“Don’t set yourself on fire…”

Published on: January 16, 2020


“Don’t set yourself on fire…”

I’m stealing a quote from fellow chamber executive Anissa Starnes: “Don’t set yourself on fire to keep others warm.”

Good point. What she’s talking about is burnout. I know, you just got back from the holiday vacations. But being with your family is neither that easy nor relaxing. And the time you spent away from the office is evident by the piles of paper and phone message slips on your desk.

So what is burnout? It’s the emotional, physical or mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. You know it’s there when you feel overwhelmed, drained and unable to meet demands in your life. If every day seems like a bad day, and you sometime feel like you can’t breathe, you need to re-access.

What can cause burnout? Having little or no control over our schedules and being forced to accomplish X, Y and Z in a day no matter what. Also, unclear or overly demanding job descriptions. Yikes! And this is one that surprised me: Lack of recognition or rewards for what we do. And one we do all the time — saying “yes” when we should say “no.” Because, of course, we are people-pleasers.

So how can we avoid burnout? We need to unplug each day ­— just for a little while — 5, 10, 15 minutes. Go for a walk, close your eyes, read a newspaper or a book, even visiting Facebook is okay. Then the experts recommend something I cannot do.

They say pick a time of day to return all your emails and phone calls. I used to have a client who would only answer phone message and emails from 1 to 2 p.m. each day. It was good for him, but not for any of us waiting for an answer to our questions. So, I’ll skip that. Although I do need to realize that every time I hear the ding of a new email or see the voicemail red light pop up on the phone, I do not have to answer immediately … but I need to answer before between 1 and 2 p.m.

And don’t be afraid to ask for what you need — a day off, more resources, support. And take a meeting-free day once per month. It can be a deal changer to clear your head and recharge your energy.

But the best words of advice to avoid burnout came from my father who was fond of saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Thanks, Dad. Just give it a try. I want you burnout-free throughout 2020.

Lynne Conlan is Executive Director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce. Call her at 813-634-5111, or email