First Published: February 9, 2021 | Last Updated: September 10, 2022

The gist: You can learn how to prevent burnout by taking a more proactive approach to your rest and self-care. Get started with your own self-care action plan.

Most of us take a reactive approach to self-care. If we approach it at all.

Here's what I mean:

We don't pay much attention to or make time for it until we're already tired, and rest in reaction to that tiredness.

But repairing and preventing burnout becomes a LOT easier once you figure out how to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive one.

So in this video and article, let's talk about how you can create a self-care plan to do that.

And be sure to check out the free workbook and Notion template to go along with this video. You can fill it out along with me as I walk you through it.

Now let's talk about your burnout prevention plan.

Step 1: Identify Your Body's Burnout Warning Signs

Like I said before, once you learn how to notice and follow the warnings your body sends you that you need a break from work, you can start taking a more proactive approach to your self care.

You can do something about your low energy levels before your battery burns out completely.

The first step in your burnout prevention plan is identifying what your body's warning signs are.

Think about what signs you can look out for that you might need to pay closer attention to your rest, health, and self-care.

These can either be situational warnings or sensational warnings.

Situational Warnings

Situational warnings are things like events, scenarios, or situations that you know drain you of a lot of energy.

And that you know you'll need to rest or take care of yourself more afterwards.

For example, for me, that's video - whether recorded like YouTube videos, or just a Zoom meeting. The more time in a workday that I spend looking into my webcam, the shorter that that workday needs to be, and the more intensely I need to rest after.

Sensational warnings

Then there are sensational warnings, ones based more in physical or emotional senses you feel.

This might be different ways you feel exhaustion or that burnout is on its way, or just that you need to give your body a little extra TLC.

The ways that you know things like stress, depression, exhaustion, and burnout show up in your body and mind. This might be things like tense or sore muscles, headaches, trouble sleeping, feeling stressed, and more.

These are all feelings that, if you don't pay attention to them, can lead to burnout.

I want you to pick out what some of your warning signs are.

Once you've done that, step 2 of your self-care action plan is to assemble your support squad.

Ready to create your own burnout prevention plan?

Start preventing burnout with a more proactive approach to self-care by downloading our free self-care planning worksheet!

Step 2: Assemble Your Self-Care Support Squad

It might be called self-care, but that doesn't mean you can do it all on your own (cheesy, but true).

You'll need the help of other people, and things.

(That's right, tools can be part of your squad too.)

In this step of the burnout prevention plan, I want you to think of a self-care first aid kit.

Find Your Care Cheerleaders

In part A, there's the care cheerleaders.

These are the people who will help you prioritize yourself when you need to. People who you can trust to help support you, whether that's tangible support or just emotional support.

These might be friends you can go to for a laugh when you're down, family members or roommates to help with chores, or coworkers who can shoulder the workload or cover for you when necessary if you promise the same in return later on.

Warm Fuzzy Feeling Inducers

Then in part b, there's warm fuzzy feeling inducers.

These are the tools and supplies that can help you regain energy when it's depleted. And I want you to think of both physical and emotional energy.

So in addition to things like a hot bath or comfy pajamas when you're physically exhausted, think of things like the favorite TV shows, movies, and YouTube videos that make you laugh or the pets you can cuddle.

I like to call this list my Smile File, and even have it documented in Notion.

Step 3: Create Boundaries and Limits for Spending Your Energy

Step 3 of creating your burnout prevention plan is starting to set boundaries.

And I know, a lot of you don't like the idea of boundaries, because they feel restricting.

But the analogy I like to give for boundaries is to think of them not as brick walls, but as bumpers. 

If you hit a brick wall, you're going to crash and it's going to hurt. 😬

But if there's a bumper made of a softer material in front of that brick wall, it cushions the blow. It slows you down before you crash.

Now think of burnout as crashing into the brick wall.

Your boundaries can be the soft limit that slows you down before you crash. But in order to respect your body's limits you need to know what they are.

You've definitely experienced them before.

You just may not have identified them as the warning signs or boundaries or limits that they are.

And we have boundaries in all types of activities with all kinds of different energy.

There's a limit to how much creative work you can do in a given period, how much physical work or exercising you can do, how much socializing you can do, and more.

So some good categories to start with identifying are:

  • Strategic work boundaries
  • Creative work boundaries
  • Physical work boundaries
  • Social activity boundaries.

That's step 3. Step 4 is to plan happier habits.

Ready to create your own self-care plan?

Start preventing burnout with a more proactive approach to self-care by downloading our free self-care planning worksheet!

Step 4: Plan Happier Habits

Now, it's already a huge accomplishment to start recognizing your boundaries, as well as when you're at them. 🙌

Knowing what to do about it is another, though.

And that's where we're at now.

This means knowing and respecting when you're not going to be more productive in a day—no matter how much you think you should try—and just closing the laptop.

Or knowing when your body's had enough cardio and stopping to cool down. Even if there's supposed to be 15 minutes left of your virtual workout class.

A great way to do this is by having go-to replacements for those activities when you need to. It's so much easier to stop doing one thing you enjoy when you have another thing you enjoy to replace it with.

In the Work Brighterverse, we call this kind of stuff Happy Habits.

Happy habits are habits that aren't just good for you or healthy and aren't just fun, they're both fun and good for you.

So the next step is to think of some of your bad habits around your limits from step 3, and think of new, happy ones to replace them with.

We even have a Happy Habit Toolkit in the Work Brighter Shop and Clubhouse to help you with that.

Here are some prompts to help you with this part...

  • When I'm overwhelmed, I tend to do ABC. Instead, I can XYZ.
  • When I'm anxious, I tend to ABC. Instead I can XYC.

You get the idea.

Repeat that prompt with feeling depressed, feeling angry, feeling unfocused, all of the different emotions that trigger your not-so-great habits.

That's the Plan, Now Stick to It

And that is the gist of creating your burnout prevention plan.

Step five is to actually stick to it.

This step comes a little later. And it will also take practice. A lot of us aren't great at resting, because we've been taught not to value it. Not to learn that skill.

So be sure to celebrate any progress you make.

If you don't have anyone else to celebrate that progress with you, hell, I will! Send me a message or DM on Instagram and I will be so excited for you.

And if you want a whole cheerleading squad to cheer on your progress, we're waiting for you in the Work Brighter Clubhouse. The Clubhouse is all about learning how to better balance work and rest, celebrating small wins, and improving our self-care as a community. And we would love to have you!

Are you ready to start working brighter?

Productivity isn't black and white, it's personal as hell. And there's no single lifehack or framework to solve your problems. 

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