There are times in my life when I feel I’m being stretched too thin and emotionally exhausted. I hardly have any time to myself. I drop into bed at night and jump up in the morning without a moment of reflection.
When this carries on too long, I become cranky and start resenting my situation which then morphs into a kind of numbness and low grade anxiety. That’s when I really have to pull myself together before I fall into the burnout hole. Because once I’m in it, it requires a lot more effort to get out of than mere morning walks and good intentions.
Some people think that burnout and depression are the same thing, but this study has confirmed that while they might share some traits, they’re not the same beast - burnout is more situational based. When we talk about burnout, we often think about job burnout - that overworked person, stressing out in the office. But burnout can happen even to those who are perceived to not have jobs (or rather, traditional jobs) such as stay at home parents under too much parenting stress, kids in school… anyone really.
When not dealt with in a timely manner, people can stay in a burnout state for a long time, sometimes without even knowing it. They just seem empty, angry and stressed out. Sometimes, even taking a few moments a day to yourself can help towards keeping burnout at bay.
Here are some ways that you can avoid and / or treat burnout.
A key factor in avoiding the burnout hole is to be aware that you’re heading towards it. In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to distract ourselves from the signs the body is sending us. We eat more, surf the internet more, drink more, maybe take some drugs, some medication - we bury and push it all down. But burnouts don’t happen overnight. They are an accumulation of a stressed out state that slowly leads to burnout. You body is constantly sending you signs - you just need to pay attention. What is your neutral state? Are you unnecessarily tired? Is your sleep pattern disrupted? Are you feeling cranky over things that don’t usually bother you? Do you want to run away but feel trapped?
Take a beat to examine where all this is coming from. Is this a situation you can get yourself out of? Once you know where you stand, then it’s much easier to take action.
Get enough rest
People with burnout suffer from sleep disruption and that also contributes to the burnout. It is critical for us to get enough rest so that the body can heal and balance itself. Do what you need, short of taking medication, to get yourself to bed on time. Clock out of work, cut down screen time, say an early goodbye to friends, just so you can allow your body to wind down and prepare for bed. Sometimes all it takes is a few nights of good sleep for the body to recharge.
What are you eating and drinking?
What you put in your body is obviously critical. The funny thing is, the more stressed we become, the more we tend to ignore basic healthy meals and the more we tend to ‘wind down’ with a drink at the local. Eating and drinking don’t necessarily lead to burnout, but they can sure exacerbate the problem! At the very least, eating healthy allows your body to get all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong.
Are you saying ‘No’ enough?
This is a big problem with most people. Boundary setting is very important and yet we either are stepping over someone else’s boundary or getting ours trampled on! Usually when we have a problem saying ‘no’, we are getting our boundaries knocked over - we feel bad, we feel guilty, we feel we ‘should’. It’s actually kind of ridiculous just how much time we spend trying to make others feel better when it is really their responsibility to do so.
There is no need to be rude about saying ‘no’ - learn a few polite ways to say it - and then use them. When you are stuck in a situation you don’t want to be in and the annoyance is setting in, you might end up taking it out on an innocent party. It is a little scary at first because you’re worried about letting people down, and sure some people will react badly, but in the long run when you’re in a good space, everyone benefits.
There is nothing selfish about taking time for self-care. It is the most important care of all. Because when you are your best, then you can better serve others - even your family. You need to honour yourself first. This might be something hard to wrap your head around because for so long we’re taught that the best kind of love is the kind where we sacrifice everything, even ourselves.
I have a friend who is a writer and mum to two wonderful young kids. She works hard at both her jobs and yet when her work is done and the kids are at school she feels guilty for taking a short afternoon nap! Naps are great for you and leave you recharged and she feels guilty for having one! Crazy, isn’t it?
So go ahead, have a nap, go watch that movie, say you can’t bake cookies for school, leave work on time (instead of staying overtime), take a holiday. Do what it takes to make yourself feel valued and cared for.
Time = Currency
Sometimes we live in a space where everyone wants a bit of your time. It can be exhausting. You’re pulled every which way except where you want to go. When I first starting telling people I couldn’t see them for no reason other than, “I need some alone time,” some people were outright mad at me! Why couldn’t I just fit them into my day?
But why should I? Why should we make time for people all the time? Why aren’t we allowed to have time for ourselves? Perhaps we spend most of our time at work? Honestly, when we don’t have time to ourselves to just allow our mind to daydream, or sit in nature, or even just get to our hobbies it can be really disruptive in the long run. Which brings me to…
Find time to meditate
However which way suits you. As you know meditation doesn’t always have be sitting down in silence. There are many different ways that one can get the benefits of meditation. Pick one that resonates with you and go with that. But do it often. There are countless researches that talk about the benefits of meditation, including reducing stress.
Hopefully these tips will help you gain your momentum in life again. Always look out for stress in your life and try and curb it before it affects you negatively in the long run.