Zero stress is bad, but so is burnout – how do you find the sweet spot?

ArticleOctober 19, 2022

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The end of year always adds more to people’s plate than they are already balancing - let alone having to do it whilst navigating a post-lockdown re-entry into society (many with one hand clutching the safe haven they have built over the last eight or more months).

Managing finances, travel, extra social celebrations, and festivities is known for bringing on more stress so it’s important, especially this year, to be conscious of your limits. Just like work stress, there is a sweet spot between being bored or un-engaged and completely over-worked and burnt out.

We call this sweet spot the ‘optimal performance’ zone – the space where we can perform at our best, gain new skills through ‘stretch’ activities and have enough pressure to spur us on without being so strained that our brain begins to fog and lose focus.

Looking at stress this way helps to remind us that generally we don’t actually want no stress. And often the things we worry about at the end of the year are also the things that we really enjoy – like reconnecting with the people we care about.

The ‘optimal performance’ zone is different for everyone so being aware of what that looks like for yourself is the first step to ensuring you aren’t unconsciously wondering to either side of it.

How can we stay in the optimal performance zone during the holidays?

  1. Write a list of the things that you foresee as being the biggest risk factors to pushing you into burnout over the festive break (e.g. overextending yourself socially or financially)
  2. Think about what you could do to combat each of these.
  3. Would a little more time off work takes the pressure off and allow recovery time?
  4. If you’ve got too many events scheduled to keep up with – are there any that could be postponed?
  5. If you’re concerned about feeling lonely – if there an old friend or neighbour, you could invite to lunch or a coffee?
  6. Looking at the end of the year as a whole means you can better plan ways to ease the pressure - such as cooking a big batch of treats to jar for the people you’re seeing rather than having to purchase individual gifts.

Rather than getting caught up with what the end of year will bring for you – think about what you would ideally want this time to look like.

How can you incorporate more of the things you enjoy into the time you have?

Go easier on yourself! You may have had to change plans due to the pandemic, or you may just not be as ‘up for stuff’ as usual. All of this is OK and so is telling people that you are trying to be good to yourself and not commit to as much!

This article was provided by SuperFriend, a national mental health organisation helping workplaces improve mental health and wellbeing for their employees and customers.