I will admit, my schedule is packed. I have pretty much every minute of the day planned from the time I wake up until I go to bed at night. Around mid-February I was beginning to notice that I dreaded going into work and I easily became overwhelmed with tasks. I was feeling tired despite having 7-9 hours of sleep per night and I began to wake up frequently during the night. I started to think I needed to have a vacation, though I had just come back from a few days in Mexico. Finally, I had to face it. I was in the initial stages of burn out. So I took a few sick days to tend to my mental health, committed to no phone or emails before 12pm, and I began to reflect on what I was experiencing.
Burn out can happen to the best of us. Parents, teachers, doctors, machinists, bankers, ANYONE!
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Typically reserved for those high-achievers who do not give themselves credit for what they have accomplished and who often feel there is "more work" to do. Burnout can leave a person feeling depleted, exhausted, inadequate, anxious, and overwhelmed. There are varying degrees of burnout and the longer it goes unaddressed, the more severe the symptoms may become. I began to recognize I was feeling burned out because of my thoughts. As a therapist, I spend much of my time pouring into people professionally and personally, sometimes forgetting I need to replenish what I put out. Having difficulty sleeping is a huge sign for me. On a good day, I sleep throughout the night and naturally wake up at 7am. For several weeks, I was waking up at 3am with racing thoughts focused on what I needed to complete. I knew there was an issue when I spent more time trying to figure out how to complete tasks and beating myself up when I wasn't able to cross things off my list. It took my therapist, sister, and several friends to talk me into taking a few days off. I took their advice to press reset and do some self-care.
Addressing burnout is simple: improve your self-care and work on reducing stress.
Here are three steps:
It's super easy to say yes to everything but when in burnout, saying yes creates more tasks to accomplish. "No" is a complete sentence and should be exercised. Don't take on any new projects or meetings when recovering from burnout. Put the phone on silent, schedule limited time for email and social media. Take a good look at your boundaries and see where you can make adjustments. Are you working long hours unnecessarily? Can you adjust your schedule and add in some quiet time? Take inventory of who you're spending (or not spending) time with and surround yourself with positive people who can support you in your time of need.
Take care of your body
Have you ever heard of HALT? Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. When we are feeling any of these, it is our body's way of signaling us that we need to take care of something. At minimum, make sure you are getting adequate nourishment, rest, drinking enough water, and checking on your emotional health.
One of the reasons burnout is allowed to thrive is because we are not honoring how we feel and give ourselves some grace. I like to say we can find balance by getting back to the basics. What is proven to help you relax and is your go-to self-soothing technique? Use that. Take inventory of your thoughts and the areas of your life where you feel frustrated or overwhelmed and then identify one way you can adjust the situation to feel less stressed. Focus on being consistent with adding positive change to your life.
Other ways to find balance: meditate, use relaxation techniques, pray, journal, exercise. Find ways to reinforce the positive changes you are making by giving yourself a pep talk and accepting support.
The best way to deal with burnout is to recognize the every day stressors we may not be adequately addressing. While I did feel better with some time away from work, I knew to have lasting change, I would have to be intentional about my self-care and be mindful of when I am feeling overwhelmed.