BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
About a year ago, I felt exhausted with every aspect of my life. I just wanted to stay home (even before the pandemic). The idea of going out in public was annoying, frustrating, and irritating. I had dreams of just leaving everything…wouldn’t it be nice to just move to Thailand, work at a restaurant making Pad Thai, and never have to deal with any of the things that seemed so wild and overwhelming. On top of that, I was sick – sinus infections, ear infections, a weird cough and cold that wouldn’t shake…I was 100% burnt out.
Burn out is no joke, my fellow high achievers. We can say, “Oh, I’ll rest later” or “Oh, it will get better soon” and you know what? That soon and later never comes! We move from our huge drive for work, a push to work harder, neglect of our needs, denial, withdrawal, exhaustion, and then – we do it all again!
I feel like I’m not alone here.
If you’re reading my account of burnout and nodding in agreement, recognizing that you’re in some stage – pre-burnout, burning out, or recovery from burn out – don’t worry! We can do this together and prevent burn out. Here are a few tips to prevent it – remember, if you find yourself in the middle of it, get some rest, drink water, eat a vegetable, and start new next time.
Do some re-con
Quick! What causes your burn out?
If your answer is “everything” or “work” or “stress” – you’ll need to do some reconnaissance work on being more specific. Do some homework around what exactly gets you to the point of burnout. If you can’t figure out what it is, don’t worry! Get as close as you can. For me, I can recognize when I’m starting to approach burnout, and it’s usually when I’m taking on a huge, highly emotional task without any support built-in.
Once you start to identify the areas that cause you burnout, or even some of the characteristics, take note of how you’re going to identify when this is happening in the future. If you’re like me, you might not have been completely aware of the cause of your burnout – the more you know, the better you can defend yourself next time and prepare for the future.
Start saying no
The more you say no, the more you can avoid burnout, no matter what kind of burnout you’re dealing with.
Think about it – burnout occurs when you take on too much. The more you can get comfortable saying no, the less will be on your plate.
Does the idea of saying no make you break out into a cold sweat? Come up with a few phrases that can give you time before you say no. Things like, “Let me check my schedule and get back to you,” will be incredibly helpful while you work up to saying no.
Take care of yourself
While writing this article, I’m coming off of a huge stint of 14-16 hour days. Were they preventable? Not really. Did I build in off time post-project where all I had to do was write and watch TV with my dogs? Yes!
If you know you suffer from burnout or have a tendency to get burnt out, it’s not as simple as “rest” – you have to make it work with the rest of your life! For me, it’s about giving space before and after where I can take better care of myself – because the work stress is inevitable. What that stress looks like is unique to me – and yours is unique to you! Give yourself grace and space to care for yourself.
I’m not telling you to move to another city or state – you definitely should find time to move around. Whether that is exercise, a walk, or just a new space in your house or office to move to – a change of scenery will help.
Above all, don’t beat yourself up if you get burnt out even if you try to avoid it. Strive to treat yourself better every time!