How to Avoid Burnout at the Beginning of Your Career

Priya Narain, Boulevard Events
Priya has written this post for ILEA UK as part of our #EventWell17 blog series


Before I start I think it is very important to distinguish the difference between stress and burnout. If you Google it there are a plethora of explanations, but quite simply:

Burnout is a cycle of negative emotions, paralysis and withdrawal… Stress, on the other hand, involves too many pressures that demand too much from you either physically or psychologically. It is therefore clear that burnout can be the result of excessive stress. Starting out in a new job or even a new career can be quite stressful, so what can you do to avoid that leading to burnout? I do not claim to be an expert in this field, but here are my thoughts:

1) IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU DO… IS IT REALLY A JOB?
Firstly, you will have to ask yourself if you actually love what you do. Admittedly there are long hours in events and it is not as glamorous as you may first think, however, that feeling of seeing an event (or brief) all the way through from inception to execution is somewhat gratifying. So ask yourself, why are you in the events industry, what do you want to get out of it etc. If you don’t love what you do, and this goes for any industry, then your job becomes a chore and you will soon learn to hate it and suffer burn out much more quickly. If you are not a fan of Monday mornings and the thought of going into work fills you with dread then you should speak to someone. Perhaps your skills are not being utilised to the best of your abilities, or perhaps you would benefit from additional training or learning the ropes in a different department. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions as your employer will also want to see the best of you as you will be more productive.


2) AVOID LONG HOURS AND GET SOME SLEEP

At the beginning of your career, there is a high chance you are more likely to put in longer hours. This may be to impress your new boss or colleagues, or perhaps you are trying to prove to yourself that you can do the job at hand. Either way, if you are consistently putting in over 80 hours week this is likely to lead to burnout and other possible health issues.

If you are feeling overloaded at work then in the first instance you should speak to your line manager to explain the difficulties and how it is affecting you. If your performance is being questioned then perhaps you have been given unreasonable targets and this needs to be addressed. You also need to be to let go of your work load and projects and see if anything can be delegated to other members of your team; utilising the strengths of your team can also mean that the project is being delivered to the highest possible specs. Although we are an industry that is used to saying yes, either to our colleagues or clients, in essence, you need to know when to say no and stop working
(and don’t fall into the habit at answering emails at ridiculous o’clock otherwise people will think this is the norm and will continue to expect this from you moving forward.)

Following on from this you need to understand and embrace the importance of sleep. Sleep is essential to the maintenance of not just your physical but also psychological health as good sleeping habits allow your body to rest and recover. Continued poor sleep can affect the brain’s function and lead to problems such as forgetfulness, irritability or lack of concentration, as well as having a negative impact on your energy levels, mood, performance and enjoyment of life which are of course not good traits to have in the events world (or in any world really).

Evidence shows that naps can also help to prevent burnout. By taking a power nap you can refresh and reset yourself and get that needed burst of alertness to tackle the rest of the day. We know this isn’t always possible especially if you are out on client site, however, don’t feel guilty if you need to take a moment to rest up (as long as you let someone know where you are!).

If you know that you will be working late on an event book a taxi for when you are finished so that you get home sooner (and safer), or book into a nearby hotel so that you can lay your head down sooner. Also, speak to your manager to see if you can come in late the next day too.


3) LET YOUR HAIR DOWN

Work alone does not define who you are and you need to know when to switch off. The interests and hobbies you have also play their part in building your character so don’t let these fade away; ensure you make time for them. Finding time in itself can be quite stressful especially if you have deadlines looming but this is where your impeccable organisational skills (we’ve all written this on our CVs!!) come in to play. Organise your day, prioritise your workload, delegate tasks to other members of your team, free up some you time. Get out there and have some fun with a capital F!

This could mean going to the gym, catching up and socialising with friends and family, full on raving, basically anything that allows you to switch off and not think about work for a while. You may not realise it at the time but these hobbies and interests are developing your mindset and skills and are contributing to making you a happier you – learning a new hobby can boost your self- confidence and help you stay well. It also means that when you are back at work sat at your desk you will feel more refreshed and accomplished and ready to tackle the task ahead.


4) MAINTAIN YOUR GENERAL WELL-BEING

Okay, so I realise this sounds so cliché and has been discussed at great lengths during #Eventwell17 week, but it is all for good reason. A healthy self equals a healthy mind and all that jazz – eat well, exercise regularly, create a work life balance etc. Without sounding like a party pooper a lot can be said for reducing your alcohol intake and avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs.

Exercising releases endorphins – your ‘feel good’ hormones that can improve your mood. This doesn’t have to be a hard-core workout at the gym, but it can quite simply be going for a walk or dancing on a night out. If you can find an activity that you enjoy stick with it

Learning a relaxation technique, such as breathing exercises, yoga or meditation, can also help you relax and reduce stress levels. This can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings so that instead of being overwhelmed by them they become easier to manage.

General well-being paves the way for you to feel more comfortable and confident with yourself; when you feel confident you feel like you can take on anything and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact, it is a fantastic feeling. You are better able to build and maintain positive and healthy relationships with people whether this is on a personal level or a professional one. You can contribute effectively to your workload and tasks and be more productive – no employer in their right mind will want to extinguish this.

Most importantly it can also help you to identify, confront and cope with the stresses you face so you can hopefully nip it in the bud before it leads to burnout.


5) CONCLUSION

It’s all very easy to say that you should love your job in order for you to avoid burnout however first and foremost you should love yourself (I realise this sounds so cliché but it is so true!). This is not selfish, it is not narcissistic; it is fully appreciating who you are and placing value on what you do.

Do not be afraid to open up and speak to people should you start feeling overwhelmed at work, whether this is your manager, colleague or family and friends. An issue cannot be addressed if it is unknown. Look after yourself and take time out just for you to relax and unwind. Your general well-being is of great importance, not only because this reflects in the work that you produce, but it can help you identify the signs when things go wrong to avoid burnout.

If things are not improving at work or you’re just not happy with what you are doing don’t be afraid to jump ship. If your current role is not working out for you, it’s not too late to try something new. It’s never too late – take it from someone who knows.

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