In the second part of my blog series on burnout (see Monday’s post about signs you might be approaching burnout), I want to focus on techniques for absolving the symptoms of burnout. You may have deciphered that you are on the path to burnout in your work or educational life and you are looking for ways to rejuvenate that passion for your career that has somehow lost its luster. No one can run on empty forever. When we work too hard, push ourselves too far, and try to achieve “perfection” in life, we risk overburdening ourselves and losing sight of what is truly important to us. I play a part in this myself, and have had several instances in the recent past where I have needed to stop and check myself: what am I pushing myself so hard for? Am I really enjoying the work I do? The answer is yes, though sometimes I find it at the bottom of a muddy pond that is covered by weeds of my insecurities and workaholic ethic. I love what I do; it is my passion. I am very lucky to be helping people every day in a way that is fulfilling to myself and hopefully fulfilling to those that I serve. However, when I push myself too hard to be “the best” or to achieve some sort of unattainable goal, I am exhausted. That is when I approach burnout and find myself saying “yes” to the seven symptoms that I listed in my previous post.
So what to do? Take a deep breath. In my view, burnout is actually an opportunity to re-evaluate your life and to make choices that you might overlook and pass on otherwise. It is a way of forcing yourself to take a break and take a bird’s eye view of your life. What do you see? Here are several ways to renew yourself from burnout and to re-discover that energy that lies within you:
1.) Try to look at your life from a different perspective. Sometimes when I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed, I try to stop wheels spinning in my mind and to look at my life from a different perspective. I imagine myself floating above, watching me go through my day. What this brings to me is an observer’s stance: noticing how I go about my day in a way I had never thought of before. It also helps me to realize that my concerns or obsessions are not as consuming as I make them to be. This can help you ease up on yourself and make some choices that are most beneficial for your goals.
2.) Remember where you find your energy and passion – and embrace it. One thing about burnout is that it can taint your experience with things that you really do love. Your job, your school, a relationship — if you are burned out on these, you may lose sight of what you really love about them. Try to remember what brought you to love these things in the first place. Maybe it was reading a book about the subject, or watching a documentary. Maybe it was having a conversation with someone who inspired you. Go back to that place and memory in your mind. Sit with it. Write about it. Remember that you are still the person you were, and that the passion still lies within you.
3.) Define the stressors in your life and try to reduce them. When you feel like “everyday is a bad day“, it can be difficult to get up in the morning. What is causing you to feel this way? Is it the way your workplace makes you feel? Is it a relationship that you wish could be better? Sit down and try to think about what zaps your energy and happiness every day. Are there aspects of these things that do not align with your personal goals and values? Are you currently feeling engaged with your work? Try to make a game plan for how you can reduce the extent of stress in your life and manage your day in a healthier way.
4.) Think about how you measure and define success. Not feeling successful can be a leading sign of burnout. Whether it is in a job, school, or in a relationship, if you continually are feeling like you can’t quite reach a goal, it can be more and more difficult to try. Is your definition of success reasonable? Do you have small goals that you realistically can attain each day, or do you have huge ones that overwhelm you and cause you to shut down? Try to break down goals to smaller pieces. The feeling of accomplishment is great; it can be felt even with small steps and those are the ones that help you feel balanced and achieve bigger goals.
5.) Physically remove yourself from the source of burnout. We can get very stuck in our routines and we may have difficulty realizing that parts of our routine are contributing to our burnout. Sometimes the best and only thing to do to reduce burnout is to remove yourself from the triggering situation. Take a leave of absence from work. Go on a vacation to a locale that is strikingly different from your home locale. Surround yourself with people and environments that you do not normally interact with, and allow them to teach you their perspective on life. This can be very refreshing and can help you get back to the values, loves, and goals that are truly meaningful to you.
I hope that this series on burnout has been helpful. Burnout is a very real and common issue and can be avoided by taking care to notice what is going on within you. We all go through it and can learn so much from the experience. By healing what is exhausted within ourselves, we can re-energize and renew so that we are available to fully embrace our vibrant lives.