If you know, or suspect, that you are burning out or even if you know you ARE already burnt out – it can be a bit confusing about where the best place is to start. You know you want to feel like yourself again, but the question is…how?
There is a lot of information out there about burn out, and while it’s good that we have access to so much information – it’s also kinda overwhelming.
So I am hoping this post will help you make a plan on where to start so you can start feeling like yourself again.
Just as a quick reminder though – burnout doesn’t happen overnight.
It doesn’t happen from one stressful day or one stressful week, it happens from a build up of stress over a long period of time.
So that means it is a bit of a process.
You aren’t going to fix it with one early night or one afternoon off reading your book.
You are going to have to keep showing up.
Let’s just do a quick refresh of what burnout is and what signs to look for.
What is burnout?
Burnout is when you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. It happens when you are under chronic, long-term or excessive stress. It’s when we are unable to meet the constant demands (stressors) that are put on us.
The stress is happening faster than we can recover from the previous stressors.
The signs of burnout
- Feeling exhausted and drained
- You feel like you just can’t cope with one more thing
- Getting ill more frequently
- Change in eating habits (emotional or binge eating)
- Change in sleeping habits (difficulty sleeping or waking in middle of the night)
- Might feel helpless or trapped
- Feel like you just can’t keep up with anything
- Feel like you just can’t get anything right
- Feel hopeless – like everything is going wrong or it’s just one thing after another
- Everything seems like too much effort
- Isolating, wanting to be left alone
- Not enjoying things the way you normally would
- Using food, drugs, alcohol, smoking to cope
- Getting angry
- Feeling completely overwhelmed
- Anxiety or depression
This is not an exhaustive list and you might not be able to tick all the signs on this list.
If you feel like you are really struggling and need support, please go and see your GP who will be able to help you get the support you need.
The 3 key areas of healing burnout
The three key areas we need to focus on when it comes to recovering from burnout or to stop ourselves burning out in the first place are:
- Prioritising taking better care of ourselves
So that means eating foods that nourish us, making sure we are getting enough water, making sleep a priority, moving our bodies in a slow and gentle way.
- Reduce stress.
If we are burning out we can’t just keep going at the same pace and expect different results – we need to reduce our stress levels. Work out what it is that it causing us the most stress and reduce that.
Rest is important. So is doing things we enjoy. Making time to do the things that recharge us and fill our cups is important. Making time to journal and feel our feelings. It’s all important.
So where do I start?
The thing with burnout is that you need a 360 degree approach.
Just focusing on one area of the above might help you feel better initially but we need to be working on all of them to move out of burnout.
One place that you can start is by filling in a life edit sheet and you will be able to see which areas of your life are being a bit neglected.
Maybe you have just read those three areas and instantly know exactly where you need to start. You know which areas you have been neglecting a bit lately without it needing much thought.
It is very easy to get overwhelmed with what to do first.
But don’t worry because I have got you.
First things first…
We burnout because we are constantly pushing through and putting our needs to the side.
And to get out of burnout we need the opposite.
We need gentle. We need nurturing.
One way to think of it, is imagine you have adopted one of those puppies that has been neglected, the ones who are always on the TV, you don’t make her better by taking her for really long, hard walks and pushing her – you do it by being gentle and slow and caring.
I’m not saying you are like a neglected puppy – but I am saying you need gentle and that can be quite difficult to imagine what that means hence the puppy analogy!
And we need to start with sleep and resting.
Sleep is hugely important (I have a blog post all about it here) it helps us to feel good, it helps us cope better, it helps with all sorts of different processes in the body but it also helps us to recover.
It’s when our body does all the behind the scenes things that fix us.
It’s not a coincidence that when we are unwell we sleep more. The same way it’s not a coincidence that when we are burnt out we feel more tired and like everything is too much effort.
Try and get to bed earlier, even if it’s just five or ten minutes earlier just start there.
Sleep in a little later if that works better and you can – if you have children then chances are that is a thing of the past!
Throughout the day you need to be resting.
Just 5 minutes here or ten minutes there.
Read a book. Do 5 minutes of a crossword or an arrow word. Spend 10 minutes doing a craft or a jigsaw. Sit in your garden for 5 minutes and listen to the birds. Stand on your doorstep and listen to the rain. Have a cup of tea and allow yourself to stop and actually enjoy it.
It doesn’t have to be big, just small periods of rest that you can spread out throughout the day.
Take a minute to brainstorm some ways you can add rest into your day.
And just to call out – you find the time that you do to mindlessly scroll instagram so you can find a couple of minutes here are there for you.
Harsh, but it needs to be said. In the kindest way of course!
What is the next step for burnout?
So this one is going to be personal to you – what is coming up when you think about it?
Do you need to take better care of yourself? Maybe you need to eat a bit better to give your body the energy it needs to support you through this and your life. Maybe you need to move a bit more and start adding in a walk.
Maybe the next best thing for you would be to reduce stress in that area that is causing you to burnout.
Maybe the next best thing for you would be to start journalling every morning or just adding in a chapter of your book every morning when you wake.
Listen you to your instincts and do what works best for you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.
You can just choose one thing at a time and focus on that, and this is a good option for you if you are extremely burnt out and have very low energy. Then once you have mastered that, move on to the next thing.
The other option is to choose one thing from each category. One health, one reducing stress and one for self-care. This will suit you if you are in the early stages/heading for burnout.
It’s important not to try and over haul your entire life in one go as tempting as that may be.
While you might get some initial results it’s just going to make you burn out even further.
Remember slow and gentle.
Just choose one or two things at a time (a maximum of one from each category if one at a time is too hard for you!)
Remember it is going to take a while, you are not going to feel completely back to yourself overnight.
If you feel you need more support, please go and see your GP.
I hope this was helpful!
Let me know in the comments what area you would start with.