As we approach the end of a long and difficult year, it is important to ensure you and your team rest, relax recover and avoid burnout.

Does anyone else feel like this right now?

As we approach the end of a difficult year, most of us are feeling more burnt-out than usual. We’ve all had to deal with a lot this year, in our own individual way, and we’ve done it all in more-stressful-than-usual circumstances.

In short, it’s time for many of us to have a rest.

With many of us and our teams planning on taking a break from work at the end of the year, it’s worth thinking about how resting involves switching off both your brain and your body.

I wanted to explore how allowing yourself (and by extension, your team) the chance to relax and recover makes you a stronger leader.

The deep impact of burnout

Australian academics have written about the burnout many of us are close to or already feeling after extended lockdowns and having to juggle multiple responsibilities. The symptoms extend beyond just exhaustion to areas like withdrawal, cognitive disfunction and reduced performance at work.

What this means is that a culture of work ‘til you drop is neither healthy nor productive.

We’ve seen it so many times in our leadership training courses here – teams where it quickly becomes obvious there is a culture where people feel stressed and overworked all the time. Breaking down and starting to address these unhealthy – and ultimately unproductive – habits can be a real turning point for a team.

So now’s the time to take steps to address any burnout your team and important you yourself may be feeling. And making sure everyone takes time off work in one way or another to recover.

A self-confident leader knows how to rest

If one positive has come out of the pandemic, it’s a refocus on our priorities including work/life balance. Recent research from Randstad found that 63% of people say work/life balance is the most important factor when choosing an employer. We realise that in order to be successful and productive, we don’t necessarily have to warm our seats for 8 – 10 hours a day.

For me, this lesson was amplified by (as I’ve written before) being forced to slow down and relax after an accident.  It made it clear that an important leadership skill to not only be able to manage your team’s potential exhaustion and stress, but manage your own.

Just look at how horses handle resting. In wild herds, horses watch over each other while they sleep, and they take turns doing this so everyone has a rest.  It shows not only a recognition of how important it is to rest, but that sometimes it’s a team effort to ensure that everyone gets their chance. Therefore, it’s worthwhile as a leader to put some planning into this to make it happen for your own team. For example, if one team member offers to cover over the Christmas break, then you should try to encourage them to take that rest time at a later stage.

A confident leader will have the self-awareness to see when they need a break and be comfortable trusting their team to keep everything going in their absence or push back on deadlines.

They will also recognise that they need to lead by example – if you never take leave yourself, then your team may not feel comfortable doing so themselves. Instead, they might up and leave altogether.

Tips for switching off

And remember, taking time off work is not the same as relaxing! You have to really switch your mind off – not an easy task for many of us (myself included).

For me, the horses are my saving grace here, because they always keep me in the present. When I spend time with them, they demand that I’m fully there in mind as well as body. It’s very grounding and it helps me switch off from all my other life duties for a while.

Try to find a way to do the same and lose yourself in the things you love too – whether that’s your family, your favourite sport or your new hobby.

Or, use some mindfulness techniques to help you stay in the moment, calm that wandering mind and appreciate the time you have.

Next week, I’ll explore this topic further as we look at some ways to physically help our bodies and minds unwind (with some help from our horses of course).

If you’re interested in a refreshing experience, why not try one of our unique leadership courses? Email to find out what equine assisted learning is all about.