Think back to your earliest childhood memories of school. Do you remember playing outside? Do you remember finger painting? Do you remember singing songs?
For most children, early education is all crafts, coloring, games and music. It is a time for exploration, expression, happiness. It is care-free. It is wonderful.
Somewhere along the way, though, the things that make learning fun fade out of curriculum. Pens replace paintbrushes. Songs become rote memorization. Physical education picks up where games of tag left off.
Put bluntly, it’s time to get serious.
As we get older, the things that characterized our early childhood don’t completely fade out of our lives, but they do undergo a tragic transformation. For, when an adult wants to sing, play an instrument, join a sports team, or take up knitting, there is a special name for it: a hobby.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a hobby as, “an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working.” Examples include traveling, sailing, and restoring motorcycles.
Okay, that doesn’t sound so bad. But, there’s something about the definition that suggests a hierarchy of responsibility. The understanding is: you work, and when you are not busy working, you can engage in a hobby. So inherently, hobbies are done in our free time, when we have nothing better to do.
Ironically, this work-minded mentality may actually be limiting our productivity. Sources like Forbes and Harvard Business Review (1) agree that increases in work-related stress can culminate in a debilitating sense of burnout, characterized by disengagement and a dip in job performance.
Just how serious is the problem? Dealing with burnout in a high-intensity job is kind of like sprinting through the first three kilometers of a marathon. You’ll feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and will probably think of dropping out of the race. And if you don’t find a way to fix the problem quickly, you might even damage your body and your mental state in the process.
Workplace burnout can also be characterized by a lack of motivation, antipathy towards coworkers and family, physical ailments, and cognitive breakdowns. Negative effects on productivity aside, employers who care about the wellbeing of their workforce should take burnouts very seriously, making sure to implement preventative measures and be able to identify the signs early.
Try out a workshop
The same studies that outline the dangers of burnout put forward an exciting suggestion: take up a hobby. Leisure-time activities are shown to combat the feelings of anxiety and exhaustion that characterize burnout, and should thus be considered a necessary part of employment.
Of course, no two hobbies affect a person the same way. Horseback-riding, for instance, offers a completely different array of benefits than taking a pottery class. So, to help you on your search for the perfect hobby, let’s get down to some specifics. Each of the categories listed below contains its own set of unique advantages, so you may even want to dabble in a bit of everything!
1. Build something beautiful (or not so beautiful, as long as you’re having fun!)
Activities like crocheting, painting, woodworking, or pottery are all great hobbies for anyone interested in reducing stress while also creating something practical or artistic.
The New York Times (2) has laid out a long list of the health benefits of knitting, from reduced chronic pain to the “development of neural pathways in the brain that help to maintain cognitive health.” Perhaps one of the best ways for these types of hobbies to address the concerns of burnout is the disruption of rumination which is a common indication of workplace unhappiness and exhaustion.
Alternatively, hobbies like painting and drawing are shown (3) to increase emotional intelligence, hone communication skills, and, again, reduce stress. Indeed, an article from the Huffington Post (4) suggests that creating art instead of consuming it is great for emotional health.
2. Have a game night!
From board games, to cards games, to charades, engaging in social fun is the perfect antidote for work-related stress.
Much like the effects on mental health of the previous two categories, playing games with family members, friends, or coworkers can reduce stress and disrupt rumination patterns. These benefits can also aid in the improvement in your immune system.
Board games have an additional bonus. They strengthen social relationships, which is important because research (5) indicates that strong, positive social connections are critical for physical and mental wellbeing.
3. Get physical!
Whether you want the competitiveness of tennis or the wackiness of inner tube water polo, there are sports teams available for you to explore. In addition to being simply fun, athletic games have both physical and mental advantages that will help beat the workplace blues.
Physical exercise is widely considered (6) crucial for overall health, leading to reduced blood pressure, improved stamina, stronger bones and mitigated risk of heart disease, just to name a few. Yet, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (7) in 2011, only 43% of adults met the sufficient threshold for daily physical exertion.
Research (8) shows that athletic pursuits aren’t just good for your body. Exertion releases certain chemicals in the brain related to overall good mood, elation, and brain cell growth. It is also responsible for lower stress levels and decreased likelihood of depression or anxiety. There are even physical hobbies that exclusively teach mindfulness and meditation, such as yoga and tai chi.
As you have probably already noticed, each type of recreational class listed above offers the potential to create a fulfilling, stress-free life that can not only make you happy outside of work, but can also greatly reduce the risk of professional burnout. The key is to find a hobby that truly makes you happy, and stick with it. After all, prioritizing your wellbeing is perhaps the best way to ensure that work-related stress doesn’t creep up so that you can be at the top of your professional game.
One article couldn’t possibly cover the expansive world of workshops and recreational classes in Sydney, but hopefully you have a few good ideas to get started. If you’d like to share your own remedies for workplace burn out, let us know!
7 abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/4364.0.55.004Chapter1002011-12