Doug Rathbone is a software architect working in Ad land. He is passionate about software design and automation, and regularly contributes to a number of industry sites on these topics. Douglas is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 62 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

10 Tips to Avoid Mental Burnout

04.25.2012
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So we've all read posts like these probably a million times. These are the things that I have found helped me. You may find variations on the theme but I thought it was important to get the conversation started, so that if anyone out there is feeling the same way I was, and is looking for potential answers, I'd be able to give them some ideas.

 

ZenGarden 1. Give your self some time alone

This is probably the most important. It affects your interactions with others ( including family ) and also affects your self image. One to two times a month unplug completely. Unplug from technology by leaving your phone at home. Unplug from everyone around you that is always there (your wife, flat mate, whatever).

Go somewhere that you enjoy and spend some time doing something on your own, whether it be fulfilling a hobby, laying in the beach, exercising or reading a book ( non IT related ) it's important to have some wind down time for you, kind of like nap time in pre-school. All that's important is that you forget about everything and reconnect with who you are, what you’re about, and what you want from life without all the "noise" of life hustling and bustling around you.

 

2. Find interests out of IT

Depending on the type of person you see yourself as you may have interests out of IT already or you may have none. Either way it is good to stop and have a look at the world around you, and find something else to add to your life.

 

3. Read things that aren't IT related

Reading has many benefits. It can empty your mind, take you to places you've never been, let your imagination run wild and makes your written and spoken grammar/spelling better.  If you stay away from books about new programming languages, or the secrets to some new design pattern, you should be good.

Even reading the paper on a Sunday can contribute to this. Finding things that pull your interest in and keep it is the thing to aim. If you’re into sci-fi, history, biographies or the latest John Grisham, make sure you’re not simply forcing yourself to slog it out reading something that doesn't interest you.

 

4. Eat healthy

This can be harder for some people than others. Eating healthily has many benefits, and I'm not talking about the ones that fitness trainers rave on about. By eating foods with extra iron, protein and carbohydrates you can considerably change both your level of productivity/mental alertness, as well as stopping you from getting tired earlier in the day.

Sometimes just the feeling of constantly being tired can make you feel burnt out on it's own, and this can lead to a negative  feeling towards your job, as you’re usually coming home from it tired. If you are feeling burnt out because you're feeling tired at the end of the day, checking your diet can help a lot. Adding more fruit, as well as making sure you get breakfast everyday (even if it's just some toast) contributes nearly instantly to a better feeling of well being.

 

5. Exercise regularly

Exercise, like your diet will help to keep you alert as well as reducing your stress levels. You'll notice that a lot of successful people both in and out of IT make a special effort to try and stay active.

It's important to note that if your not a very active person, that this needs to be approached from a confidence building exercise prospective.

Don't try and run a marathon.

Set yourself simple achievable goals and start by aiming low. If you tell yourself you’re going to walk around the block for 10 minutes a day you achieve two things: you have a goal that you’re easily going to achieve, so you won't feel like it's a burden "it's only 10 minutes" while at the same time you get a feeling of well being by achieving a goal you've set yourself. Make the goal harder every day/week and before you know it you'll be both fitter and happier.

 

6. Attempt to set and achieve goals

As said above about exercise, achieving things you've set yourself will contribute greatly both to your self confidence and your overall life. By sitting down and thinking of things you want to do, and setting into action ways to achieve them you'll feel great. Want to be better at something? Want to achieve positive change? Sit down and work out what you want, and go get it. This sounds cheesy but will work.

 

7. Give something back to the community (online or offline)

Giving your time can be a great re-energizer. Whether it is by contributing to an open source project or giving your time to a local charity/school/church giving can be very rewarding. If open source I suggest you try with simple tasks first like bug fixes or documentation, as starting your own OS project can actually do the opposite and make you feel aggressively "unloved" for your efforts.

 

8. Take planned short breaks at work

This one is pure gold. If you work near any shops, or are in the CBD, get up from your desk and walk to pick something up. Whether it may be an afternoon coffee or a snack, just getting away from your desk for 10 minutes can make the difference between a brain made of mush after work and having the endurance to power on.

 

9. Take short breaks away from work

Everyone longs for a holiday, but not all of us have time. Getting away from work and getting some perspective can make all the difference. The trick is to lock it down from a distance - If you don't have time to think after a long day you need to plan well in advance. If you’re short on time go away for just a weekend but go away somewhere ( get out of the city ).
The advantages of organising in advance are many fold but just some of the reasons this is a great saviour :

  • By organising in advance you have some light at the end of the tunnel. You’re working towards an endpoint. This stops you feeling bogged down.
  • You will probably be able to get cheaper everything in your mini holiday ( accommodation, flights etc ) because you are booking in advance
  • You won't have to explain yourself to your bosses etc. as it's a done deal. I know of plenty of work places in this post recession era that will happily turn down leave if requested. Asking for time off in anticipation is like asking your bosses if they want to go without you for a period of time. In a lot of cases the answer to this is never going to be yes. A passive aggressive stance of already having the trip away booked leaves little room for the answer no.

If this last one is the case though I may suggest number 10 as an option. Life is too short to work in a crap place of employment.

Published at DZone with permission of Douglas Rathbone, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)

Comments

Mark Unknown replied on Thu, 2012/04/26 - 1:21pm

I guess some of the same applies to emotional and spiritual burnout. I am more affect in those than mental.

Paul Russel replied on Sun, 2012/06/10 - 9:25am

One thing in addition to "eat healthy" is to "sleep more". Getting between six (the very least) or 7 1/2 hours of sleep a day can make a huuuge difference.

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