 2021.

Side note: Here's how to combat burnout. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

On the best of years, New Year's Day comes with a hell of a lot of *positive* expectations.

But in 2021 in particular, you may have fallen victim to dreaming of big changes, when, in reality we are still in the middle of a pandemic with no clear end in sight. 

This combined with a return to work, no real holidays and a few weeks of little progress on our new year's goals, the potential for early year burnout is high.

So, we had a chat to clinical psychologist, Dr. Amanda Gordon, to work out the six strategies you can use to keep momentum and avoid burnout on your return to work in 2021.


Wait, wait, wait: What is burnout?

Well, According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been managed.

You may experience symptoms like energy depletion, irritability, exhaustion, negativity or cynicism related to your job, and decreased productivity.

You can be particularly vulnerable to burnout at the bookends of the year, thanks to the added pressure that can come with these periods.

So, how can you avoid burnout?

1. Get outside.

Dr. Amanda Gordon suggests that a return to work doesn't have to come with a hard shift from holiday mode to work mode.

"This year has in many ways, felt like a continuation of the previous year," she said.

"Although many of us did have a holiday period, there has been little change with working from home and then holidaying from home.

"That means the feeling will, for many, be: 'I'm still here, I'm still doing the same thing'."

To combat this, Dr. Gordon suggests making the most of the Australian summer where possible, by ending or starting your workdays with outdoor walks, swims or catchups.

"Take advantage, if you can, of the rest of summer so it doesn't feel like you've gone straight back into work and lost the joy you may have had over the break."

Can do!


2. Have frequent breaks.

It might sound like common sense, but Dr. Gordon suggests you schedule in regular, brief breaks throughout your workday to stand up, stretch, have a snack or walk.

"Don't feel like you have to work 7am to 7pm just because you're at home. Work your usual hours with frequent breaks." 

By taking time away from your desk - if even for five minutes - your brain has the chance recharge and return to the work at hand, with increased productivity.

3. Adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The positives that come with nurturing a healthy lifestyle shouldn't be underestimated.

According to Dr. Gordon, creating a daily routine that allows time for light (or heavy!) exercise, eight hours of sleep, and three filling meals each day will do wonders for your mental health and stress levels.

When your body isn't being properly nourished with good food it's easy to grow foggy and burn out.

"Getting eight hours of sleep and half an hour of exercise daily will reduce stress, boost moods and sharpen your focus."

4. Take proper lunch breaks.

Set aside a time, away from your desk to enjoy a lunch break. 

There are a whole list of reasons on why you should take half an hour away from your workday to nourish your body with a hearty lunch. 

Having a set lunch break away from your desk will:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase productivity
  • Make room for inspiration and,
  • Reduce long-term health problems

Dr. Gordon suggests removing yourself from the task at hand so you can return to it with more passion and energy.


5. Make time to be social. 

2020 saw a huge drop in passing social interactions.

Chats with a colleague in the kitchen and saying hello to the bus driver in the morning may not feel like much, but missing out on these daily interactions can have a huge effect on your mental health.

"Try and connect with people at lunchtime, especially if you are working from home, whether it's going for a walk with someone else, or even just talking on the phone," Dr. Gordon says.

Connecting with others can work as a booster for your energy and inspiration levels.

6. Find work with meaning.

If all else fails, Dr. Gordon shared that it may be worth reevaluating your career choice. 

"We all have ups and downs in our careers, but if you can't bring yourself back over this mountain, you may need to look elsewhere, or seek help from a psychologist.

"For many of us it's hard to get started, but once we're back into the work, we should feel a bit of excitement and energy. If you continue to feel low at the end of the day, it's worth seeing someone to work out a few coping strategies."

Associate Professor Amanda Gordon is the Director at Armchair Pyschology and has more than 30 years in practice. For more from Amanda Gordon, you can visit her website. 

Feature Image: Getty.