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3 Science-Based Burnout Prevention Tips

Milena Regos

In a world obsessed with busyness and chasing success at all costs, we end up burnt out, stressed out, and lonely. At Unhustle, my vision is to shift this paradigm. It’s about finding the sweet spot between doing and real living, embracing a lifestyle that balances life enjoyment with purposeful achievement. This is the future I’m creating with Unhustle—a sustainable, prosperous future for ourselves, our families, communities, teams, companies, and the planet.

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Burnout affects 75% of Americans. Here are 3 science-based strategies to help you prevent burnout.

Stress affects 8 out of 10 people. Chronic stress left for too long without dealing with it causes burnout.

I’m not saying this to scare you. I personally experienced burnout. Back then, WHO still hadn’t come up with a definition for burnout. It wasn’t an “occupational phenomenon.” Honestly, I thought I was just tired and everything was normal. I didn’t realize it impacted my ability to be creative and productive.

Yesterday, I joined a panel live at the World Economic Forum @Davos led by the Female Quotient to speak on mental health, burnout, Gen Z and the future of work. Although some of the references in this article relate to Gen Z, the tips are relevant to anyone dealing with chronic stress. Most high-performing entrepreneurs, leaders and ambition driven people are in a constant state of stress.

Mental health is our ability to think and feel and our ability to bounce back from ups and downs.

Since the outbreak of almost 42% of employees, mental health has declined, found a study by Mind Share Partners, in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP.

If all you do is work, you end up overwhelmed, stressed out, and burnout. Burnout is a Bitch with a capital B. She sneaks up on you. It’s hard to diagnose. There are different symptoms. You turn into an unproductive, unable to do anything mess before you know it. You get angry, snappy, and make poor judgments. Unable to get anything done. Of course, there are physical symptoms as well. According to Meredith and Harris’s study, burnout keeps women up at night (48%), and three out of 4 women are feeling burnout. Women are significantly affected by the pandemic trying to juggle home, kids, and caregiving in addition to their careers.

Six in ten Gen Z women say – “The way things are going, I don’t know how if I’m going to cope with the stress if it continues at this pace.” 81% say we live in a society that glorifies busy. Hence, the need to #unhustle.

I think that’s enough to say we need a new way of living and working.

The old way didn’t work, but now that the rules have changed, we need to change the game too.

It’s essential to understand what happens to your brain to understand burnout better.

According to Science of People: “It enlarges your amygdala – the part of the brain that controls emotional reactions. This can increase moodiness. It also causes you to have a stronger stress response when startled.

Burnout causes the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for cognitive functioning – to thin. This happens normally with aging, but it occurs much more rapidly in people who are stressed for prolonged periods.

Parts of the brain that control memory and attention spans are weakened. This makes it more challenging to learn.

The brains of chronically burnt-out people show similar damage as people who have experienced trauma.

Burnout reduces the connectivity between different parts of the brain, which can lead to decreased creativity, working memory and problem-solving skills.”

No wonder you can’t get anything done.

3 Science-Based Burnout Prevention Strategies

  1. Practice mindfulness.

Practicing mindfulness is what helped me recover. I felt like someone turned the switch on in my brain. I did 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation a day. Studies among teachers who show high levels of burnout show that mindfulness can be useful in treating burnout, with 87% of teachers who completed the program finding it beneficial, showing reduction in stress and burnout and symptoms of depression and anxiety. At the same time, they experienced increased focus attention, working memory capacity, and increased occupational self-compassion.

  1. Sleep

You need about 8 hours of sleep shows research. You need to spend at least one more hour in bed as it takes time to fall asleep—chronic deprivation results in cognitive performance on all tasks. When you are sleep deprived, you can’t be creative and productive.

Focus on quality sleep, not quantity.

Science-based tips to sleep better

  • Avoid blue light from screens at least 60 min before bedtime as it disrupts your circadian rhythms. Install F.lux on your computer to minimize exposure to blue light. It’s free.
  • Spend more time outside first thing in the morning – sunshine in the morning helps your circadian rhythms. I talk more about my morning rituals in the Unhustle Morning course.
  • A study found that exposure to bright light reduced waking time within sleep by an hour and improved sleep efficiency from 77.5% to 90%, without altering time spent in bed.
  • Reduce coffee consumption, especially later in the day. According to science, consuming caffeine up to six hours before bed significantly worsens your sleep quality.
  • Go to bed at the same time, even on weekends – your body can’t tell the difference between a Monday and a Saturday. To help your circadian rhythms, stay consistent in your bedtime. Being consistent with our sleep and waking times has been proven to help us sleep better.

When I finally managed to sync my circadian rhythms, I started to get a full night’s sleep, and with that, my focus and creativity returned.

  1. Minimize time on social media

Set up social media boundaries and only check your phone during set times. It’s a significant time suck, and we all know it’s addictive and leaves you to feel worse than before you jumped on social media. 65% of Gen Z women agree that unplugging will help them combat burnout.

More than half acknowledge that if they cut out social media, they would have at least an hour back in their days. At the same time, they are so time-deprived they are willing to give up alcohol, sex, and chocolate to gain back an hour.

Study shows that social media can add to your burnout. We simply can’t help but compare our lives to the lives of others.

Delete your social media apps from your phone. And while you are at it, don’t look at your phone in the morning, and you may see a difference in how your days start and end – enjoy more intention, more presence, and more focus, all by saying No to social media. You can do a seven day social media detox by joining the challenge here.

I’m no longer addicted to social media, but I have to admit, it took work. It didn’t happen overnight.

At a minimum, turn your notifications off. There’s probably nothing you will miss out on that’s more important than what’s happening in your real life.

Get more tips to do less, achieve more and have more time for living.


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