Date posted: 13/04/2018

How to help prevent burnout and promote wellbeing

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Particularly among Millennials, stress is becoming an epidemic1.

An alarming 65.2 per cent of students have experienced "high or very high levels of psychological distress," according to the Headspace National Tertiary Student Wellbeing Survey 20162.

In the same survey, 76.8 per cent of respondents cited balancing study and other commitments as a factor that impacted their mental health and wellbeing.

Burnout is the result of long-term, unresolvable stress and shares many symptoms with clinical depression.

You might find yourself feeling annoyed or even angry with people for no reason, feeling anxious at all times, withdrawing into yourself and avoiding people you like, and just generally feeling like you're pretty useless.

This can lead to an ongoing loss of motivation, the ability to concentrate and even physical symptoms like headaches, difficulty sleeping and stomach troubles3.

So how can you prevent burnout when you have a million things to do? Here are some simple but effective things you can do to help to foster your own wellbeing.

Be mindful

'Self-care' might be a bit of a cliché, but it's vitally important to find time to look after yourself, even when you're already overwhelmed by things to do. This means doing things that are actively going to help you to relax, keep your stress levels in check and feel better about yourself.

One approach is the 'miracle morning' which involves incorporating positive habits into your morning routine that its creator, Hal Elrod, calls 'lifeSAVERS'4. These habits fall into six overarching themes: silence, affirmations, visualisation, scribing, reading and exercise.

How to prevent burnout
Meditation can be a positive help

Meditation is one of miracle morning's core habits. Taking the time to sit in a quiet space and completely tune out anything that may be causing you stress and clouding your mind can help you face the day ahead.

If you've never tried meditation before, using a meditation app can help you get started, such as Smiling Mind5, where a voice guides you through a simple exercise. Of course, you can meditate with nothing more than an empty room, so experiment and see what works for you.

Throughout the day, focusing on positive self-affirmations6 and visualising7 a calm environment can also help you stay calm when you detect your stress levels beginning to rise.

Don't neglect the things you enjoy

When your to-do list is at capacity (or overflowing) and you feel you're running against time, it's far too easy to sacrifice the things which bring you joy in life and help you recover from a stressful day.

Making the time for your hobbies - no matter whether it's taking an art class or kicking a footy around the backyard - is an important way to clear your head when overwhelmed.

The Australian Psychological Society Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey 20158 shows that engaging in hobbies is one of the most effective ways to manage your stress.

Not only will you be happier, but with a clear head you'll be much more effective at solving problems and studying.

Go for a run

Exercising can just feel like another chore, but the endorphins and serotonin released by exercise can have a positive impact on your overall mental health9.

The American Psychological Association's Stress in America survey found 53 per cent of respondents felt good about themselves following physical activity and 30 per cent were less stressed10.

In addition to exercise, regularly eating healthy food can help to maintain a positive mood and blood sugar levels - although it's important not to beat yourself up if you indulge in the occasional snack11.

Get organised

While some people are naturally organised, most of us need a helping hand (or two). If you're feeling overwhelmed, laying out what work you need to do and prioritising can help you take back control.

For students, effective time management can often be the key to success12. Having a set schedule, list of tasks for completion and an orderly workspace can all contribute to you leading a more organised (and calm) life.

Our brains are all different, so it's important to experiment and discover the organisation system that best works for you.

You might like to use simple colour coding in your calendar to divide up your work, study and personal activities - with a focus on your immediate priorities. Or you might feel better with an overview of your entire to-do list at once using an organisational app like Asana13 or Todoist14. This approach helps many understand the context of what they're doing.

A listening ear

A strong support system can really help when your responsibilities begin to stack up. The simple act of talking through your problems with someone can be incredibly powerful - and provide a fresh perspective on problems you might have gotten 'stuck' on15.

Support systems can come in the form of friends, family members, colleagues, teachers, managers or tutors. Sit down and chat to them about what you're going through and how you're feeling. Even if they can't offer you specific advice, just the simple act of voicing your concerns to someone who cares can sometimes help to put things into perspective.

Your HR or student support representative can be a great resource.

Of course, if you're having a really hard time or just don't feel like there's anyone you can turn to, you should reach out to a health professional. You can also find links to a variety of resources here.

*This article is intended to provide general information only and is not professional advice. If you have any concerns about your health including your mental health, you should consult a registered health practitioner.