Six Unique Ways to Deal with Burnout.
Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Get better with these little habits and practices.
I guess we all know that the number one strategy to stop burnout is to prevent it.
Yet, I'm guessing you're here because you're already experiencing burnout. So I'll leave that to an article for another time.
If you're experiencing burnout right now, gosh, I know it's been tough for you lately. It can really affect your quality of life, both at work and outside of it.
Yet, everyone has different reasons for falling into burnout. It's not just limited to being overworked and not feeling like you can "catch a break".
Research find that there are actually three types of "Burnout Profiles", with different reasons causing each type of profile - profiles that are you unique to you. You can read more about this in the article The Three "Profiles" of Burnout.
Basically, the three profiles are:
Physical, Mental and Emotional Exhaustion.
You've become Cynical about work.
Feelings of Ineffectiveness and lack of Accomplishment.
As you read through the three symptoms above, do you know what your distinct "burnout profile" is? It might be a combination of one or more, or even all three, of the above symptoms.
Now check out some of the below strategies or tips to help you deal with it better.
FYI, I'll skip some of the more "obvious" but still very important tips you're probably already aware of, such as:
Getting more sleep.
Doing physical exercise and eating well.
Using your annual leaves and getting rest.
Going on a holiday.
Quitting your job (haha).
Make sure you've got those covered if you can, but anyway, here we go.
1) If you're exhausted, try giving yourself a "Daily Vacation".
Each day, plan a simple activity that you really enjoy doing.
It can range anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, and you can do it during your lunchtime or before or after work.
Just make sure to set this time as your "vacation". It's your time so get rid of all your distractions, perhaps even put away your phone.
This activity can comprise of anything you enjoy, be it having a coffee, reading a book, listening to music, exercising, having a nice meal. Specifically mark this time as a vacation, and slowly enjoy the activity.
While doing so, try following these two simple steps. First, try to engage all your five sense (if possible) to enjoy the activity. Second, label the emotions you're feeling - is it happiness you're feeling, tranquility, peace, or calmness?
Take your time to be mindful of the two things above, your sense and your emotions, and you might find yourself well rejuvenated.
Behind this sits the practice of savouring. Research has found that it can not only help with burnout but can make you happier. You can read more about how I practice this here.
2) If you're exhausted, take a "mental break" every hour.
It's really quite a simple practice, and you only need to set aside a minute or two every other hour, preferably once an hour, to try out this activity.
For that short period of time, simply allow your eyes to close for a bit and turn your attention away from your work and point it inwards.
Try and focus on how your body feels - allow your muscles on your face and body to slowly relax.
Then take a few slow deep breaths and focus on your thoughts - what's going on in your mind. Are you feeling anxious or stressed at the moment?
Pay attention to your thoughts and just let it be.
Let your deep breaths and relaxed body be your focal point for that minute or two and simply watch your thoughts as they come and go.
It's quick getaway from the ongoing flow of work we sometimes feel caught up in.
3) If you're exhausted or cynical, start setting boundaries.
This is easiest if you have control and flexibility over your working hours. Perhaps it's your own self-determination and wanting to be productive all the time that's leading you into burnout.
You know very well that it's high time to start prioritising your mental health. You've suffered enough. Tell yourself to switch out of "work-mode" by a certain time each day and then go for your rest and relaxation.
Let your weekends be weekends too. You need that break!
If you don't have a say over your working hours, or perhaps those long working hours is just "the way the team works", ask yourself this:
"Is it worth continuing on feeling this way?"
If that's a no, then a strategy might involve having an honest conversation with your boss. Tell him or her that you're mentally exhausted and you need some time to recuperate.
You are burnt out, aren't you?
Talk to them about adjusting your working hours to something more manageable for you, at least right now.
What do you have to lose? Keep going and you'll lose your sanity.
What do you have to gain? Probably your sanity and your wellbeing back.
And if they don't seem to appreciate your wellbeing, then maybe it's really time to think about quitting.
4) If you're exhausted and feel a sense of inefficacy, try some Self-Compassion.
Research has found that burnout is inversely correlated with Self-compassion.
A lack of self-compassion often leads us to be less kind and harsher on ourselves. We tend to see ourselves in a negative light, perhaps as "weak" or "not good enough". We interpret the emotions and turbulences of burnout as our "own fault".
Self-compassion might be a new term for your, especially since it's not something we are taught while growing up and in school. Instead, we are taught to persevere, persevere, persevere!
Yet, the idea behind putting self-compassion into practice is quite simple - treat yourself as you would to a close friend who is suffering. What would you do or say to him or her?
Perhaps, it's around finding bright spots in your day, making time for yourself, and seeing that you're already doing enough.
Be curious about what's going on in your internal world and spend moments being present with yourself. Acknowledge your accomplishments, and be gracious about the times when you fall down.
Prioritize the little important things in your life, that it is:
Okay to not be productive all the time.
Okay to take a break on the weekends.
Okay to not get everything done.
Okay that you're still learning and not where you want to be at yet.
Okay to leave things till tomorrow or the next week.
Treat yourself with the loving kindness, the care, the grace and forgiveness with which you treat those you love the most in your life.
5) If you're cynical, figure out what you can and cannot change.
While rest, relaxation and boundaries can help ease exhaustion, they may not address your cynicism at the office.
During work hours, you may still face the impossible workload, silly office politics and conflicts, or the lack of manpower eating away at your team.
Take some time to think about your job situation - what are aspects that are fixed and can't be changed?
On the other hand, what are those that you can change?
This tip is about altering your perception about work and taking up a more psychologically flexible mindset.
If exhaustion is your problem, then are there tasks you're doing that could be delegated to others? Are there tasks that you can negotiate with your boss so you won't have to do them anymore?
If it's mundane admin work you have to do that you can't get rid off, could you also turn it into a mental game of getting it done quickly so you can free up time for more "fun" work?
Can you reshape your job to feel like you have more control over it?
Sometimes, cynicism gets in our way of our perceived autonomy over our work. You may very well have the power to change your role in something you like a little better, can you figure it out?
6) If it's inefficacy or a lack of accomplishment, seek guidance.
Last but not least, one of the best antidotes to burnout is to seek out meaningful connections and guidance.
This may or may not be readily available in your company - it really all depends on what your boss or your colleagues are like, and whether they have the space to help or guide you, or they themselves are burnt out too.
If it's available to you, just have that honest conversation with your boss. Tell him or her that you really need more guidance, or that you feel like you're stagnating and not progressing.
What's the harm in having that conversation?
If it's the case that you truly can't get guidance with the company, look outside!
Hey here's a good resource if you're keen. You can book a free mentor to speak to and get guidance on your career progression and goals.
Gain some clarity and guidance, and get some support too.
It's not fun experiencing burnout, don't carry your burden alone!
Thanks for reading Kaya Toast for the Soul. Hope the pointers in this article are helpful in dealing with your burnout! Talk to me anytime - you know where to find me :)