Burnout For Dummies
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If you've arrived at burnout, it’s not because you've been lazy; rather, you've been quite busy. And even though you may be exhausted and depleted, the busyness still doesn’t stop. Your sense of depletion and fatigue may permeate every aspect of your life so that the tasks, chores, and routines you used to be able to handle with ease are now overwhelming. Everything seems to drain your energy.

You can begin to help yourself with the suggestions that follow.

Create routines and rituals

Organization and structure through the creation of routines and rituals can help you feel more secure and less burned out.

Mornings, for instance, tend to be hectic in most households, and a large source of stress. Perhaps you can start an evening routine of preparing your (and your children’s, if you have them) clothes and lunch the evening before, ensuring all phones are being charged and work or school items are in your bag.

You also want your evenings to be a sacred time, when you can detach from your busy day, decompress, and relax. As such, once you have prepared for the morning, you may benefit from creating an evening ritual for relaxation, joy, and refueling. For example, enjoy eating your dinner. Maybe take a bath. Designate a time in the evening to spend time with someone you care about, even if it is talking on the phone.

As it is important not to be too stimulated first thing in the morning and late at night, you can set a rule that you will not check your phone for at least 30 minutes to an hour after getting up in the morning and before going to bed at night, as this is your time to take care of yourself.

Eat your breakfast mindfully and enjoy the time without checking your phone. Same thing goes for your evening routine: Choose a time when you turn off your phone and computer.

Make mealtimes sacred and practice being present and mindful, without your phone. You may wish to create other sacred time in your schedule to be mindful, read, spend social time with people you love, or go out in nature. This is your time to self-nurture and refuel.

Pause frequently to breathe with mindful movement

Your ability to take breaks is vital for healing burnout, and these breaks do not all necessarily need to be long. Taking short pauses throughout your day to down-regulate the stress response can do wonders for your energy level and mood.

Turning off the stress response enables better access to self-acceptance, rational thinking, and more positive emotions.

What if you set a timer to remind you every hour on the hour to mindfully take 10 deep and cleansing breaths? It might take you 20 or 30 seconds, max. Or perhaps you can set aside five- to ten-minute breaks to take a mindful walk, do a breath focus, or meditate.

Mindful movement

You can also add movement to your breath focus, which is otherwise known as mindful movement. You can do the following movement anywhere and anytime:

  1. Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders relaxed, and knees slightly bent.
  2. Breathe in and count 1-2-3.
  3. Breathe out and count 1-2-3-4-5-6.
  4. Take note of sensations you may be experiencing in your body, where you might be holding tension or experiencing ease, and the weight of your feet on the floor.
  5. Hold your arms out at chest height, palms facing down.
  6. Breathe in.
  7. As you breathe out, sink down by bending your knees. It can be a slight bend or a full bend if you feel you have the energy, flexibility, and strength to do so.
  8. As you breathe in, straighten up again.
  9. As you sink down and rise up with the rhythm of your breath, imagine you are drawing the energy of the earth through the soles of your feet so that it moves into every cell of your body.
  10. Breathe in and out for pulling in the energy of the earth for eight cycles.
  11. As you exhale on the ninth cycle, reach your hands straight out from your chest, palms opening out as if you are reaching for the sun, so that when you inhale, you are drawing in the energy from the sun while drawing your hands back toward your chest, filling your body with the powerful energy of the sun.
  12. Breathe in and out, continuing this circular movement with your arms, pulling in the sun’s energy for another seven cycles of breath.
  13. Stand still again and notice how and what you feel.

Ask for help and delegate when you can

You are burned out because you are likely overloaded with responsibilities, and if you are like many people, asking for help may not be your strong suit.

You are not meant to carry all of life’s burdens on your own, and it is key that you begin seeking support for yourself. Support may come from friends, family members, colleagues, counselors, and so forth.

You may be surprised how many people you have in your life that are willing to support you.

Your workplace culture may not seem supportive, but most organizations are legally bound to offer help and protection if you are suffering from burnout.

Check with human resources and find out what resources are available to you. Talk with your colleagues and see if responsibilities can be shared or distributed more effectively. Connect with people who love you and simply lean on them for emotional support or advice.

Humans are social beings. We are not meant to exist alone, and the desire to belong is wired deep within us. You do not need to be on your life’s journey alone.  Make a commitment to regularly pause and ask yourself who you can look to for help or support.

Take care of your mind and body

Healing burnout often involves developing a more loving, compassionate, and successful relationship with yourself. It involves changing the way you look at yourself and what fuels your life.

As you go through your day, it will benefit you to regularly check in with yourself, notice how you’re feeling, and decide if you need care in one form or another. You may want to ask yourself, “Does this activity, thought, or food nurture and fuel me to be at my best?”

Incorporate these behaviors into your daily life:

  • Choose to nourish yourself with nutrient-rich foods. Processed foods and foods high in fat and sugar may comfort your anxiety initially, but they can also cause inflammation, fatigue, and worsening mental health issues.Eat slowly and mindfully, and make healthier choices that will truly nurture you and fuel your body.
  • Give your body the opportunity to move. Physical activity will help you raise the happy chemicals in your body like serotonin and lower stress hormones. Find an activity that you enjoy, one that makes you feel good so that you are more likely to go back for more.
  • Nourish yourself by spending time with people you care about. Hopefully, these people help remind you of your value and maintain a positive outlook. Let them help you because you deserve it.
  • Mindfully pay attention to negative thoughts and emotions. Be kind and compassionate with yourself. Treat yourself like you might treat a dear friend. Listen with compassion and take good care.Choose to meditate, take a walk, seek help, do something you love, and take care of your needs before you push yourself further. Take “me” breaks or time-outs that are just for you to have a loving relationship with yourself.
    Have fun and go out with friends, have a laugh, and spend time appreciating what you have and that you are.

The point here is to regularly pause, reflect, and celebrate you. Get to know yourself better and uncover what fuels you to be at your best.

Work on gratitude and self-acceptance

Many, if not most, people tend to focus on their own faults and are in search of elusive perfection that seems to exist only in movies.

In truth, if you don’t celebrate yourself and, instead, put yourself down, you are less likely to take care of yourself and honor your needs, and you’re more likely to succumb to burnout.

To start changing this attitude, you can keep a gratitude list of why you are thankful for who you are and what you have. When you are filled with gratitude, you are more likely feel open and able to view challenges as opportunities for growth and meaning, rather than a curse.

If you find it difficult to shift into gratitude and self-acceptance, you can start by mindfully appreciating anything you wish.

You can appreciate that the moon is high in the sky or that you found a parking space. Appreciate that you get to breathe, you get to think, and you get to eat.

If you can work the following exercise into your daily routine, you’re bound to feel better about yourself:

  • Every evening prior to going to bed, recall five things you feel grateful for or appreciate.
  • Write these things down in a journal, or use a journaling app on your phone.Think about events that happened in your day, accomplishments you’re proud of, aspects of yourself that you have come to appreciate, acts of kindness by strangers, or maybe some dumb luck that made your life a little better.
  • When you awake in the morning, read what you wrote the night before, or even flip back to previous days. Read the entries out loud and take a moment to contemplate how lucky or grateful you are.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Eva Selhub is a board-certified physician, speaker, scientist, executive leadership and performance coach, and a consultant in the field of corporate wellness and resilience. She focuses on helping individuals and corporations alike to become resilient, avoid or manage burnout, and achieve transformational health and wellbeing. She has been published in medical journals and featured in national publications including The New York Times and USA Today.

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