Burnout affects a lot of people (including me), and can leave you feeling exhausted, hopeless and like you’re not good enough. At least, that’s how it made me feel – I honestly felt like I was a massive honest to goodness failure. I never want anyone else to go through that, so I thought sharing some of the things that have helped me might help someone else. I’m no expert, just someone who has been there.
I know the signs of burnout in myself all too well. I start finding it hard to sleep and night and hard to get up in the morning; I’m not excited about my job any more and am dreaming about my next holiday … or even the next weekend (you know more than you normally would); my to do lists are a mile long, I never seem to make any progress and I feel overwhelmed by everything; my patience is very thin and I snap at the people around me; my anxiety is in overdrive and I’m exhausted; my meals start to be fork in one hand and phone in the other as I just reply to this one last email…
Burnout doesn’t just happen to CEOs and accountants, it can happen to stay at home mums, fast food workers, teachers … and it seems to be getting more and more common as we try to juggle all of the things (one or more jobs, families, advancing careers, time with our friends, new businesses, study) like we are some kind of super hero. We talk about how busy and exhausted we are like it’s something we should praised for, but the reality is that working myself to the point of exhaustion isn’t good for my friendships, it isn’t good for my family, it isn’t good for my business and it’s sure as heck not good for me. So as we near the end of the year when deadlines are looming, holiday madness is about to begin, exams are happening and we are all dreaming of packing our bags and running away for a nice long, quiet break, I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve learned that helped me when I was on the edge of burnout. You don’t need to be at the end of your tether to do these, most of them are basics of self care and sometimes I just need a bit of a reminder to check in with myself and make sure I’m doing these things.
Sometimes easier said than done, but making sure you get enough sleep is really important. My partner and I work very different hours so this is something that I struggle with, so I’ve been using the Bedtime function on my iPhone to remind me to go to bed at a certain time, which has had varied degrees of success (last night we stayed up until 1am watching The Big Bang Theory, so you be the judge of how well I’m doing with this at the moment), but I’m working on it!
Take a break
When was the last time you took a holiday? As someone who is self employed (meaning that if I am not there doing the work, no money is earned and no work is done), I have really struggled with this. I do my best to do as much as I can in advance, so that I am able to take time off. Sometimes it’s a week away with my family and sometimes it’s a long weekend away with my partner, but it’s important to be able to put work aside.
Make sure you’re doing things to recharge yourself during the week as well – I dedicate some time every week to pampering myself with a face mask, having a bath, getting a massage, taking some quiet time to read … these are things I do to show myself love.
On a day to day basis, you need to make sure you’re taking breaks from work or study. I definitely don’t perform at my best if I’m sitting at a desk and staring at the computer for a solid nine hours a day! Make sure you get up and grab a glass of water, do some stretching, go for a walk around the block, and stop working through lunch! My Apple Watch reminds me to stand up and move around every hour, which I find super helpful.
Do some exercise
Even as I write this I am rolling my eyes because I know I sound like my dad, but even just going out for a walk can be really beneficial. You get those awesome endorphins, you are away from your computer so you’re not being bombarded with emails (turn off the notifications on your phone!) and it gives you time to do something just for you. Figure out what you like doing – swimming, dancing, yoga, hitting the gym or any manner of other things – and get out there and do it (even if it’s just for 15 minutes).
Learn to say no
I am the Queen of taking on too much and up until recently I found it really hard to say no because I thought that would lead to missing out on future opportunities. I know that in order to be able to do my best at work and in my home life, it’s important that I’m not busy all the time and make room for a bit of downtime. I’ve started to only say yes to things I really love or want to do, both personally and professionally. Every now and then I block out entire days and just veg out with the PS4 or binge watch a TV series – it’s nice to have a whole day of not working, not having to go out, not having to get out of my pyjamas if I don’t want to.
You’re probably all going WTF at this one, because we are so used to being connected all the time. I can get my emails straight to my phone, I can reply to people on Instagram 24 hours a day and the first thing I do in the morning is roll over and check Facebook on my phone. Sometimes I feel like my phone is attached to my hand and I hate it! When I go on holiday I try to stay off my phone as much as possible (because otherwise I end up working), but switching off on a daily basis is important too. Read a book, take a bath, play board games with the family … there are lots of things you can do without your phone.
Spend time with your friends
It’s easy to get into a routine where you only see your colleagues and your partner, so make sure you make time for friends. I find spending time with my besties the most beneficial thing I can do for my mental wellbeing! Most of my close friends don’t live near me, but when we get a chance to catch up we make the most of it and really enjoy each others company. I always feel so rejuvenated after seeing my friends, even if it’s just catching up for a coffee.
Ask for help
We all struggle from time to time, so make sure you ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s having a chat with your boss about the amount of work you’re realistically able to do, figuring out time with your partner to have date nights, talking to a friend about how you’re feeling or having a chat to your GP for some advice; you don’t have to go it alone!
Change of pace
It’s a known fact that certain professions are more prone to burnout (teachers, doctors and nurses, retail staff and fast food workers are right up there), but did you know that according to recent Gallup data more than 60% of people aren’t feeling engaged with their work? We spend so much time at work that you ideally want it to be a place you enjoy doing something that you like.
If you’re feeling burnt out at work, you’ve talked to the boss and nothing has changed, and other solutions don’t help then it could be time for a change. It might be that you’re working more and more hours, or the role has changed/is not what you expected. You might not feel like you’re being challenged enough, or you just might not feel passionately about what you’re doing.
I was working on my blog and working full time at a job that ended up requiring more hours and demanded more from me than I’d originally signed up for. By the time I decided to leave, I was feeling so burned out that starting my own business felt like a holiday.
Have you ever experienced burnout?
I’d love to know what you find helpful