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I feel burned out

Burnout can be a challenge in influence and participation work. Here, we explore what burnout is and how it can manifest in involvement work.

What is burnout?

Burnout isn’t technically a diagnosis in and of itself, but refers to a collection of symptoms. If you are experiencing burnout you may:

  • Feel completely physically and mentally exhausted
  • Have little motivation
  • Feel irritable or anxious
  • See a dip in your work performance
  • Experience physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches, or have trouble sleeping

How can burnout manifest in involvement work?

  • Influence and participation work can be very intense. Many people involved in this kind of work feel very passionately about making change. This means that potential challenges and barriers can lead to burnout, especially when change is slow or projects don’t go to plan.

  • When supported properly, using your lived experience should not be traumatic. However, projects that are extractive, need people to share things they don’t feel comfortable with, or don’t provide emotional support, can sometimes lead to burnout.

  • Similarly, structural factors may also lead to burnout. For example, poor communication from organisations, frequent last minute changes of plans, poor workload management, or lack of clarity around expectations, can make people feel burned out. 

Tips to deal with burnout

Thalbir Shokar is a teacher of yoga and other forms of wellbeing activities. She worked on the Women Side by Side project, writing a section in the toolkit on how to look after yourself whilst engaging in peer support. 

Here, she explores how individuals can deal with burnout, and organisations can support those they're working within an influence and participation capacity.

  • Make sure you take breaks: schedule breaks into your working day by adding them into your calendar. Have a structure to support your work and life routine.
  • Have time away from digital devices. Schedule time away from your mobile and laptop.
  • Learn when you need to say no, and ask for help when you need it.
  • Practice mindfulness, meditation, and breathing techniques if you find these help you.
  • Move your body – yoga, walks, or whatever makes you feel good. Engage in relaxing activities, and create time to do activities where you feel a sense of passion and fun.
  • If you can, avoid quick fixes with food, alcohol or drugs.
  • Make time to socialise.
  • Stick to a routine: have a bedtime routine and switch off electronic devices 45 to 60 mins before bed time. And create a morning routine which does not involve checking your phone first thing in the morning.
  • Encourage a culture of work/life balance, making sure people know they do not always have to be on call or respond immediately to emails. Have realistic timeframes for when people need to respond. 
  • Develop support structures before projects start, offering signposting resources, clear pathways to get help, and creating a welcoming culture where people can speak up and share.
  • Pay attention to how people you are working with are, and whether they look stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted. 
  • Organise check-in sessions, where people are able to come in and talk about how they are feeling.
  • Building in peer support can also help build trust and avoid stigma and shame. 

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