Burnout is a common topic these days. Whether you’ve hit the wall juggling pandemic childcare while working from home or just have a general feeling of yuck about the world, burnout has become a familiar companion in our lives.
But if we ignore how we’re feeling and just keep trying to push through, we can reach the point where we just don’t have any energy left to keep going. Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular podcast about burnout and rage quitting and continue reading below for some tips to manage burnout before it takes a toll on your life.
What Is Burnout?
Winona State University defines burnout as a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved work stress, resulting in:
- Depleted energy and emotional exhaustion
- Lowered resistance to illness
- Increased depersonalization in interpersonal relationships
- Increased dissatisfaction and pessimism
- Increased absenteeism and work inefficiency
The important term here is “unrelieved.” Stress is part of everyday modern life, but the never-ending to-do lists, demands and added responsibilities wreak havoc on our health and productivity.
Ideally, we would all develop strategies to help us cope before we reach actual burnout, and even if we did burn out, we’d be able to take the time to recover. But we all know time to ourselves can often be in short supply.
Taking care of yourself is the best way to protect against burnout, and we’re not just talking about self-care in the form of candle-lit bubble baths and fluffy robes. Here are some tangible and effective ways you can prevent burnout:
Use your time off.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, 768 million vacation days went unused by employees in 2019, and 236 million of those had to be forfeited entirely. It can be hard to unplug, but you will be a better employee if you give yourself time away from the office now and again.
Talk to your friends and family members about how you’re feeling, and listen to their struggles as well. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor about any problems you’ve been dealing with. It’s tempting to think that we can do everything alone and shoulder all of the burdens of life by ourselves, but that outlook is actually holding you back.
Develop a hobby.
While we might think that we only need to work a little bit harder or longer before we can take a break, having an activity that has nothing to do with your work gives your brain and your spirit a break from all of the responsibility.
Think about what calms you and find time for it in your life. It might be cooking a new recipe, playing an instrument, doing a puzzle with your kids or using a run as meditative time. Whatever your relaxing activity is, make a date in your calendar a few times a week to find that space for yourself.
Move your body.
Also block out time daily to move your body, which will help you process some of the stress and emotion that builds up throughout the workday. Sometimes just taking a walk or doing some stretches on your lunch break can be enough to mix things up, but also consider an activity that you’ve always wanted to try but never got around to (it might turn into your new hobby!)—a boxing class might be just the thing you need to work through problems and gain emotional clarity.
Living on coffee and junk food might have been a way of life when you were in college, but what you put into your body becomes more important as you age. Make sure you eat a balanced diet full of whole, fresh foods and cut back on caffeine and other stimulants.
This is easier said than done when you’re working 40+ hours a week and taking care of a family, but what you eat does affect your mental health, so make sure you’re fueling yourself with the most nutritionally dense food available.
Work on your sleep hygiene.
According to the American Sleep Association, about 30% of Americans suffer from some form of insomnia (chronic or short-term). Consider the things that help you fall asleep quickly: like lowering the temperature in your bedroom, taking a hot bath or shower, or turning off and putting away electronics a couple of hours before bed.
While it’s true that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work through the feelings of fatigue and stress, it’s also true that you need to practice self-care to help you keep going when things are hard. So make sure you take care of yourself, and find the balance of activity and rest that works for you.