How little daily acts of renewal can help keep burnout away
How are you feeling? Honestly?
Feelings matter. How we feel influences how we show up, and how we perform in life in and out of work. So it's useful to notice our feelings. To notice where is our emotional energy going. Because we can't change what we don't notice.
Unfortunately, we're pretty bad at this. We're so busy that we are often unaware of how we're feeling. We simply get along by doing. By doing more. And still more. We’re overwhelmed with chronic daily stressors, yet we’re oblivious to the impact our emotions have on our performance. And on that of the folks we work with, because our emotions are contagious.
What are emotional zones (and how can they help us avoid burnout)?
We can operate in four distinct emotional zones throughout a typical day. The nature of each zone is dictated by the intensity both of our emotional energy and the pleasantness of the emotion.
Let’s start with the Performance Zone (high energy, pleasant emotions), as it’s the place to be when we're focused on a task. We're in flow, calm, optimistic, engaged, creative. This is where we are when we're at our best. Yet it's hard to remain in the Performance Zone. In fact, it’s impossible to stay here uninterrupted. We get tired. Maybe things don't go to plan. The unpredictability of life happens.
So, we shift into the Survival Zone (high energy, negative emotions). Fear, anger or frustration kick in. This is fight or flight time. Our ability to think clearly is diminished. Our creativity is extinguished. We lack focus. We get defensive. For many businesses, operating in this zone is the norm. It's the way things get done. You can imagine how that will work out.
If these negative emotions are too intense for too long, we drop into the Burnout Zone (low energy, negative emotions). The stress is too much. We're empty, exhausted, hopeless, and maybe depressed. This is a performance vacuum, pure and simple.
But there is hope. It's the zone we don't visit regularly enough that's the key to avoiding burnout. Welcome to the Renewal Zone (low energy, pleasant emotions), the body’s built-in recovery system. Here our mind, body and spirit get adequate downtime. We feel at peace and mellow.
How to get into the zone
The big question is, how do we get into this zone? It’s much easier than you probably think. Studies show that simple acts like meditation or prayer, stroking a pet, play and laughter, spending time in nature and exercise all help restore balance, increase our resilience and boost our immune system.
You'll probably try to tell yourself you don't have time for this stuff. However, the variety of renewal activities is more important than the duration. If you notice you're rarely in the Renewal Zone, make a list of the activities you enjoy most and prioritise time to recharge your emotional energy for a few moments throughout your day. Then you’ll be ready to step back into the Performance Zone with vim and vigour. Imagine how that will feel. Imagine the impact on those around you.