I have been a researcher in wellness and burnout recovery for almost 20 years, and this past year I have seen more use of the word burnout than ever before. People are now naming their burnout, and we are moving beyond the hustle culture mentality that production is equal to busyness.
The idea that we can avoid burnout only leads to the denial of burnout, keeping people stuck in that space for too long. You should not be stuck in burnout, so here is another way to work toward maintaining your best self every day. Here are five tips for when you are experiencing burnout in your life.
1.) Name Your Burnout – If you are waking up more days than not feeling overwhelmed, burdened, emotionally drained, and that things are unmanageable, then name the burnout. When I experienced burnout, my turning point toward recovery did not start until I realized and named that I was experiencing burnout. It was not only stress from my work, my Ph.D. program, and my relationship, but that I was in a full-on burnout state.
2.) Identify Your Burn Events – Look at your last day/week/month and reflect on how each task, meeting, interaction, project, etc., impacted you. Did any of those make you feel fatigued, overwhelmed, or emotionally drained? Then that was a burn event. Look ahead at your calendar and identify upcoming burn events.
3.) Create Your Preparation Plan – You want to be prepared for your upcoming burn events. Is that meeting a weekly occurrence? How can you prepare for it differently? Try a ramp-up song before the meeting starts or take a few deep breaths. Dance parties are my go-to for moments before something that I think will be stressful. Have a plan for your immediate recovery following the burn event, like a body scan, meditation, or walk. Your preparation plan also includes how you incorporate day-to-day wellness practices. Having solid wellness rituals help you respond differently to unexpected burn events.
4.) Create Your Recovery Formula – Essentially, what experiences equal recovery (the sense of grounding and balance) for you? A straightforward way to think about this is to rework the acronym RICE used for physical injuries (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate). For burnout recovery, you want to Rest, Idle, Comfort, and Enjoy. Healing can only occur when you take a break and allow your body and mind to rest. When you idle, it is an intentional way to slow down, be present and pause from the hustle of life. Reflect on what you would include on your Comfort List. This is a list of items, food, people, activities, pets, and experiences that bring you immediate comfort, calm, and a sense of peace. I have seasonal comfort lists, and mac and cheese is my number one comfort item! Finally, make sure that you include playing in your recovery. Play is fun and has a vital role in our overall wellness and burnout recovery. Play is a way to increase your enjoyment of any task. (Anyone else that dances down the grocery store aisles?)
5.) Schedule Your Recovery – Look at your calendar and put in recovery time for each day, week, and month. Then plan out what your recovery time will look like. Mine vary from a nap in my hammock, writing in my journal, or taking a walk, to an afternoon at the pool, to a day trip out of town to try a new restaurant.
Think of the energy you could gain back by implementing clear strategies that create resilience to burnout by embracing it as part of the human experience.