Let’s face it, the world is more terrifying than ever, we’re stressed to the max and glued to our devices. This alone is a recipe for burnout and we haven’t even gotten into personal life factors that can exacerbate the symptoms. Identifying and treating burnout in 2021 might be tricky but knowing when to step back and address your mental exhaustion will help you on your road to wellness
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Some of the signs you’re burnt out include (but are not limited to):
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling physically tired all day
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of self-care
- Suicidal thoughts
Burnout is different from depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety can co-occur with burnout, however in cases of burnout, there are usually identifiable stressors that, when addressed, can lead to a reduction in symptoms.
Sarah is a 17 year old student nearing graduation. She is a member of the school’s rowing team, track and field, she plays an instrument, and has a part time job. Sarah was informed 2 months ago that she needed to get her grades up if she wanted to pass her math class and graduate.
For the last 2 months, Sarah has been unable to sleep or concentrate. She spends hours reading, practicing, and working. She has lost weight and only showers once a week.
In school she is falling asleep and now other grades are slipping. She comes home from school to find her younger sister had been in her room and starts to break down crying.
Sarah is experiencing burnout. She has taken on too many responsibilities while already being under lots of stress at school.
How to Treat Burnout?
The good news is that there are identifiable ways to treat burnout. Please note that if your burn out is severe (suicidal thoughts), it is recommended that you speak with your doctor and contact a mental health professional to help guide you.
Start saying “NO”
It can be tricky, but mastering the art of saying “no” will go a long way in treating and preventing burnout in the future. Oftentimes, we don’t want to let down our workmates, friends, and family members and so we say “yes” when we want to say “no”. Saying “no” means respecting yourself enough to put a boundary in place to protect yourself.
Stop justifying your “NO”
You don’t need to justify why you don’t want to do something. “I’m not available, sorry.”, “Unfortunately I cannot do that.”– that’s all you need to say. Those who respect you and your boundaries will stop pestering you.
Getting exercise means taking time for yourself. Now that you’re saying “no” to the activities you don’t want to do, it’s time to make room for the activities your body and mind need. If you’re not big into exercise, pick activities that are easy for you to enjoy; stretching, yoga, gardening, and walking are all healthy activities that don’t always feel like exercise.
Getting into a bedtime routine
Getting good rest is important to staying both physically and mentally well. Limit screen time and give yourself a wind down period of at least an hour before bed. Creating a soothing environment for yourself while you get ready for bed is best. I recommend using lavender oils in a diffuser or room spray. Helps signal to my body that it is time to rest.
Deepak Chopra recommends meditating at least twice a day for 30 mins each time. Once in the morning and again at night before bed. According to Chopra, to meditate is to become one with the self. It is a time for us to hit the pause button while we get in tune with our bodies and minds.
If 30 mins, twice a day, is too much, try 15 mins a day and work your way up to 30 mins. Do it once a day if necessary. The point is to do it. To slow yourself down in order to reduce your feelings of burnout and to prevent yourself from becoming burnt out again.
“You are what you eat” is a very popular phrase, and for good reason… it’s true! Think of yourself as a car. If you put the wrong gas or oil into your car, the car will not run optimally or will seize up and die. This is the same with your body and mind. The food you eat is the gas and oil for your car. Be sure that the foods you are consuming are going to help your body run optimally.
It may be important to speak with your doctor, a dietitian, a nutritionist, or a naturopath around what foods are right for you. Many factors come into play when it comes to choosing the right diet for you. Health problems, picky eating, food allergies, are just some of the factors you need to consider when selecting the right foods for your system. Be sure to avoid fad diets as they often can help lead you towards burnout rather than prevent it.
Ask for help when needed
There is no shame in asking for help. Really, there isn’t. Humans are social creatures and have been that way for centuries. Like a school of fish, humans are stronger when we work together. If you’re struggling with getting a project done on time, let a workmate know! If you’re not sleeping well because you’re stressed about getting the housework done after a long day at work and watching the kids, get a cleaner (they are cheaper than you’d think!). Not eating well because you find little time for cooking? Ask a friend to make you leftovers for some extra money. There is someone in your life right now who would step up and help should you ask. It’s YOUR job to open your mouth and ask. Just try it.
Burnout, left untreated can become severe and lead to suicidal thoughts, depression, and long term anxiety. Knowing the signs and what to do will go a long way in helping you stay healthy, happy, and mentally well.
If you are trying the ideas above and still feeling the signs of burnout, please be sure to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. There are times when getting a professional is the best course of action, however you know yourself and need to decide that on your own.