Burnout is a serious risk to our health and well-being, and in a bid to stay productive and work hard, many of us can overdo it and become susceptible to emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. But studies have been carried out that show that spending time outdoors can reduce the symptoms of burnout and help us to find balance in our workday. These are just a few of the ways that nature has the potential to help us reduce the risk of burnout and find better balance when we’re at work.
What are the risks of burnout?
Burnout is caused by a number of factors, from long hours and excessive workloads to a lack of control or autonomy at work and feeling as though there’s a disconnect between your values and your employers’ values. Over time, it can cause stress and anxiety, as well as difficulty sleeping and even heart and circulation problems. There’s also the emotional turmoil that comes from feeling demotivated and low every day. It can have a negative impact on our emotional well-being to feel lost and aimless every day, especially when we’ve been feeling this way for a long period of time.
Finding ways to combat burnout is not only important for your health, both physical and mental. But it’s also the key to maintaining your motivation and purpose at work, as burnout can lead you to feel disconnected and unable to feel present, which can affect other areas of your life too. Essentially, by prioritising your health and monitoring the symptoms of burnout, you can ensure that you’re happier in your work, a more productive and satisfied employee, and that you’re reducing the risk of mental and physical health concerns.
Boosted defences from phytoncides
Studies suggest that chemicals released from plants, trees and grasses, known as phytoncides, actually increase the level fo white blood cells in our blood which boosts our immune system, improves our self-esteem and mood, and eases depression and anxiety. Adopting self-care habits that put your health and well-being at the forefront is one of the most effective ways to combat burnout, and spending time outdoors everyday – even if it’s only 20-30 minutes – can have a huge impact on your stress levels. Why not go for a walk on your lunch break to get some exercise and sunshine, or take your mid-morning coffee break in the garden to soak up some fresh air and enjoy the natural environment?
Reduced stress through forest bathing
We all know the feeling of getting to the end of the working week feeling thoroughly drained and exhausted. Today’s work environments can be very full on and when we’re in the midst of busy deadlines and long to-do lists, week in and week out, it can take its toll on our health. It’s an issue that’s long been a problem, but studies have shown that spending time in nature has the potential to reduce stress. In fact, in Japan, there’s a term for this very act – Shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing and is the act of spending time in nature. Researchers found that people who spend time in nature regularly have optimal nervous system functions and also benefit from a reduced risk of heart conditions.
Cognitive benefits from nature sounds
Being in nature is a multi-sensory experience, and it’s not just the visual impact and fresh air that benefits us. Researchers have found that even just the sound of nature can help to decrease stress and irritation, improving the mood of study participants and even helping them to perform better on cognitive tests, indicating that just listening to nature sounds can be as effective as hearing the real thing. This is great news for people working in urban areas who might not have easy access to natural spaces during the work day. Adding a natural soundtrack to your commute or listening while you’re working on tasks could help to lower the risk of work-related stress and decrease the chances of developing burnout.
Employees are at a greater risk of burnout today than ever before, with a pressure to be productive at all times and busier schedules than we’ve ever experienced. But in order to avoid the side effects of burnout and create greater balance between work and our personal lives, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with the stressors of everyday life. Nature is a surprisingly effective tool for achieving just that, helping to lower stress and anxiety, reduce the risk of depression, and boost our energy levels.
Whether it’s a walk in the park before the work day begins, taking time to enjoy your lunch in your own garden for some peace and quiet, surrounded by plants and fresh air, or even just listening to the sounds of nature, there are various ways that we can incorporate nature into our work routine for better health.
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