True confession – When I’m feeling burned out, uninspired, or just generally blah, the last thing I want is someone else’s cheesy Top 10 list. I don’t want someone telling me to just get up, do something else, or any of those other probably wise suggestions that I mostly already know.
I want a bubble bath. Now.
It isn’t that the suggestions on most Top 10 lists aren’t good. They generally are. I love to walk – it clears the cobwebs and makes my body feel fabulous. I love to take a break and read or do something unrelated to the task at hand even if it’s just Facebook. I love to dig in the dirt or have lunch with a friend or play artsy-craftsy or meditate. But when the burnout is profound, nothing will do but a warm lavender-scented bubble bath.
What is burnout really?
Maybe the problem is that we don’t really understand burnout. I always thought it was about working too hard and too long, but that’s only part of the story. At its core, burnout is about focus – being zeroed in too intensely for too long, or its evil twin being too all-over-the-map for too long. One is too narrow, the other is too scattered. Either way, your mind gets worn out and your body quickly follows.
Burnout is a wake-up call that everything and everyone in your life is receiving the care and attention they need – except you.
Consider this scenario – You’ve just started your ideal job. You’ve gone to school for it, trained for it, worked your way up the ladder for it and now, finally, you’ve got your Big Break. And you are not about to squander it. So you give them your all. You come in early, stay late, and check in on weekends. You eat, sleep, and breathe this job that you have focused on getting for so long, maybe to the detriment of the rest of your life. “So what?” you tell yourself. “There’ll be plenty of time for everything else once this is checked off my list and I can breathe easier.”
So you neglect yourself and the things that matter most. You end up too tired to enjoy your hobbies, hang out with family and friends, or even take care of your own health. Worse, you will almost assuredly become disillusioned with this job you just had to have. It isn’t so much a single catalyst, some awful incident, as it is a general overwhelming fatigue.
Burnout follows a clear formula – The demands on you exceed your internal resources and also deprive you of the time and energy to replenish those resources. Left unchecked, burnout will wreak havoc on your relationships, health, career, finances, and happiness.
Clearly, this is not a sustainably balanced lifestyle, but how many of us see it as plainly when we are dealing with the day-to-day? Nope, we justify, deny, excuse, and rationalize. We call it by other names.
9 warning signs that you are heading into burnout:
1. Exhaustion – Persistently feeling wrung out, spent, and tired emotionally, physically, and mentally. Occasional tiredness is normal. Chronic exhaustion is a cry for help.
2. Frustrated and Cynical – You feel bogged down, mired in a pervasive sense of hopelessness. What you’ve been doing feels like it doesn’t matter and maybe YOU don’t matter either. You’re feeling generally disillusioned and pessimistic.
3. Fuzzy Thinking – The more we have on our minds, the harder it is to think clearly. You notice yourself becoming more forgetful, unable to focus or concentrate. Without the ability to think clearly, ricocheting between fight or flight becomes your default mode.
4. Unmotivated – Lack of enthusiasm for things that once interested you. Harder to get up and get going. Feels like you are dragging yourself through your day...and your life. So you dabble aimlessly and stress yourself our further by getting nowhere.
5. Relationship Issues – Are you experiencing more conflicts? Getting into more arguments? Everyone is getting on your nerves? Or have you withdrawn with the excuses of no time or energy? Warning – You are pushing away your support network at a time when you might need it most.
6. Neglecting Yourself – Forgetting to take care of yourself or actively engaging in unhealthy coping behaviors like too much drinking, junk food, and smoking, or too little physical activity or sleep.
7. Being Preoccupied with Work Yet Seeing Your Performance Slide – Even when you’re not working, it’s on your mind, but not in a creative energized way. Instead, it’s bogging you down and preventing you from seeing obvious solutions. It’s also preventing you from recovering and being able to come back refreshed.
8. Health Issues – If you are suddenly faced with health issues, especially odd health issues and more especially if you have been relatively healthy up till now, burnout AKA stress is the place to start looking for underlying causes.
9. Generalized Dissatisfaction - You just don’t feel happy and fulfilled, but can’t quite put your finger on why. On the surface, you “should” have everything you want and need, but the feeling still persists.
So what can you do when you finally notice the symptoms? The experts offer a fairly standard list of options and frankly they are all good - if they work for you. And that’s the catch. Sometimes those lists start feeling like more “shoulds” and just up the ante on stress.
The real point of those antidotes for stress lists is twofold:
1. Do something, anything, different from whatever has been stressing you.
2. Choose something that works for you, that helps you feel more relaxed and pampered, that reminds you that you matter. Your needs and feelings are worthy of attention.
Feeling Burned Out? A few minutes of gentle yoga may be just what you need. >>>Click HERE<<<
Just in case you need that Top 10 list to get your soothing ideas flowing, here it is. Feel free to ignore any and all of it if that relaxes you:
Top 10 Ways to Relieve Burnout:
1. Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks – who says you have to do__________? Unless it’s bleeding or at death’s door, it may not need your attention. At least not right now. Let it wait. That's prioritizing, not procrastination.
2. Friends and Family – Grab someone and do something you both ENJOY. Spend time with actual human beings. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just being in the presence of another human being helps. And if family and friends aren't available in the moment, even strangers will do in a pinch. Simply smiling at the person next to you in line and seeing them smile back can be an instant mood booster. What's that you say? You're an introvert and this sounds way to people-y? Me too! And guess what. It works even for us.
3. Get Outdoors – Fresh air and sunshine are miracle cures. Amazingly, when I lived up north in places frozen for much of the year, I discovered that just getting out of the house or office was sometimes enough. So just get out! Go somewhere else. Changing your scenery also changes your state of being. Go for a drive or a walk, but get out of the house!
4. Eat Tasty Food – Real food is best. We are all smart enough to know that packaged, processed, and fast foods aren’t doing us any favors. If you like to cook, get into the kitchen and create something yummy. Or take yourself to that restaurant you’ve been dying to try and putting off. Pamper your taste buds. And remember, sometimes a snack is needed for energy. It might also be a reward for hard work.
5. Get Moving – I’m allergic to working out and going to a gym, but love to be moving. Sitting too long makes me stir crazy and shuts down my brain. I might as well get up and move because nothing productive is going to happen otherwise. Walking, stretching, yoga, and Nia are my favorites. Sometimes, I’ll run down the stairs and back up just to get my blood flowing. At the very least, take a stroll around your house or yard or block.
6. Take Breaks – Go get a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. Take a 5 minute walk, even if it's just around the house or office. Go outside. Have a quick chat. Anything that gets you out of your rut and off your butt for at least 5 minutes.
7. Plants and Pets – They are good listeners. Pets adore you unconditionally and plants let you interact with other living things without risk of argument. Both are infinitely relaxing. And fun.
8. Sleep – Most nights, I’m a great sleeper for 6 hours or so. Eight hours feels like an eternity and stresses me out. While the experts extol the virtues of 8 or more hours, you must learn to listen to your body and its preferences, then plan accordingly. It does you no good to adhere madly to rules that don’t fit your body’s rhythms. What does help is to establish a nightly ritual. It can be anything that signals your body and mind that it’s time for sleep – a cup of tea, a warm bath, a few minutes of reading. For me, it’s a moment of gratitude for the day (Sometimes I have to grind it out, but it's worth it) and 30+ minutes of reading a good novel. I diligently turn off business and family responsibilities and everything else during this time. It was a challenge at first, but if I can, you can, too. PS – If you are a daytime napper, go for it. It all counts as rest!
9. Meditate – Our minds are made for thinking, but still need a break from that strenuous activity. Even if you don’t have a particular meditation practice, you can teach yourself to turn off your mind and sit still for 10 minutes. The payoff is huge. When I first started, I had to set a timer. As a fidgeter, my initial goal was to just sit still for 10 minutes. (I had to start with 5 and work my way up.) Once I was able to sit still, I focused on letting my mind relax and drift. That felt foreign and stressful at first. (For more about my experience of learning to quiet my mind, check out Deliberate Creation.) A few minutes of meditation or quietude is refreshing any time I feel stressed or blocked.
10. Laugh – Laughter really is the best medicine. You can read something funny or chat with a funny friend or watch a video. Or you can just smile or laugh out loud...at nothing in particular. Just the physical act of smiling or laughing, even a little smile, will change your state of mind. It’s a minor miracle.
Go on and take a bubble bath, or indulge in whatever your personal equivalent of a bubble bath might be. After all, the goal is to do something for yourself that makes you feel like you matter. Especially if you’ve lost that feeling.
Stress happens. We all get burned out from time to time. Top 10 lists can give you some great ideas, but the best one is to ditch the lists, stop thinking about it, and just do something for YOU even if that means doing nothing at all for a little while.
At the beginning of this article, I said that burnout is a by-product of misguided focus. Truth is, focus is a two-faced friend. It is indispensable to getting things done. It can be a catalyst for mindfulness. It can also draw us deep into stress. Used well, it is one of our most powerful tools. Think of it like a toddler – Toddlers are great little people as long as they have some guidance. Focus on becoming that guide.
Feeling Burned Out? A few minutes of gentle yoga may be just what you need. >>>Click HERE<<<
Anne Wade is Teacher, Writer, Mentor, and Coach for courageous women in midlife and beyond who want to disrupt their own status quo and design life on their own terms, even in turbulent times. She has developed the Becoming Found process of going within to find and address the inner barriers we have all inadvertently built up against love, happiness, health, wealth and any other desires of our hearts. Teaching women to unapologetically shine like a superstar and live their legacy is Anne’s mission.
You can follow her on her Facebook page “Anne Wade – Becoming found” or join her “Becoming Found” Facebook group.
2 thoughts on “Feeling Burned Out? Do These 10 Things…or Not”
I would add one thing to your excellent article. Face and address your conflicts. Nothing robs us of emotional and psychic energy faster than unaddressed issues. Ask yourself why something is bothering you, then go deeper by reflecting on it- would this still be an issue if different people were involved, or a different time, or place…Once you address the real issue you can figure out a way to address it. This will free up tons of energy you are spending on trying to keep a lid on things. It also helps you reclaim some of the power we so easily allow to erode.
Excellent point, Frances. Nothing weighs us down more than lugging around our inventory of complaints and annoyances. Your point about getting to the bottom of things, especially asking yourself if you would feel the same if different people or circumstances were involved, is a crucial step many people miss or avoid. It seems so much easier to just react in the moment than to reflect. The even greater risk is that you begin defining yourself by what you can see that is “wrong” around you. That sends you down the rabbit hole of chronic complaining as if that were the solution. Focusing on being bothered is a direct path to burnout, stress, and general unhappiness.
Another way to look at is this: The thing that is annoying you isn’t the problem. You choosing to be annoyed about whatever it is instead of finding and addressing the root cause, that’s the problem.