How to Deal With Burnout
You can only handle so much stress before it’s too much for your mind and body. When something that shouldn’t push you over the edge does, it’s time to think about whether or not you may be experiencing burnout. We feel the overwhelm, get less sleep, eat poorly, feel fatigue, and the symptoms perpetuate how awful we feel. It’s a vicious cycle and one that’s hard to break. After years of running a company and feeling so over my job, it was time to face the reality. I was fighting it and needed to learn how to deal with burnout. So I had to do a 180 and start focusing on my mental health.
According to Psychology Today, “Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Though it’s most often caused by problems at work, it can also appear in other areas of life, such as parenting, caretaking, or romantic relationships.”
How to Deal With Burnout
Find the cause
First, it’s important to figure out why you’re experiencing burnout. Is it work? A physical condition or trauma? A toxic relationship? Take a closer look at your life and find a good therapist. Over the years, there were a few things that caused burnout – from work and family issues to my daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis – it all weighed heavily on me. But it was when I walked away from my old company that things became so much less stressful. It took years of stress and feeling burned out before I opened my eyes and made the decision to leave.
Back in my 20s, I was working full-time while trying to launch a website, and found myself at the computer until 2 or 3AM every night. I was so passionate about what I was doing, and always made time for 4-5 CrossFit workouts a week. My only “break” was an intense form of exercise. I couldn’t take it, and I eventually developed shingles. My doctor told me this was my body telling me I couldn’t go on like this, and that something had to give.
I eventually quit CrossFit for something less intense but it wasn’t until I walked away from my former company that I gave myself what I really needed. Rigid schedules don’t work for me and I do not thrive when things are unnecessarily stressful. Alternatively, I do thrive working by myself (for myself, which was always the goal). Looking back, I knew how unhappy I was but didn’t think I could do anything about it.
When you work for yourself, it’s so easy to keep working at night (guilty). Setting some clear boundaries, like no email after 7PM or on weekends, social media-free Sundays, and forced breaks to meditate, do yoga, or even to take a real lunch, will save your mental health. I spent years chasing that “balance” everyone always talks about, and the reality is that there is no perfect balance. It’s not one size fits all because we all have different needs. What works for me might not work for you, so it’s really about taking a closer look at what your needs are. Setting some guidelines and boundaries to disconnect from work and connect with yourself and the ones you’re closest with, is one of the healthiest things you can do.
Try time-blocking to eliminate multitasking. If a set schedule doesn’t work for you, vow to get through one project before checking your email and then diving in to something else. When you focus on the task at hand as opposed to bouncing from project to project, there’s less overwhelm.
Make time for self-care
Take care of yourself. Work out, eat well, get some sleep, take breaks, and prioritize your health and happiness. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else is going to. Our bodies and brains need time to rest – time where we’re not scrolling on our phones, overwhelmed by all the noise. Time away from email, coworkers, clients, social media…all of it.
Reframe your mindset
If you’re burned out due to trauma, caregiving, or something else that you can’t control, remind yourself of the why. I had to let a lot go with Margot’s treatment, and as a parent, it took so much to surrender that control. But I focused on her and on getting through it.
Invest in healthy and uplifting relationships
Turn to friends and family who will support you, especially when you’re struggling. When you’re experiencing extreme burnout, you are not yourself, and it takes a special kind of person to stand by your side. Pay attention to those who lift you up and the ones who trigger stress or treat you poorly. Hold on to the good ones, and stay away from those who hurt you. This might sound harsh, but cut all ties, unfollow them on social – do whatever you have to do to protect yourself. And be the person who lifts others up. Invest in the people who treat you well, and do the same for them.
Get some rest
I’ve been a notoriously horrible sleeper, and would typically go to bed around 1AM, only to wake up feeling like I was hit by a truck by the time morning rolled around. Vowing to stay off my phone after 9PM and to wrap up all work by 9:30 (on the days I shift my schedule and work at night) has been life-changing. I’ve gone to bed by 11PM all week and feel so much better. I have more energy and am even working out more.