What is burnout?
We’ve all heard the term before of “burning out.” We might think if we have a hard week at work that by Friday we are “burnt out.” But, the truth is burnout is actually a psychological disorder and classified as “a legitimate medical disorder by much of mainstream medicine.” What is it exactly? Well, it can manifest differently to different people but in general, it’s the feeling of exhaustion, detachment, and/lack of motivation often brought on by chronic stress.
I think in a day and age where it seems like everyone is striving for perfection (an Instagram perfect life) the pressure on ourselves to do all the things and do them all perfectly is overwhelming and the risk of burnout becomes even more real. I was watching a documentary (on Netflix duh) about the use of Adderall by college students and how it’s becoming the normal. In a nation where the competition to be the best is never-ending – whether from school, from work, or from the perception we want of ourselves – people are taking all measures to, well, measure up.In a day and age where everyone is striving for perfection the pressure on ourselves to do all the things and do them all perfectly is overwhelming. Click To Tweet
Personally, I’ve been pretty quiet on the internet the past month (ok, let’s be honest, all of 2018) because I knew I needed a break. I certainly wasn’t at the point of a burnout, but I was on the road to one. I realized I was spending too much time pursuing achievement that I wasn’t spending enough time on myself. So, today I want to touch on that point because I KNOW I’m not alone. I want to share some signs that you might be on the path to burnout yourself, and what you should do about it.
Signs you’re headed for a burnout
Signs of a burnout will look different for different people. We all cope with stress differently. While some become negative and closed-up, others because anxious and agitated. These are just some signs people often face when headed towards burnout city.
1. Constant exhaustion or feeling of not being able to keep up
The feeling of being constantly tired or never feeling like you can keep up with your tasks, the never-ending feeling of drowning in your to-do list.
THIS was my sign. No matter how hard I worked….how many early hours or late nights…I realized I still wasn’t keeping up. I had too many pursuits for a single person. I was giving 65% of myself to everything, instead of 100% to a key set of things.
2. An overall negative attitude
For many people, a sign of a burnout is having a constant negative attitude about, well…everything. Feeling negative about work, about your life, or about your achievements. Negative thoughts just breed more negative thoughts and it’s amazing the impact these can have on your overall mind and body.
3. Lack of motivation and apathy towards your tasks
The lack of motivation or interest to complete tasks is definitely a sign you could be on the path to burnout. The feeling of purpose and fulfillment is a necessary feeling we need to our overall well-being. If you loose that feeling of purpose, it can quickly become a slippery slope to depression and burnout.
4. Trouble focusing
Burnout can impact our cognition. So, you may notice it’s harder to concentrate, focus, and/or remember things. It may be harder to work on tasks for a long period of time (tasks that you used to be able to do without any problems.)
5. Neglecting your own needs and neglecting healthy habits
Raise your hand if the first thing to go when you’re busy is the time you take caring for yourself. *raises hand*
Letting healthy habits like exercise or healthy eating slip or neglecting taking care of yourself week after week can be a sign that there’s too much on your plate.
How to avoid burnout
The good news is if you listen to yourself and your body, you can avoid burnout. Noticing when you’re on the path to burnout and taking some steps to do a 180 can help you get your life back on track. Now, this is not a simple as just thinking it as you are likely to be feeling, negative, less motivation, and overwhelmed. You’re also probably juggling way too many tasks and duties. So, you’re going to take have to set some ground rules to take back your life otherwise you’ll continue down the same, winding road.
Set some SERIOUS boundaries
You need to be real about boundaries. It’s not just writing down a few things to “try” to do for a week. It’s about getting honest with yourself and what you can do and then setting real boundaries for yourself.
Most often burnout comes because you’re overwhelmed with your to-do list. There’s too much to do and not enough time. You end up on the hamster wheel that eventually becomes a burnout. To avoid this, you need to take a look at your tasks and decide what stays, what goes, what can be given away, and what can be automated.
First, look to see if there are tasks in your work and life you can give away. So many people struggle with fear of letting go of control that they continue to do it all instead of giving tasks away. We assume someone else can’t do it how we want it done, can’t do it as well as we can, or we don’t want to push tasks on other people. But, often these fears are unjustified. Whether this is passing off tasks at work, asking your spouse to take over a chore, getting your kids to start picking up the slack, or ASKING for help when you need it, finding tasks that can be offloaded to someone else can be a great burden off your shoulder.
Next, see if there are some things in your life that can be automated. This may take some creativity and research depending on the task(s) but with today’s technology, there are always options.
One chore I hated doing was vacuuming the house. We have two dogs and the floors seemed like they were always dirty. Dragging the vacuum up from the basement 2x a week to vacuum took 30-45 minutes out of my day. So, for Christmas Michael got me a vacuum robot. It seems like a silly, frivolous gadget but the time it saves me (and the stress it saves me from of coming home and looking down and knowing I HAD to vacuum) has honestly made a difference in my life. This example isn’t going to be the same for everyone, but the point is…is there something you can automate in your life to save yourself time?
Finally, what tasks can go? Just because you’re currently doing all the things doesn’t mean you NEED to be doing all the things. Prioritize your to do list and see which tasks are the least important to you.
Learn to Say “No”
I’ve talked about the importance of saying “no” in the past. It holds especially true if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You do NOT need to do everything. You don’t have to make it to every brunch, every party, every dinner. Learning to say “no” to certain things so that you can give yourself time to focus on you will give you more fulfillment and time to relax.
Which brings me to my next point.You do NOT need to do everything. You don't have to make it to every brunch, every party, and every dinner. Click To Tweet
Learn to relax (like really relax)
I feel like in this generation the idea of relaxation is taboo. Relaxing means you’re lazy. You should be running 2 marathons, doing 1,000 squats a day, drinking 100 oz of water, and doing something noteworthy every weekend. It’s honestly exhausting trying to keep up. Relaxation is NOT a bad thing. It’s important to learn how to do it so your body and recharge and reset.
So, how do you do it? Start by actively scheduling in time to relax. I know, sounds kind of silly. But if you’re constantly on the go it’s the best way to start. Maybe start by saying you’re going to stay home every Friday night or not make plans on a Sundays for a month. Then, find activities that allow you to relax. Maybe you decide to take up meditation, get a pile of new books to read, or find a relaxing hobby like painting
Whatever you decide to do for relaxation – take it seriously and commit. If you have a spouse or family you’re likely going to need to get them on board to make sure relaxation time happens. Maybe you can all have a “relaxation hour” a few times a week to do whatever is relaxing to you. Or, find a relaxing thing you can all do together.
Take time for yourself
This kind of goes hand and hand with the above, but it goes one step further. Take time to take care of your mind and body. This might mean finding time to cook healthy meals so your take-out meals decrease. Or, taking the time to prep meals for the week so you have healthy lunches to take to work.
It also means taking time to be active whether you get to the gym, go for a walk, or exercise at home. Personally, I’ve recently taken up yoga (and seriously I’M SO BAD AT IT. It’s actually hilarious. I am thinking about writing an entire post about being a yoga newbie. I’m not flexible, I do not know how to “look up to the sun” or “press down into the soil” and about 1/2 the words sound made up to me.) The point is, I feel good after I do it and I’m taking time to better myself and my body, even if I’m quite sure I look like a fool while I do it. I’m sure the neighbors get a good chuckle.
Get enough sleep
I think “get enough sleep” is probably the cure to a lot of things. But the truth is insufficient sleep can be really bad for your health long-term. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep and that can vary over time, so check-in with yourself and give yourself the sleep you need. For a long time, I ran on 6 hours of sleep a night. It was all I needed. But, lately, I’ve been needing more like 8 hours (probably due to it being that grey time of year when we’re all dying for the warm.) It was hard adjusting my schedule to find time in the day for an extra 2 hours of sleep. But I knew I needed to make it happen to help me recover and avoid burning out. Plus, the more I sleep the sooner summer will come, right?
Strive for balance
At the end of the day, all of the above tips can be wrapped up into this single one: find balance. It’s not just about a “work/life balance” it’s about your own personal balance. We all have different things on our plate. Whether it’s work, family, hobbies, clients, health, friends…only you can find the right balance to it all. It’s sort of like self-preservation. No one else is going to take the time to ensure you have the right balance so you need to find it for yourself.
I hope this post helps some of you because I KNOW KNOW KNOW I’m not alone. Also, if you’re curious what I’m wearing – because nobody ever is – it’s all thrifted from ThredUp.com cause I love saving that money!