6 Strategies For Beating Burnout
Overwhelm, stress, exhaustion, burnout—unfortunately, many of us are intimately familiar with this list. And we know we don’t need to say it, but the pandemic only exacerbated these feelings for employees, caregivers, and people everywhere. We felt the weight of our responsibilities increase tenfold, and with limited access to many of the things that help us connect with our calm—workout classes, time spent with friends, and anything that got us out of our homes—suddenly, burnout was on everyone’s mind.
Burnout as a concept has been around for a while now—American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first introduced the word to describe the impact of stress in professions like childcare and social work in the 1970s—but its widespread use has blown up in recent years. Long hours at work, little support at home, and increasing demand on our time and energy has resulted in countless health problems: fatigue, headaches and depression, to name a few.
So if your sink’s stacked high with an endless pile of dishes, your inbox is full (and has been for what feels like months), or your brain is a jumble of thoughts with all there is to get done each day, keep reading. We’ve got tried-and-true tips and guidance that’ll help you create space for relaxation, rejuvenation, and all that you need to feel supported in your everyday life.
Learn To Say No
It’s not just the people pleasers among us: Saying no or declining when something is asked of you can be one of the most difficult decisions to make. In the moment, providing help or accepting an invitation can seem like the easier route, and because the choice to do so is ingrained in our culture, we automatically offer up a yes.
While your immediate response may have been positive—I’m a good friend for babysitting this weekend! I am so excited to show my support in that volunteer position!—if you aren’t saying yes for the right reasons, somewhere down the road, those feelings are going to shift. In their place? Resentment, regret, and increased stress are all likely candidates, and when those come into the picture, not only do you feel badly about your decision, but you likely won’t show up to your commitment as your best self.
Take a moment to reflect on the last time this happened—we’ll bet you don’t have to look too far in the past for an example. How did the experience play out? Learning from the past is an effective way to confirm for yourself that this cycle is real, and connecting with the specific emotions of the experience may make it easier to opt for the decision that’s better for you in the future.
If saying no in the moment feels like too much of a challenge, tell the person making the request that you need some time to think about it. Giving yourself a buffer to reflect, looking at your schedule, and taking stock of your current commitments can help you avoid the temptation to immediately accept. Saying no is a powerful way not only to lighten your load, but to reaffirm the truth that you are empowered to choose what you bring into your life.
Identify What’s Important
Loading ourselves up with task after task can make it difficult to determine which points on our to-do list actually matter (and actually needs to be done right now). When we’re experiencing stress and burnout, it can feel like everything is a priority, but when you pause and take a little time to reconsider and reflect upon the day’s demands, it becomes easier to see what can wait.
Try getting intentional about what you’re putting on your plate. While we’ve always been told that going above and beyond is the only way to ensure we’re doing a good job, this mindset can come close to perfectionism, making it challenging to ever truly be satisfied with our effort. Create a clear definition between what is and isn’t essential. Those to-do’s that can wait? Save yourself the stress and schedule them for later.
Define Your Boundaries
In our hyper-connected world, defining your boundaries isn’t an option. All the notifications we receive from social media, texts, email, and the news are constantly pulling at our attention and energy. The result? Stress builds throughout our bodies and minds, and life can feel like a never-ending hamster wheel of anxiety.
Take back control of your day (and life) by setting yourself up for a healthier relationship with your tech. First, take an audit of your phone to determine which apps are doing more harm than good. If you habitually open Instagram for minutes of mindless scrolling or tap on your email for constant, but unnecessary, updates, consider deleting the apps. If doing away with your vices all together seems like too far of a stretch, reorganize your phone so that these apps are harder to access. You can also download apps like Offtime, Space, or Flipd to limit your usage and break the addiction spiral.
Ask For Help
When we’re in the throes of burnout, opening up about our struggles can be difficult. In a world where we’re told that we have to constantly be “on'' and always available, it can feel shameful to admit that we’re finding it hard to keep up. But here’s the truth about almost any challenge in life: When we authentically admit our struggles to those we feel safe with, we can cement a deeper connection to our communities.
Try confiding in a trusted family member or share what’s going on with a friend. Even just the act of opening up can feel cathartic, serving as a powerful reminder that you’re not alone. Chances are too, that once you allow yourself to be vulnerable, others may feel more comfortable in telling you about their own struggles. From there, you can offer mutual support and brainstorm strategies for healing from your burnout and cultivating resilience together.
Replace “Busy” With Abundance
How many times have you met up with a friend, asked how they’re doing, and received a complain-brag about how busy they are? Now reflect and ask yourself: How many times have you responded this way to the same exact question? While wearing our busyness as a badge of honor has fallen out of favor in recent years, we still find ourselves guilty of doing it from time to time.
Switch up your language, and instead of operating under the impression that a packed schedule translates to being a valuable and important person, try cultivating more intentional downtime and embracing the opportunities that a little space in your calendar can bring. Instead of seeing free time as idle time, view it as honoring your mental health.
Stepping into this perspective of abundance can also look like carving out dedicated time for the things in life that bring us joy. Does gardening help you relax? When you spend a little time on your writing, do you feel more creative and energized? Whatever it is, protect that time at all costs.
Know This: Your Productivity Doesn’t Define Your Worth
When it comes down to it, the things we do each day that bring us closer to completing all our tasks are not those that make us worthy. The value you bring to the world is already inside of you, and you have no obligartion to convince anyone otherwise. Sure, you can lean into the gratification that comes with lending a helping hand or swooping in when someone needs your assistance, but if you begin to notice a pattern of always looking for validation in what you offer to others, take a step back and reassess. Remember: You’re more than the person your to-do list or calendar says you are.
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