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How Managers Can Help Their Teams Avoid Burnout

We've all been told that getting an 8-hour sleep is enough to recuperate from a long day. But how come there are times when we still feel tired after sleeping?


Contrary to what most of us know, sleeping isn't the only form of resting. Getting the wrong kind of rest (like more sleep) won't make up for what you actually need. So, knowing where you're depleted and then refilling your batteries with the appropriate activities, not just more sleep, will ensure you and your team will always have the energy to do your best.


What are these other forms of rest? How do you help yourself and your team get the correct type of rest needed to avoid burnout?


Fortunately, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, a Board-Certified internal medicine physician, work-life integration researcher, and author of Sacred Rest, joined me to explore this often misunderstood topic.


The Truth About Rest


Burnout happens when stress from work reaches a tipping point. While burnout is common, especially in today's fast-paced modern workplace, as a manager, you have the power to prevent it. Not only can you ensure workloads are manageable, you can also help your team incorporate restorative practices into their daily life.


According to Dr. Saundra, resting isn't simply about taking a break. Instead, think of rest as restorative practices or activities we do that pour back energy into our place of deficit. From this perspective, it’s easy to see that sleeping is only one aspect of physical rest.


Hence, if we put all our attention into getting more sleep to recuperate, we're missing out on improving the other area(s) of our functioning that need rest.


7 Types of Rest


According to Dr. Saundra, there are seven types of rest: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, and creative.


As mentioned above, sleeping (or napping) is one of the two components of physical rest. The other component is active physical rest, which includes yoga, pilates, stretching, massage therapies, or even the ergonomics of your chair and workstation.


Mental rest is needed when our brain has reached exhaustion. Common signs that you need mental rest are sleepless nights, difficulty recalling information, or staying focused. According to Dr. Saundra, a simple way to get mental rest is to practice mindfulness activities such as journaling and meditation.


Next up is spiritual rest, or the need to connect with something bigger than yourself. But at the core of it, regardless of your beliefs or spiritual affiliations, spiritual rest could involve being a part of a religious or faith-based group, volunteering to help others, joining a cause, or the like.


There's also emotional rest, which is when you’ve been using energy to regulate your emotions and need an outlet. Ideally, there is one or more people in your life who you can talk to and release your emotions, whether that is venting, crying, or just talking it out. If you don’t have a trusted person, emotional rest can include anything from writing your emotions in a journal or doing creative expressions like writing a poem or throwing paint against a wall.


Another form of rest is social. While humans need social connection, Dr. Saundra explained that it takes varying amounts of energy to engage with our colleagues and clients. If you’re around people who are socially draining or pulling from your energy, it’s important to spend time alone or with people who energize you.


The sixth rest is sensory rest, or giving our eyes and ears (but really our brains) a break from all the buzzes, dings, background noise, computer screens, etc. Dr. Saundra noted that even if we think we’re tuning it all out, our brain is using energy to do that processing. When we become sensory overwhelmed, our typical response is usually irritation, agitation, rage, or anger. In these cases, we need to close our eyes and find some quiet.


The last type of rest is creative. Spending your day problem-solving, thinking creatively, or doing other generative work takes a toll on your brain. Creative rest involves finding inspiration. This can be enjoying natural beauty, such as spending time in nature or looking at photos of the ocean or mountains. It can also be man-made beauty like art, theater, dance, and music.


What Managers Can Do


Dr. Saundra shared approaches that managers can use to help their teams incorporate more restorative practices and avoid burnout.


1. Don't tell someone they looked burned out


This may sound like a no-brainer, but telling someone they look tired doesn’t usually lead to a productive conversation. Instead, if you’ve noticed they’re not showing the same level of energy as you’ve seen from them in the past, you can ask how they’re doing. Making space for them to share is a great way to start the conversation.


2. Incorporate restorative practices into the workday


Dr. Saundra and her team learned that modeling will go a long way. For example, one of the easiest ways to incorporate restorative practices is starting a meeting with stretching exercises. Given most of us spend all day sitting at a desk or on Zoom, taking a moment to stand up and move our bodies can give us a little energy boost before engaging in discussion.

Another example when it comes to modeling restorative practices is making space for emotional rest. For example, when a huge change is coming to the team or organization, give your team time to focus on something other than that big change, which can be emotionally sensitive. Instead, acknowledge the emotional rollercoaster by saying, "I know that this is a change that will require some growth from all of us. I’m sure you all have a lot of feelings about what’s coming, and I’m here to talk if you want."


3. Be a thought partner


Lastly, give your team access to tools and guides they need to rest well. Instead of telling your team, "Seems like you need some creative rest; go figure out how to do that and come back rejuvenated," you can say, "Okay, when you're experiencing emotional exhaustion, here are a few to help you find some emotional release. Might one of those feel good to you?" Always be specific while also making room for the other person’s ideas. This shows that you genuinely care for your team and want to support them to get enough rest.


Resting is powerful, but knowing which type of rest you need can ensure you and your team feel re-energized. Many restorative practices are easy to incorporate into the workday. So, the next time your team member shows up tired, teach them how to integrate restorative practices in the middle of their busy day. The results will be better performance and a healthier workplace for everyone.



Listen to my entire conversation with Dr. Shaundra HERE for an in-depth discussion about rest.


Connect with Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith:


- Follow Dr. Saundra on LinkedIn here

- Visit her website for more information here

- Take the rest assessment here


Giveaway: 1 Copy of Sacred Rest


One member will receive a copy of Dr. Saundra’s best-selling book, “Sacred Rest: Recover Your Life, Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Sanity.” The winner will be able to choose either an ebook, audiobook, or paperback copy. But you must enter the drawing by December 4th.


Get all of these guest bonuses and many other member benefits when you join The Modern Manager Podcast+ Community.


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The Modern Manager is a leadership podcast for rockstar managers who want to create a working environment where people thrive, and great work gets done.

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