How do you know you’re facing burnout? You may face some or even all of the following:
- You’re having a harder time than normal getting up in the morning, especially waking up in the middle of the night for at least a couple hours.
- You push your dog away, almost kicking him across the room when he starts giving you attention.
- A number of snarky remarks pop in your head as you see your neighbor wave at you cheerily, watching you back your car out of your drive.
- Your gardener’s blower seems extra-loud and endless on your day working at home, as you were hoping for some quiet.
- You want no more clients, maybe ever, and don’t look forward to the day’s email.
Some of those may be normal occurrences but when compounded, you could be facing burnout. Anxiety, lack of sleep and fatigue, lack of creativity and purpose, emotional numbness and a cynical outlook are all symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic. Burnout occurs when stress hasn’t been successfully managed. Managing stress is different for every individual and here, we will cover five steps that will help most everyone, whether or not we are facing burnout.
One: Prioritize Your Time
Our time is one of our most valuable resources. We often face burnout because we are overextending ourselves with what we think we can do and what we realistically should do. This is not to say we can’t establish a healthy to-do list. But if our list starts taking over our lives, adding to our stress concerning what is not done, it’s time to scale it down. There are many systems that will help us focus on the most important tasks of our days and weeks.
Find a system that will work for you and stick with it. There are so many online tools and calendars that will help you. I find that once I put tasks on a list or my calendar, I can free up my mind to focus on my current project. For large projects, break them down in small steps. Remember Abraham Lincoln’s words, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I am adding just a few tools here to illustrate you sharpening your axe.
Personally, I have scaled down my life to use a very simple system, as I found myself spending too much time on my system and not enough time accomplishing projects. Do your own search online and find what will fit your needs.
Asana lets you put all your plans and projects in one place.
Monday lets you plan, manage and track your team’s tasks in one place.
Full Focus Planner is a complete productivity system if you need a system that will help you plan.
Two: Plan Your Exercise and Eating
Moving your body, stretching and getting our heart rate up becomes even more important as we age. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends adults aged 18-65 get at least 150 minutes, or about thirty minutes, five days a week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. 75 minutes of that should be of vigorous-intensity. In fact, the same applies to those over 65 if generally fit.
When you increase your heart rate, there is more blood flow to the brain. It modulates secretion of dopamine and serotonin, which are natural mood-lifters. This means exercise can improve mood and sleep, which will reduce stress and anxiety.
Along with a regular exercise routine, plan your diet to eat the type of foods that encourage healthy nutrition and energy. I find that if I don’t plan, I tend to snack on what’s available, especially as I have a home office. It’s O.K. to snack but create healthy snacks to grab on the go. There is a lot of information to help you pick foods that are energy-producing and healthy. The Mediterranean Diet is one of the most balanced with the combination of fruits, vegetables, protein and fiber. Do your homework and plan your meals ahead of time to be successful with a diet focused on lifestyle eating.
Three: Make Time for Meditation, Prayer, Thankfulness and Journaling
Life is busy. Taking time off to reflect or just to be gets pushed to the back of the priority list all too often. I recommend you start the day with a brief time for reflection and meditation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or even structured.
Reflection is most effective when combined with journaling. I recall our youth group camps taking time to sit around a bonfire. We would take small pieces of paper and write down what was bothering us and throw those papers in the fire to burn. It was extremely freeing and even though we were in a group, it was private.
When frustrated, take the time to write down thoughts even if it feels foreign and frivolous. It will be worth it because in some ways, you are transferring frustration to words on the page. You can always rip the pages up later, but the process of writing helps to voice thoughts and feelings. It may feel like it’s the last thing you want to do, or even have the time to do. But the process can be freeing and even help open up your mind to new solutions.
The process of journaling doesn’t have to be with long essays of thoughts and resolutions. Writing even a few sentences can be very effective. If you are really against writing with pen and ink, there are online programs that will let you dictate your thoughts. Let the paper or the dictation carry the bulk of your feelings and leave them there.
Four: Take Small Breaks and Breathe
When the eyes start crossing and concentration becomes difficult, take some time out. Even five or ten minutes does wonders. Since I have a home office, I love to grab a pair my clippers and find something to prune in our yard, which is not difficult at all since we have a lot of vegetation. It creates a total diversion and invigorates me. I find my mind is clearer and I end up having more energy when taking these small breaks.
We are shallow breathers, especially as many of us breathe through our mouths and actually don’t take time to breathe correctly. In James Nestor’s book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, his research shows that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance; rejuvenate internal organs; halt snoring, asthma, and autoimmune disease; and even straighten scoliotic spines. This can even resolve some instances of sleep apnea, improving overall health and mood.
Five: Take Action
If you don’t start, you’ll never instigate changes in your life. Burnout symptoms are fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger or irritability. It can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and even diabetes so making a change can really save your life. Take the time to go through each of the steps, prioritizing your time and sticking to a schedule. Then plan your exercise and eating. Don’t put this off! Even though time to meditate, journal and even pray seems unneeded, I urge you to take time for it. Then slow down enough to take some breaks and breathe deeply. You may be pleasantly surprised at the calming effect of all of the steps combined. I truly hope some or all of these steps help you move ahead with energy and vitality. You’re worth it!
Our time is one of our most valuable resources. We often face burnout because we are overextending ourselves with what we think we can do and what we realistically should do.
Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author
If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning