How Can I Prevent and Recover from Burnout?
Last week I discussed what burnout is and how to recover from it in Burnout Part 1. If you think you are burned-out or are on the road to becoming burned-out, you may be wondering what you can do to stop it. Helpguide suggests using the “Three R Approach,” which is:
- Recognize: watch for the warning signs of burnout.
- Reverse: undo the damage by managing your stress and seeking support.
- Resilience: build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health.
Well, we now already know the warning signs of burnout, so how exactly do we reverse or prevent burnout?
Start with your health
You should first focus on your physical well-being. By improving your physical health, you will be able to tackle the harder issues, such as mental exhaustion, with plenty of energy and focus. If you place your job above your own health, you should consider reevaluating your priorities; no job is worth sacrificing your mental or physical health. Here are some tips for getting healthy!
- Get enough sleep: you should get at least six hours of sleep every night to “replenish your resources” says Dr. Ballard. Not getting enough sleep can lead to overall fatigue, decreased motivation, increased sensitivity to stressful events, and impaired mental function.
- Eat healthy: everyone knows bad foods lead to higher levels of stress and decreased energy. Cut out the greasy or sugary snack foods and start learning how to increase your energy through healthy eating!
- Exercise: yes, I know, you’re so busy you can’t even think about exercising. But guess what? A recent study conducted at the University of Alabama proves that you only need to workout twice a week for forty minutes to get the same exercise benefits (feeling more energized and physically capable) as a person who works out everyday. So if you can squeeze in just a little bit of time twice a week, you’ll be golden.
- Break your unhealthy habits: if you have developed unhealthy coping strategies (such as drinking or self-medicating), consider getting outside help to break the cycle and get your body back on the right track. Try replacing these bad habits with positive ones such as regular family/friend nights, joining a club, taking up a hobby, or meditating.
By getting healthy, you will become resilient against sickness and stress, setting yourself up for positive change in the future.
Focus on your mental wellfare
After getting physically well, it’s time to focus on the internal stress. Creating a safe and healthy mental environment will allow you to rediscover your passion and enthusiasm.
- Relax: set time for your favorite relaxing activity, such as meditating, reading, listening to music, walking, or whatever gets you in a place of mental recuperation. I recommend spending at least an hour at a place and time when you will not be pressured or distracted (for me, it’s early in the morning!). Make a promise to yourself to follow through with relaxation, and don’t skip it because you’re “too busy.” Your mental well-being is every bit as important as your physical health; take it seriously.
- Unplug: take a daily break from technology. During your relaxation time, completely disconnect from email and other social media. Take a break from all the reminders and demands—they will wait for you to come back. You need to give yourself time to completely focus on you; a ringing cell-phone does not exactly allow you to shake off work and relax.
- Cultivate your creativity: find something completely different from work that you’re passionate about. Hobbies, fitness, and volunteering are great ways to become engaged and challenged outside of your work-life.
- Get support: many people with burnout tend to isolate themselves, but turning to your friends and loved ones for support can give you the strength and encouragement to overcome mental collapse.
Following these simple tips will allow you to mentally bounce back from burnout and recover from apathy and exhaustion.
Evaluate and Reevaluate
It’s important to realize when enough is enough. Sometimes certain things are just not working out for you and you need to reevaluate what your priorities are. It does not reflect poorly on you if you decide to take a break, or even quit! You job may just not be for you, or is not working out for where you are in your life right now.
If you’re having a difficult time figuring out where the underlying problems are coming from, or you don’t know how to recover from burnout on your own, consider getting professional help. A good therapist will work with you to connect the problem areas of your life and help you discover what makes you happy. There is no shame in seeking help- in fact, one of the most courageous things you can ever do for yourself is recognize that you need assistance. So many people feel that they would be failures it they had to go to therapy, and that they “should be able to handle it themselves.” As someone who has been to therapy and received tremendous support and confidence from my experience, I recommend that everyone go to therapy at some point in their life. Therapy is not about you not being able to “handle” your own problems, it’s about working with someone to make connections in your life that you might never have realized otherwise; it’s about understanding you from a whole new perspective.
Burnout is serious. It’s often hard to recognize, but it can lead to grave consequences for your health, sanity, and relationships. If you are experiencing burnout, reevaluate your situation and figure out how to get back to being happy.
Be sure to check out last week’s post, Burnout Part 1!