The Struggle is Real; How to Avoid Burnout

Mar 16, 2023

 by Liz Rodriguez
I have endured my share of times when I was exhausted and falling asleep mid-day during my career.  The fitness industry itself breeds a certain kind of burnout due to many of the jobs being almost entirely on commission.  This tends to lead to lack of boundaries as you chase money and hours to make ends meet.
In reality we live in a time that numerus industries follow these same patterns.  Positions are eliminated which means more responsibility for one person.  More money means more strings attached.  And weeknds are no longer off limits from work projects or being called in at the last minute. 
I'm just talking about avoiding burnout in your career.  But it trickles down to other areas of your life.  This article is going to take a well-rounded approach to taking small steps in order to take control and help to avoid long-term burnout. Let's get into it!
Tip #1 - Priorities
First and foremost, I needed to get my priorities straight. Yes, I wanted to make a lot of money and run a successful team as a Fitness Manager. But I also wanted to make time for working out, eating regular meals, and taking vacations.  Setting priorities for me meant leaving time each day to take lunch, rest, and rejuvenate before heading back in the afternoon. I still needed to work split shift since I had staff there early and late, but I made it work to make time for myself. I needed to prioritize my schedule so that my boss and team knew when I was available, and when I was not. It actually helped me to get more done since I knew when I would be away.  
When you look at your normal day where is an area you feel would benefit from a change in priorities?  That could mean taking lunch away from your desk or putting your phone on Do Not Disturb for just 20 minutes.  Many times I found I enjoyed the meal more anyways and eating at my desk made me prolong a meal that would get cold and that I didn't enjoy because I was trying to multi-task.
These changes don't mean they need to be implemented daily.  But try out a few ideas each week and see what makes the most sense for your situation. 
Tip #2 - Goal Setting
When was the last time you had a goal setting session with yourself? I made a point in every monthly goal setting with my team members to also ask about both professional and personal goals. I wanted to know not only what they wanted to accomplish with the company, but what was motivating them outside of work. Were they planning for a trip, a wedding, a move, a big purchase? I wanted to know what else they were working on besides how they wanted to further their career, because it helped me know how to motivate them. It also allowed opportunity about conversations around using their time off, optimizing their schedules and even exploring new things for them. Trainers are notorious for only eating, sleeping and drinking fitness. But opening up the conversation to new hobbies and interests helps to keep their brain fresh. I followed the same goal setting process with with myself. I wanted to know what I was working towards, which helped me if I knew I was going to have a busier month at work.
It's important for all of us to goal set from time to time. And it doesn't mean you are trying to add more to your plate and check the boxes.  It could mean arranging your schedule to fit in a monthly massage or carving out more time to read that book you've been trying to get through for 2 years.  Goal setting in this context means taking a step back and thinking about what else you want in your life.  
“A reckoning with burnout is so often the reckoning with the fact that the things you fill your day with — the things you fill your life with — feel unrecognizable from the sort of life you want to live, and the sort of meaning you want to make of it." Anne Helen Petersen, Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation
Tip #3 - Making Time For YOU
I think we have begun to throw around the world "self-care" an awful lot.  So I won't use that word. I'll just keep it generic and say hey make time for you.  And if you are rolling your eyes, please keep reading because I am talking to YOU!  Sometimes we don't quite recognize what this even means anymore, making time for yourself.  We have begun to trade any time spend just on ourselves for more work hours, more activities, more screen time and less quiet moments that we can allow ourselves to decompress. 
This could mean taking just 5 minutes before work to sit quiet and breathe. This could mean taking a bubble bath after work 1 night a week.  It can essentially mean engaging in activities that allow you time to just be you.  Because we spend so much time each day being overstimulated, making time to step away from all of that allows your body to recharge in a way that you just can't get anywhere else.  I am stepping in to specifically say hey make some time for you that doesn't allow any outside stimulation. That doesn't mean watching your favorite Netflix show with your favorite snack isn't great. But we are looking at you carving out time specific for re-charging in the context of avoiding burnout. 
Tip #4 - Support
I was fortunate enough to have some kick-ass colleagues in the companies I worked for. And I always made a point to spend some time with them. Sometimes it was a quarterly meet up where we went for dinner and drinks. Maybe we organized going to an educational seminar together. Or it could simply be coffee just one on one. Being with my peers allowed me to vent, bounce ideas off of them, and also learn what they were up to and struggling with. It helped me to know I wasn’t alone. I started out very young in management and that can feel isolating since you cannot be friends with your team members. Knowing that I had people who knew what I was going through really helped me when I was having a hard time.
Depending on your industry or job this may not mean spending time with co-workers.  This could mean leaning on friends and family.  It's important that you know who those people are that you can lean on when you just need to vent and deal with stress.  A trick I learned from those busy parent friends of mine was they set up a monthly lunch or dinner with friends that was set ahead of time so they weren't spending time trying to chase each other down and create new plans every time.  
Tip #5 - Do Your Homework
I always found over the years that when I was doing my homework, well, my clients and trainers were too. And vice versa. I always had the most successful teams when I had my act together.  So what does this mean for you? This means doing your homework that is relative to you being a human. 
Drinking water, getting enough sleep, reducing stress, eating well and moving your body are all homework items of you being part of the human species.  Can you get these in every single day?  That may be unrealistic.  But I want you to look at these items and strive towards adding them to your daily life. They will not only lead you to feel better but they will allow you to be able to become a better human all around.
Start small by adding a glass of water each day or turning the lights out just 15 minutes earlier. Add an extra serving of veggies to your lunch or commit to working on your breathing for a few minutes each day. 
Closing Thoughts
Burnout doesn’t have to be part of your equation. Sometimes it seems like more work, but ensuring you are taking care of yourself should always be top priority regardless of your job or industry.  Stay rested, stay hydrated, make time for those workouts, and make sure you have your priorities, goal setting, and support top of mind.