Life is a series of ups and downs. Its tribulations and joys are rarely evenly dispersed (when it rains, it pours, right?). Sometimes it can feel like you’re getting dealt one bad hand after another. Or maybe you’re not dealing with any one major issue on its own, but you just feel bogged down at work. Long hours, late nights, big projects, needy co-workers – all of these things can contribute to an issue that has been getting a lot of attention lately: burnout.
Everyone deals with burnout at some point or another, and it typically happens due to a number of different factors, not just one issue on its own. So when you’re looking to “fix” your burnout, or even just de-stress a bit, it helps to look at the big picture. Take a step back, examine your life as a whole, and make sure that you’re prioritizing the right things and taking time for yourself (even if it’s just five minutes). Unfortunately, we can’t all jet-set to Tahiti every time we feel burned out, but here are a few tips that might help.
Set Some Boundaries
Taking a vacation can be a wonderful reprieve from the stress and burden of work, but when the trip is over, we still go back to the same office and the same projects that were stressing us out before.
This is why setting healthy boundaries between you, your boss, and your job is crucial. Setting these will yield immediate positive results on your mental health because you’ll feel a sense of freedom and self-respect. Set a rule for how many hours you’re going to work per day and do your best to stick to it. This can be hard at first because you’ll feel like you’re not working hard enough, but it’s important to take time off so that you can be effective when you are at work. Once you've clocked out, you’ve clocked out – so don’t think about work! Worrying about how much you have to do the next day or calling a co-worker to make sure they have their notes for tomorrow’s meeting is eating into your time to unwind and de-stress. Even checking your email should be considered "off limits".
The shift to remote work has made it even more difficult to draw a firm boundary between home and work. When you’re off the clock, it needs to feel like you’re fully unplugged, otherwise, your brain never gets a chance to pause and recharge. So power down your computer, close your planner, and put the calculator away. Sometimes it helps to engage in a new task to focus on so that your brain doesn’t wander back to work, which brings us to the next tip…
Find a Hobby!
You don’t want to just sit around and twiddle your thumbs while you’re recharging – or worse, scroll through social media on your phone. Watching TikTok videos isn’t the healthiest way to recharge and might even make you feel more stressed (and depressed). Going for a walk is great, but you might need something more to get your mind off things. That’s why it’s a great idea to find a new hobby or start a personal project. This will help get your mind out of work mode while still accomplishing something that’s meaningful.
A hobby will help get your mind out of work mode while still accomplishing something meaningful.
I recently took up knitting, and it has been so fun to learn a new skill. I really underestimated how satisfying it would be to create something you can hold in your hands and that’s useful. Sure, the first scarf I knitted looked pretty shoddy, but I made it myself! It’s exciting to make something that you, your friends, or family can actually use. So take a cooking class, join a sewing group, or sign up for a tennis lesson! It’s never too late to try something new, and remember, you don’t have to become an expert or go pro. As long as your hobby is something that brings you joy, rejuvenates you, and gets your mind off life’s stressors, then that’s all that matters.
And no, I don’t mean go to the gym (although exercise can be a good way to combat stress too). Stress manifests itself in both physical and mental ways. Maybe you have a painful knot in your shoulder, a tension headache, or your muscles are tight. Try addressing the physical symptoms of your burnout so that you can get to the root of it more quickly. Acupuncture, visiting the chiropractor, or indulging in a relaxing massage are all great, holistic treatments you can try to combat stress. Your health insurance likely covers one or more of these things, so take a look at your plan and see what your options are.
Get Some ZZZs
Stress can also manifest itself in your sleeping patterns, or lack thereof. Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s nearly impossible for me to get a good night’s sleep. You should do your best to prioritize your sleep every night, but this is especially important when you’re feeling burned out. Do everything you can to make sure you’re getting a minimum of eight hours per night.
Set up a sleep routine so that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.
Set up a sleep routine so that you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Don’t scroll your phone before bed, and cut back on your consumption of sleep disruptors like coffee and alcohol. Have a cup of chamomile tea before bed and try a sleep meditation. If you’re having trouble getting a full eight hours of sleep, then this next tip might help you do just that.
Structure Your Day Better
Are you utilizing your time at work effectively or do you often find yourself procrastinating or scrolling social media for longer than you’d care to admit? Or maybe you’re trying to juggle too many responsibilities. If you feel like you’re burned out at work, take a realistic look at your schedule and see how you can better structure your day. Ask for help if you need to. Maybe you really do have too many projects going on right now and it’s causing things to slip through the cracks. Or maybe you need to change things up at work because you’re simply burned out by your current responsibilities. Approach your boss with ideas about how you might be able to tackle something new or shift your focus to another project instead.
Try to come up with ideas for ways to get creative with your time management. Block out parts of your day where you can minimize interruptions and meetings so that you can instead focus on getting things done. Look into time management strategies like the Pomodoro technique, where you break up your workload and focus on smaller chunks at a time. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be really effective to step back and try to conquer one task at a time instead of focusing on how much you have to do as a whole.
Life is hard. We all feel overwhelmed and burned out at times, so remember that you’re not alone and there’s no need to suffer in silence. Asking for help does not make you weak. The next time you’re struggling with burnout, try one of the tips discussed here and see how it goes. You’ve got nothing to lose!
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