Burnout levels have been high for many lately. During the pandemic, work has been part of this cause, whether it’s the monotony of working from home, a lack of in-person social engagement with team members, working long hours via Zoom or the stress of managing pandemic factors. While burnout is often associated with work, it can result from feeling stagnant in your personal life as well. The pandemic has made some aspects of personal life more challenging as well, such as travel, seeing friends, eating out, attending events and visiting with family.
Burnout is defined as emotional, mental or physical exhaustion and overwhelm, usually as a product of sustained stress. While it is most commonly associated with doing a hard job for a long time, it can also result from too much “sameness” in your routine, a lack of social engagement, emotional stress, difficult relationships or losing touch with what brings you joy in life.
Common signs of burnout include:
Burnout is a common feeling many can relate to. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and a normal sign of needing a change of pace or some relief in your current situation. If you’re feeling burned out, you might need to make changes to your work schedule, your personal life or the balance of the two. Or you may need to process your feelings and connect more with others. Here are 10 effective ways of alleviating burnout:
Burnout can get worse with isolation. Talking to people you know such as friends, family members or a therapist, can help unburden you of pent-up feelings and allow you to explore your inner experience. Getting clear on how you’re feeling and what you need to be different is an important first step.
Break up your routine. Consider a vacation, but if traveling or taking much time off is a challenge, you might still be able to set aside two to three days to do something different like taking walks in the park, seeing friends or re-engaging with hobbies. If you can get away, you might look for a short-term rental not too far away like a cabin on a lake, just to get out of your usual environment for a while.
Create breaks in between difficult work periods of the day to eat, drink and rest. You can also mix in some energizing routines like a walk in the morning, or a workout in the mid-afternoon. Make time for things that offer fun, play and meaning each week. Plan your work/life balance in advance, so you don’t get caught in the same routine because you don’t have plans. And consider how often you need to take some time off to reset — quarterly can be nice, even if it’s just a few days.
If you feel overwhelmed at work or find yourself procrastinating, set a few simple and practical goals for what needs to be accomplished and focus on those. Setting a few meaningful goals in your personal life can also help focus positive energy on what lifts you up. You may not be able to attain certain goals right away, but just having a plan and working toward them can elevate your spirits.
Pick one thing you can feel excited about each day like going to Barton Springs, spending time with a friend or watching an episode of your favorite show. Scheduling one fun thing into each day will give you energy and help you maintain a positive outlook.
It’s important to stay connected to what brings you purpose, passion and meaning. Orienting life around your most important values helps provide context to work, relationships and challenging phases. Do some journaling on what matters most to you in life and game plan for how to keep those values top of mind no matter your work or responsibilities.
Humans are complex. Sometimes talking to a professional can help you organize your thoughts, understand your feelings and develop a plan of action. Therapy gives you a private space to explore how you’re doing and get expert feedback from someone experienced in helping optimize mind and life.
Movement and exercise help with stagnation and bring some relief to depression and anxiety. Yoga is a great way to combine a mental break with physical exercise and active breathing, which helps reset the nervous system. Learning how to meditate gives your brain time in calm, regenerative states and over time the practice can offer long-term benefits to your state of mind, deepening peace and satisfaction.
Laughter is a great way to alleviate burnout. Finding ways to play is key to maintaining a healthy mind and managing the stress of modern life. Consider board game nights with friends or community groups, taking an improv acting class or spending a day at a local music festival. Look for ways to engage with humor and fun, bonding activities.
Take stock every now and then of how you’re feeling with burnout. Measuring your feelings periodically will help you notice when burnout is high and what actions bring it down and make you feel energized and refreshed. Monitoring your feelings will help you develop a consistent work/life balance that can help keep burnout at bay.
John Howard and Julie Falchuk are therapists and wellness experts at PRESENCE, an integrative health center supporting you to develop optimal mental, physical and relationship health so you can thrive in your life.