In the past week, I’ve had a couple people ask for more info about burnout and how they can handle it better.
I figured if they needed some pointers, you might also need them too.
So, here’s a little briefing on burnout, how to prevent it, and what to do if it’s already happened.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a broad term to describe the general feeling of “I don’t wanna.” It’s the feeling that your internal flame of motivation has gone out. It can show up in your work, at home, and in relationships.
The causes are complex, but a simple way to understand the cause of burnout is this:
For too long, you haven’t had the internal or external resources to handle everything you’re responsible for. After day, after day, after day of “making do” without enough of what you need, your brain and body slam the brakes and force you to stop. This can look like:
- Forgetting your commitments
- Isolation, because everyone seems to need something from you and you can’t give it
- Rage, getting set off by the littlest things
- Extra binge eating, drinking, or recklessness
- Sleep Issues: trouble waking up, falling asleep, or just getting moving in the morning
(Conveniently, you can remember these signs with the acronym FIRES.)
There are subtypes of burnout that we can explore further in the future, such as vicarious trauma, moral injury, compassion fatigue, and just being chronically flooded.
How to prevent burnout.
Here are 8 things I review with my clients to help them protect themselves from burnout.
Get a physical. Every year. You can’t see your hormone levels, you can’t assume your blood pressure, you must get these things checked.
Build an emergency kit for the times you feel depleted: Think about the things you need when you’re “hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.” Keep one by your desk, in your car, and by your bedside table.
Talk about how work is going with your supervisor, regularly. Suggest areas you’d like some more training in. Ask your boss how they would prioritize the workload if they were in your position.
Use your days off for you! I know this is a hard one, I really do, and not everyone has the option to take days off at all. But if you do have the option, USE IT! Schedule 3 day weekends for yourself all throughout the year if you can’t And if your family is all up in your business, keep your day off a secret. Get dressed, do something fun that’s just for you, or they WILL find a way to fill that day for you.
Aim to replace your mindless swiping with other activities, reading, listening to music with your eyes closed, calling a friend.
Take stock: Which habits are helping and which habits are hurting? Your nightly glass of wine might be destroying your focus the next day. Your “self-care” shopping habits might be forcing you to take extra shifts to stay on top of your bills.
Stay open-minded about finding different work. If you keep yourself open to opportunities, you can use those opportunities to negotiate at work, get ideas to make your job better, or move on if you are ready! Keep your resume, and online presence up to date.
Stay open to changing your lifestyle. Vacation won’t work if life at home is your real burnout cause. We are always changing! If you need a change, you can develop a plan to do that. Consult with a friend, mentor, counselor, or trusted leader if you need to talk it out.
What to do if you’re already burned out?
If you’re past the point of preventing burnout, don’t worry, this is a condition you can recover from!
Always remember: burnout really isn’t an individual problem, but a problem of our culture, society, and the challenges of our daily life.
In other words, while there are things you can do to reduce your risk, it isn’t your fault if you end up feeling burnout. We are all at risk of burnout because we have a lot of pressure to live up to in a society that constantly overstimulates us, activates our rage response online, is incredibly expensive, and seems to thrive on reminding us of bad news. Your task is to manage the feeling, not be perfectly balanced at all time.
Review the to-do list above and implement what you can.
Being shy about burnout is sooo 2019. Tell anyone who will listen that you need help with this feeling. We’re going to stay honest about what we need in 2023. The pandemic hit all of us hard, just in different ways. You don’t have to pretend that you’ve got it all figured out. In fact, when you admit your struggles, you let the people around you relax and get more honest in return.
Therapy for burnout (or for the thing that is burning you out) IS accessible to you, even if you stay booked and busy. Get in touch and we’ll work together to get you what you need in this new year!