30 (yes 30!) tips to get yourself back on track or avoid burnout altogether
About a year ago I managed to fry my brain and force my body into a complete stand still. After a few months of various doctors and numerous pills that made me worse than I was to begin with, I decided that what my brain and life needed was a complete overhaul. With the help of the right professionals and the best bunch of family and friends one could hope for, I set out on the difficult quest of going from burnout to balance. And I very quickly learnt that balance cannot be a destination because life is simply too complicated for that.
A year in, I see balance as more of a constant journey of refinement and learning about yourself and what works for you and which will have to be adapted as your life circumstances evolve. I most certainly haven’t mastered my version of balance yet but I am a hell of a lot better than I was a year ago when my body gave up and I had to be rushed to hospital with a malfunctioning brain.
So what have I learnt a year on? That I am still me and that my burnout tendencies will come back to haunt me if I don’t keep them in check. But I have also learnt some pretty simple tactics to keep me away from the dark side. You can move towards your own definition of balance by tweaking how you eat, move, rest and think. Here are the 30 (yes 30!) things I encourage you to try:
1.Start your day off right: eat a balanced breakfast high in complex carbs, fibre, protein and good fats
2.Be careful with stimulants: don’t rely on too much coffee to keep you going
3.Carry a water bottle with you: drinking 2l per day will keep you hydrated and you may need less coffee
4.Cut the cr*p: decrease (or eliminate if you can handle it!) packaged and refined foods
5.Eat out the smart way: check the menu ahead and look for protein and greens based dishes
6.Step away from the Sauv: limit alcohol intake or if you’re brave, stop drinking altogether!
7.Carry healthy snacks with you: this will help you avoid the vending machine!
8.Watch how much and when you eat: don’t overeat and avoid eating late
9.Green up your plate: load up on fruit and veg – 10 portions a day is the latest advice
10.Supplement your diet: chances are you’re not getting everything you need
11. Turn your commute into a workout: run, cycle or get off a stop early and ALWAYS take the stairs
12.Sneak in a lunch break workout: loads of gyms do 30’ sessions now or just walk to a Pret that is a little bit further out!
13.Work out at work: sounds stupid but you can run some of your meetings while walking outside or even do 4-5 squats every time you hit the toilet cubicle! And use the stand-up desk every once in a while if there is one
14.Build the weights in: this is when a PT can make all the difference. Aerobic exercise is great but research shows that weight training improves bone density and brain performance, decreases body fat and increases the strength of connective tissue, muscles and tendons which leads to improved motor performance and decreased injury risk. Hit the squat rack and think of the #gains
15.Make it a date: if you’re accountable to a gym buddy you are over 50% more likely to go if you struggle with motivation
16.Listen to your body: if you are stressed and frazzled a HIIT class may just add to your adrenal overload so hit the mat for some yoga or go for a gentle run. Similarly, if you’re feeling sluggish something more intense may get you re-energised
A few tips on sleep:
17.Find your optimum and stick to it: it’s 8h for some and 4h for others but whatever it is, try and stick to it including at the weekend. Binge sleeping doesn’t work!
18.Practice sleep hygiene: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time, avoid screens 1h before bedtime and have a little bedtime ritual - our brains love routine so they will make connections between what you do and feeling sleepy
19.Help yourself wind down: avoid caffeine in the afternoon and don’t do stressful work just before bedtime
Recovery is not just about sleep though! Make sure that you’re also recharging in other ways:
20.Don’t skip holiday: no matter how busy you are, take time out. Benefits of holiday like reduced stress levels and improved mood have been proven to last for 5 weeks after you return - that’s more than your holiday pics will stay at the top of your friends’ Insta feeds!
21.Take breaks: research shows that taking 2x2 min breaks every working hour will keep you more focused and productive and less frazzled by the end of the day
Author Napoleon Hill wrote ‘the body achieves what the mind believes’ so your mindset will be instrumental for you to #findyourbalance. Here are a few things that really help me:
22.Meditate: proven to have positive effects on all sorts of things from blood pressure to fertility, with just 10 minutes of sitting and watching your breath you can go a long way in reducing the overwhelm for your poor mind
23.Practice acceptance & compassion: you’re not perfect so don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself and then proceed to beat yourself up!
24.Set boundaries: learn to say no and to explain what is and isn’t ok - don’t become everyone’s saviour!
25.Plan, plan & plan: look ahead at the week and identify those ‘crunch’ moments and see if you can do anything to deal with them ahead of time
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
It can be quite daunting to make changes to your life to achieve balance. So much advice out there and so many things to potentially modify in your day to day. My advice to you is to keep it simple and go little by little until you find something that works for you:
26.Pick 2-3 goals: don’t go for a major overhaul, find a few things you’d like to change and write some goals down. Be specific (statements like ‘I want to be more balanced’ won’t cut it) and write down why you want to achieve this. If you have an emotional connection with a goal, you’re more likely to achieve it
27.Find a buddy: if you’re accountable to someone, you double your chances of sticking to your goal
28.Be patient and kind to yourself: it takes anything between 28 to 60 days to form a new habit so you will mess up along the way but do not beat yourself up - guilt and negative self-talk is not the fuel for sustainable change
29.Have a blow out once in a while: you’re not Gwyneth Paltrow!!!
30. Laugh along the way: humour will help you A LOT while you’re trying to make changes. Laugh at yourself and the ridiculousness of having spinach at breakfast, doing squats in the toilet and whatever other ridiculous things you’ll get up to and the journey to balance will be easier!
Keep it balanced team - work hard, stay well and get in touch if you’d like to chat about your balance journey!
Much love and cortisol,