How to avoid burnout – 7 steps to occupational wellness

I started off writing this article with a focus on burnout. The epidemic of our generation, burnout is the absolute exhaustion felt once we are overwhelmed by constant demands and lack of boundaries.

The WHO recently defined burnout as an occupational syndrome, so it seemed like a useful counterpoint to introduce the subject of occupational wellness.

But I really struggled to write it. Lost in the complexities of symptoms and risk factors, the article became so negative that it left me in a funk for the rest of the day.

So I’ve brought the focus back to the opposite of burnout – occupational wellness. With some tips on goals to help you achieve this, it is far more inspiring and positive than focussing on the problem!

What is occupational wellness?

Occupational wellness is having a sense of purpose and meaning to your daily activity.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Whilst the term ‘occupational’ is often associated with career and workplaces, it can equally apply to anything that occupies your time – for example, domestic duties, volunteer work, or studying.

When this purpose is in line with your personal values, you feel stimulated, inspired and motivated to achieve.

Other factors for occupational wellness include a good work-life balance, the ability to manage workplace stress, and good relationships with co-workers. (source)

Why is it important?

As mentioned above, occupational wellness is the opposite of burnout. Burnout can be a serious condition, affecting every aspect of our wellbeing.

Read more about burnout in these articles:

The 6 Causes of Professional Burnout And How To Avoid Them – John Rampton,
Risk Factors for Burnout: The 6 Burnout Triggers – Joe Robinson,
Why burnout is killing your business – Mela Hajderaj, The Institute of Management New Zealand

As the opposite of this, occupational wellness has the potential to have a positive impact on every aspect of your wellbeing.

Emotional wellbeing
Image courtesy of Pixabay

On a spiritual front, when your work is aligned to your personal values, you have a strong sense of purpose and meaning. Emotionally, you will feel happy and balanced. Intellectually, you’ll be challenged at the right level, enhancing your creativity and productivity. You’ll be engaged, focussed and confident. You’ll feel energised and physically well. You will feel like a valued member of your community/ies.

So how can you achieve occupational wellness?

7 steps to occupational wellness

Here are 7 steps to help you achieve occupational wellness. Remember, occupation can refer to however you occupy your time, not just paid work.

1. Find your purpose

The easiest way to achieve occupational wellness is to align your occupation with your life’s purpose.

Image by amyfriesemke from Pixabay

Your purpose is based on:

  • Your passions & interests
  • Your core values
  • Your talents and skills

If you’re able to find an occupation that encompasses all of these, you’ve hit the jackpot! Smaller steps would be to identify what the ultimate occupation would be and start working towards it, or to make sure that your occupation isn’t in direct conflict with any of these.

Make sure you are true to your own purpose – not something that is expected of you by others (either friends or family, or society in general), or purely for financial gain.

As you grow and develop, your purpose may change over time. Or you may find that you didn’t get it quite right. That’s okay. Make time to re-evaluate on a regular basis (maybe annually).

2. Research your opportunities

Once you’ve determined your purpose and potential occupations, consider what opportunities are available. Are there organisations that offer the opportunity you require? If not, can you start one?

If your desired occupation doesn’t meet your financial need, how can you ensure those needs are met?

If you’re looking for a potential employer, research their culture. Do their values align to yours, and do they practise the values they have subscribed to? Ideally speak to someone who works there. Organisational culture and community is a big part of occupational wellness.

3. Become an expert in your field

Once you have determined your ideal occupation, learn as much as you can about it. Research, take courses, network – take advantage of any opportunity to grow your knowledge.

And once you’ve built your knowledge, share it. Give presentations, participate in online forums, write articles – you want to become an expert in your field. Make sure you get any relevant certification, and join any professional associations.

4. Develop your skills

Next, work on your occupational skills. Developing your skills helps things to run more smoothly, which in turn will give you more confidence. As with knowledge, once you have mastered a new skill you can share this expertise with others.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Examples of skills that you may want to develop include: public speaking, report writing, organising – time management, budgeting, people skills. To determine which would be most relevant for you, reflect upon where you are currently spending too much time on tasks, or feeling frustrated.

5. Assert yourself

Learning the art of assertiveness is an important tool for your occupational wellness. If occupational wellness depends on the alignment of your values with those of the organisation, you need to be able to speak if things go wrong. But you need to do this in a professional and considerate manner.

These skills are important within any relationship, not just occupational ones. Similarly, negotiation is an important skill to master.

6. Understand yourself

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Embrace your strengths and celebrate them. Choose whether you need to work on developing your weaknesses, or whether you are able to accept them. If they are likely to impact on your opportunities, it would probably be worthwhile to work on them.

7. Don’t stagnate

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Once you reach your goals, don’t stop! Yes, take some time to celebrate your achievement, but don’t stagnate.

Track your achievements regularly to identify any areas that could be improved (and remember to celebrate wins!). Find new ways of doing things, or learn a new tool.

Working on challenges helps to motivate us and keeps us intellectually stimulated. It also uses your creativity and problem-solving skills to find solutions.

Final words

Occupational wellbeing takes a long time to develop. If you’ve fallen into an occupation because it paid well, or it was what your parents wanted for you, or because you have kids to look after, don’t expect to change your situation overnight.

Take some time to reflect upon what your ideal is, and see what small changes you can make to incorporate this into your life. Maybe you can take up a hobby outside of work, or go back to school, or maybe you can find a similar job in a company that more aligns with your values.

Or perhaps you already have occupational wellness. If so, please leave us a comment and let us know what it is that you find satisfying about your job, to help inspire other readers.

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Finding Balance
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Improve your emotional wellbeing
Beat the boredom: goals to help you improve your intellectual wellbeing

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6 Replies to “How to avoid burnout – 7 steps to occupational wellness”

  1. This post resonates with me so much. In March of this year I quit working in a field I’d been in for 2.5 years because of burnout (which can happen way faster than many might think!). I agree with you that a lot of it comes down to finding a job that matches your values and getting over the fact that your purpose may be different from what your loved ones think it should be. You have to find what’s right for you!

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