I feel like burnout is something we all experience at one point in our lives. Doing what you love or committing yourself fully means you completely dedicate yourself to the cause and your work. And it’s amazing, really. Sometimes I work 16 hour days but I truly LOVE it, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived until now.
But it can also be exhausting. Painfully exhausting.
The kind of exhausted where you can’t think, move or in my case, even consider gathering the strength to look at another computer screen.
You’re entirely burned out.
I’ve found myself in that position many times. I think it’s very common in a job where you set your own hours. How do you know when to stop? Through experience I’ve learned that it’s ESSENTIAL that you also take the proper steps to care for yourself.
A few months ago, I was very seriously burned out. I had enough. I had no motivation, inspiration or creativity left which is quite terrifying given a lot of my job relies on creativity and new ideas. But I just couldn’t hack it. I was working 60 or more hours a week and my body was starting to give up. I had to make some serious changes to my work ethic and calendar if I wanted to be happy, productive and healthy.
Have you ever been in this situation? Really not ideal.
I’m still working on it myself, and there are undoubtedly times when I push too hard but I’d like to say I’ve come a long way. Sometimes burnout is inevitable due to unforeseen events, but there are ways you can help control it.
First things first, you have to accept it. You really can’t stay in denial thinking you’re just tired. If you’re burned out, it’s more than just being tired. You’re emotionally, physically & mentally exhausted. It’s when you experience lack of motivation, chronic stress and a constant negative attitude, and if you leave it, it can wreak havoc on your health. Once you accept it, then you can get to work on it.
Take some time off. I know, the most generic and typical response but also the most imperative. Given it’s importance, it’s something people still ignore (myself included) and push back. I’ve learned that breaks are actually a good thing and you shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time away for yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s essential. If your best friend, mother or sibling was going through a burnout, would you want them to take a break? Treat yourself the way you would treat others. You need breaks to evaluate your position, where you are, where you want to go and how you’re going to get there (ideally without forsaking your sanity). Fill this time with things you love. Spend time with loved ones, eat good food, visit new places, learn new things, or tick something off your bucket list. Bring back the good into your life.
Schedule. I really can’t count the ways or times a calendar and effective schedule has saved my life. I’m kind of OCD psycho because I plan everything down to the smallest details but that’s just what works for me. I don’t work well (or at all) when there’s no structure and system to my day. I’m all over the place like a full on mess, honestly. I think I’ve mentioned roughly 9396747 times before (maybe more?) that I use Google Calendar to time block my day/week/month/life. It has everything from content planning, meetings, reading, eating, & so on. You get the idea. I would highly advise everyone who is easily victim to burnout to schedule and plan time spent on each project. Allow enough time for 8 hours of sleep a night, make sure you’re keeping healthy, seeing friends, getting outside, & allocating yourself free time.
Plan a mini vacation. There’s no doubt I’m most inspired when I’m traveling or away from home. New sights, sounds, plans, people and routines all attribute towards this. I like a constant change and it’s one of the best ways I break out of any kind of rut. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just get away, plan a short staycation even if it’s just for the weekend, & let your mind recover. Do nothing or do everything, it doesn’t matter – just get away. Don’t think about what has burned you out. I will ALWAYS come back with a fresh perspective on things.
Ask for help. Everyone needs help at one point or another, it’s completely understandable. I’m annoyingly stubborn at times and I prefer to handle everything myself, so asking for help is not something I particularly enjoy. But sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you’re taking on too much. And it’s definitely not something you should ever feel ashamed or guilty to ask for.
Learn to say “no.” Many of us feel compelled to agree every request even if we are left with no time to ourselves. Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to disappoint, or be disliked and criticized – regardless, I think it’s important to learn how to say no. Don’t wait until your energy runs out before you take a step back. No one has infinite time and resources so choose your priorities carefully. This is a great article if you struggle with saying no.
Digital detox. Scrolling endlessly through social media or constantly checking for updates 24/7 can be a real energy drainer. Set aside some time on the weekend to leave your phone and laptop at home. Every few weeks on a Sunday I tend to completely disconnect from the online world. I don’t even take my phone out with me and although it’s difficult, it makes Monday a lot easier to deal with. I always feel so much more motivated & focused after some time away. Allow your brain some recharge time – it does wonders, honestly.