Exhaustion. Overcommitment. Melt Down. Breaking Point.
Whatever the symptoms, the diagnosis is the same: burnout.
I am too familiar with this kinda B.O., and lemme tell you – it really stinks. Whether it’s from consistently sleeping 3 hour nights to cram for exams (hello, college) or working consistent 12 (or 14, *cough* 16) hour days, burn out is real. In the moment, you feel like you’re just “hustling,” “pushing through,” or “making it happen.” In reality, though, you’re hurting yourself. Not only that, but you’re also damaging your future potential by just wearing yourself too thin.
As a result, you might crack.
You develop anxiety. You can’t sleep or focus, and you feel like a failure. You feel crappy, exhausted, and desperately in need of SOMETHING to feel better again, so you cry or vent or unintentionally lash out at someone you love. It happens – we’ve all been there. The thing to remember, though, is that it doesn’t have to get to that point of severity. You can beat burn out, and you can live the life you love while ALSO “making it happen” and getting things done. The key is figuring out your own best practices to combat burnout symptoms, thereby preventing the collapse before it even begins.
I feel you.
I have moments of burn out. I’ve also had entire PERIODS of burn out where someone needed to intervene for me.
So I’m sharing 9 things that truly help me – coping mechanisms, if you will – on how to handle burnout.
HOW TO HANDLE BURNOUT: 9 TIPS
Know your own distress signals.
You know when you’re getting close to burnout…because you might not even NOTICE you’re close to burnout! While you might not consciously register the general exhaustion and mental kaputness, your subconscious and physical being may be feeling the toll. One of the first steps to not burning out is being able to recognize when you’re on the B.O. fast track. Personally, I get panicky and develop tunnel vision towards my fears. It becomes near-impossible for me to see the good in my work and to hold onto my goals. Instead, my worries start to consume me, and self-doubt is rampant. I also cry (a lot) and just get weepy and depressed. S.O.S! My #1’s know those are my signs, so they know it’s time to jump into the picture. Which brings me to…
Talk to your #1.
For me, J and my mama are my #1’s and the order goes as follows. Option A: Call mom, then vent to J in-person. Option B: Vent to J in-person, then call mom. Either way, both J and my mama know what’s happening all the time. They know my triggers, they know my weak spots, and they’re always there to jump in with prayer or assistance. When this happened to me LITERALLY two days ago, J came home from work and started with, “How can I help?” He knew exactly what was weighing on my heart, so he prayed for me. We went on a walk, he made me laugh, he grabbed us Starbucks. By the time we were home again, I was already feeling better, just from having that fresh air and fresh perspective from my main squeeze.
Gift a tedious task.
One of my favorite bloggers, Katey, recommended this point once and it stuck with me ever since. Gifting a tedious task means figuring out something that you can do for somebody else – something that speaks their love language. It can dually take your mind off of your own day while investing it into making theirs. For 22 years now, my dad has always filled up my mom’s gas tank without her asking. I don’t think she remembers how to pump gas anymore – HA! 😉 J always jumps in to help me with taxes. I make breakfast before J is up for work and have any dishes done before he gets home later. When you can do something to lighten someone else’s load when it would greatly impact their day – do it. I know J loves coming home to a clean house, so I warmly welcome the mental break. I take a pause around 4 pm every day to do a full sweep of the house and tidy up; it’s momentarily tedious, but it makes a big difference in both of our moods (and to the house in general).
Don’t respond when you’re stressed.
You know that gut OH MY GOSH I’M GOING TO FLIP OUT kneejerk reaction when you get a less-than-stellar text or email from someone? I swear sometimes there just aren’t enough sideeye emojis on the planet to adequately express your frustration? #BeenThereDoneThat. Caution: Do not take out said frustrations on the source. When you’re stressed, it’s far too easy to want to unleash on the world. But, it’s ALSO far too easy to get sucked up into all of it and say or do something that’s regrettable later. I’m guilty of this; whenever I receive straight-up rude emails from companies that want me to work for free, I’m tempted to hit “reply” with a litany of smartass remarks. But I don’t. I can’t. Because that would do no good to anyone. J and I both try this now: Vent out the response you WISH you could write. Then type something out. Then sleep on it, reread it in the morning, and make edits as appropriate. Hitting “reply” prematurely can send you straight to Burnout Central since you’ll likely have to wipe up the mess that follows.
Have a go-to song.
You’ve got your driving jam, your getting ready playlist, your girls anthem, your shower power ballad…you need a go-to song for when times get tough, too! When you’re overly expended energy-wise and feel the pressure and anxieties coming on, have one song that’s special for the occasion that truly soothes your soul. For me, it’s Oceans by Hillsong United. I call it my peace song. I’ve got a giant, gorgeous sign of the lyrics as the centerpiece on my dining room wall (thanks Mom + Aunt D!) as a constant reminder.
A good book + good tea.
For too long, I couldn’t justify sitting down with a book unless it had some sort of “educational” value. Gross, right? But seriously, unless the book was surrounding psychology practices, marketing tactics, the science of persuasion, or brand strategy, I didn’t do it. When you’re experiencing burnout, though, your brain just needs a break. It’s okay to need a real mental vacation sometimes! Always have a book on hand that you’re dying to start reading. The only criteria? It has to be “escape-worthy.” You have to be able to mentally get INTO the book, escaping into its world. Couple that with tea (peppermint is soothing, and green is antioxidant-packed!) and let yourself sit and enjoy. My family will tell you – I’m terrible at just sitting and being. I always have a “productive” itch to get things done, and it lessens my ability to just enjoy the moment. But that doesn’t help – it just makes ya more prone to burnout! Make sure you give yourself permission to actually stop working and to truly enjoy a moment for yourself to recharge.
Go on a walk + get perspective.
Literally removing yourself from your current, burnt out location is sometimes the only remedy your need in the moment! Like I said – J and I did this the other night. He saw me in a funk and flat out distressed and said right away, “Wanna go for a walk?” Just getting outside and breathing fresh air works wonders in and of itself sometimes. Physical movement + blood flow + new surroundings + talking it out = Major refreshment. Plus, it helps seeing others in action, too. Seeing others live their lives can be great for putting your own problems into perspective. This doesn’t mean diminish them – it just reframes everything in a more realistic, less emotionally high light. It’s SO easy feeling like your problem is Mount Rushmore monumental in a moment of high stress and frustration. But sometimes, seeing other people’s bubbles can give yours the pop it needs to bring back your sanity and peace. I don’t think it’s fair to think, “I can’t be upset about anything because there are people who have it WAY worse then me,” even if that’s true. Because we all have our own crosses to bear, and things like stress and emotions are all relative to your own experiences on a very personal level. What feels monumental to one might be tiny pebbles to another. But that’s OK! The point is the perspective: Keep it. When I’m on the brink of burnout, I NEED to remove myself from my surroundings and get a new perspective in every sense. Also, iced coffee. Remove yourself from your surroundings, and get an iced coffee. Always helps. 😉
Lordy, this is HUGE. When I feel myself freaking out inside, it’s often because of what’s happening on the outside. Even if clutter doesn’t directly cause burnout, it sure as HECK doesn’t help! Take a minute. Look around. Pick up excess. Put things in their place. Donate anything you don’t love anymore. Tidying up rooms or physical spaces has a surprisingly huge effect on our brains, as it helps declutter your mind, too. Which brings me to #9…
For me, I burn out when there is just literally no more space in my head. I feel consumed by all of things going on in work, life, relationships…and then there’s clutter around me physically, too? Puhlease. Heck no. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Make SPACE in every sense! Finish things that need finishing. Give yourself freedom. I hate feeling mentally bogged down, because the next thing to come onto my plate ends up being the breaker – the thing that sets me over the edge. But, when you add some wiggle room to your mind as a buffer, unexpected stressors can’t phase you. There is more space mentally, emotionally, and physically to get creative and inspired.
I’d love to hear from you…
What about you? What advice do you have on how to handle burnout?
Leave me a comment below with any tips you might have! Have you found any good resources to use when you’re on the brink? Are there any essential oils or other body products that soothe you? Let the burnout banishing commence.