A state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by a prolonged period of stress and frustration; an inevitable corporate condition characterized by frequent displays of unprofessional behavior, a blithe refusal to do any work, and most important, a distinct aura of not giving a shit.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t affect everyone. It happens over time and to those with an “I can do everything” personality. It’s both emotional and physical exhaustion. Not only do you feel tired, you also lack motivation, lose track of your goals and find yourself having a bad attitude. And by the way, it’s not going away on its own.
If you are going nonstop at 100 mph, you’ll eventually run out of gas. It’s your job to refuel and do maintenance checks along the way, too. It’s so easy to blame it on the car when in reality, it’s the driver’s fault.
If you are burned out, there is one person to blame. And it’s you.
This is hard to accept. I know it first hand. It took me a long time to realize that it was me who put myself in this situation of feeling burnt out. Everyone’s burnout stems from something different. My burnout stemmed from taking on too much work outside of work. Not only was I working 50 hours a week at my job, I was also writing for the blog, picking up freelance jobs, running an Etsy shop, traveling, training a puppy and keeping up with my social life.
And eventually, it got to the point where I was pointing fingers and complaining. A lot. I was tired, cranky and half-assing every project. I wasn’t eating, working out or making an effort to even keep up with my laundry. My anxiety was at an all time high and my relationships were going down the drain fast. And it was all my fault. Way to go, me!
First, I had to accept it. I did this to myself. I had to stop ranting about everyone and everything. This was nobody’s fault but my own.
Next, I had to drop the victim story. I had to stop blaming my lack of participation on “being busy.” And stop asking for get-out-of-jail-free cards.
Then, I had to make some big changes like believing in something bigger than myself, learning to say no and prioritizing my health.
Believe in something bigger
When you take on a lot of work and are facing burnout, it’s most likely because you have no rhyme or reason to why you are doing it. You say yes because it sounds fun or you feel pressured. But soon you are on this road that you don’t know where it’s leading.
My first step to recovering from burnout was creating personal and work goals. You have to sit yourself down and ask, what do I want to accomplish? What change do I want to make in the world?
Half of the projects I was working on at the time were not leading me to my goals.
For example, one of my goals is to be a UI/UX designer. I want to specialize in web and software design. So why was I accepting freelance projects for logos and print work?
Another goal is that I want my Sundays to be screen free. But how can I do that if I have too many Etsy orders and project deadlines to accomplish?
That’s where the next step comes in. I had to start saying “no.”
Learn to say “no”
This has always been a huge struggle for me. For whatever reason, I believed I could handle anything. I say yes to almost everything that crosses my path. When you’re time is already limited, what’s adding one more thing? Yes, I can add more freelance work. Yes, I can increase sales on my Etsy shop. Yes, I can pick up another project at work. Oh and of course, we can get a puppy.
PSA: You can’t do everything.
When you’re saying yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Saying yes to more freelance work also meant cancelling a work out class. Saying yes to re-opening my Etsy meant no to cooking a good dinner. Saying yes to an extra project at work meant not being home with my family until late.
It’s okay to approach your boss or project manager and let him/her know that your workload is too high and is causing stress. They want the best work from you and they’d rather you not quit from something that could have been avoided.
Once you have your goals set, it’ll be much easier to say no to the things that don’t align with them. If it helps you get closer to your goal, say yes. If it’s going to distract you from your goal, say no. And at a certain point, you have to realize when your plate is full.
Prioritize you and recharge
When you make the effort to recover from massive burnout, you need to remember to prioritize you. You need to take a break. I am telling you to take a vacation, woman! Take a sick day and gift yourself rest. Don’t open the computer, don’t scroll through social media. Truly take a brain break and prioritize your happiness. Show yourself love and keep doing it.
Add every meal to your planner and be intentional with what you eat. Provide your body with what it needs to succeed. No more fast food and skipping meals, my friend. Your body needs fuel and the right kind of it. Finally buy those damn vitamins and take them.
Re-introduce exercise. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, sixty-two percent of adults who say they exercise or walk to help manage stress say the technique is very or extremely effective. I don’t expect you to run a marathon next week. But you can take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car in the farthest space to get in extra steps. Take your dog to the park and chase her around. Visit your apartment pool and do a few laps. Take advantage of your standing desk if you have one. There are many ways to add just a little more physical activity to your day.
Once you take a hard, long look in the mirror and realize that you are in total control of your workload, you can start making changes. You can formulate a plan, set goals and be able to prioritize your health, happiness and workload.
It won’t happen overnight, but I promise it will be worth the journey. You’ll get back to feeling like yourself and doing your best work again. And before you know it, your goals and dreams will become reality!
If you have any other tips for recovering from burnout, let’s see them in the comments. Let’s battle burnout together.