We live in a culture of immediacy. Everything happens instantly, and we can are so closely connected to each other with social media and other forms of technology. We’re often bombarded with new information that can be overwhelming and take its toll. With all that’s going on around the world and in our own individual lives, things can get pretty hectic. Between career, home responsibilities, and relationships, it’s no wonder so many of us get stressed out!
In my clinical practice, I’ve worked with thousands of individuals who felt burdened by a heavy load and were seeking relief. A huge part of my therapeutic message through the years has been to help educate to prevent and recover from burnout. Here are some strategies that I’ve found to be helpful.
One of the first things you can do is to notice and honor the signs of burnout.
A lot of us seem to be going in circles, spinning our wheels, and not even fully recognizing that we’re unhappy, disappointed, or emotionally down. But you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Our bodies can often give us great clues into whether or not something is wrong. Pay attention to what yours is telling you. Do you have headaches? Are you exhausted all the time? Do your muscles ache? Are you often overly hungry? Don’t have much of an appetite? If you observe that some things are a little “off” and you’re not feeling like yourself, apply the advice you’d likely give a good friend in this situation: take a break, do something to relax or take the edge off, and perhaps make a change or two in order to restore your emotional well-being.
In hopes of alleviating the burnout we all feel at some point or another, it’s important to determine what characteristics or traits are most important to you and what kind of person you want others to perceive you as.
For example, I really want to be seen as someone who doesn’t allow my career to interfere with my relationships with my children. Anything that I think threatens this ideal can make me feel shame. Consider what identities are most valuable to you. Maybe you want to be perceived as someone who values fitness and health, or maybe it’s important to you for others to view you as someone who is financially stable. After identifying these things, please try to understand that you will not always live up to your ideal…and that’s okay! Of course, we should all have goals, but placing unrealistic expectations can bring self-loathing and unnecessary guilt. Don’t set yourself up for failure; instead, try to be self-forgiving when you fall short.
Another way to beat burnout is to focus on your growth instead of your imperfections.
When things don’t go as planned, try to ask yourself what you can learn. For example, maybe you didn’t get that promotion you’d been wanting, or maybe you weren’t able to lose the baby weight as quickly as you had hoped. Instead of beating yourself up, try to take the disappointment in stride, learn from it, and move on equipped with a little more wisdom than you had before. By recognizing the progress you’ve made, you’ll be better able to combat feelings of shame or emotional burnout that we’re all prone to experience.
Burnout looks a little different from person to person, but it always involves some sort of emotional and/or mental exhaustion, lack of motivation, and overall feeling of discontentment. When (not if) you feel burnt out, I encourage you to slow down, practice self-care, acknowledge your personal idealisms, then focus on the growth and progress you make.