Burnout: Prevention and Recovery
About every month or two one or more of my clients suffers from Burnout.
Burnout is not technically a clinical term, but one that is used to describe a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that renders a person pretty much disabled.
They feel like they have become unglued, spent and unable to function. Their energy level is at its lowest; there is no motivation, there is a strong sense of hopelessness and a feeling that they cannot accomplish anything.
They can become angry, easily irritated and even depressed. They are frequently withdrawn to the extent of being close minded and friends and family are unable to talk to them and point out what appears obvious to everyone.
Many of us are potentially susceptible to being burnt out. It is a consequence of prolonged stress and a desire to accomplish something that may be just too difficult to achieve at that time.
You can be working at something that causes frustration but you pour yourself into it day after day, week after week. You may not pay attention to the effect that the all-consuming work (whether physical or mental) has on your mind and body.
Your perspective becomes narrowed or constricted and solutions or ways of approaching problems escape you. Your creative self seems shut down and you are at a loss.
This phenomenon can happen in relationships as well. You and your partner may be in a high conflict, acrimonious loop that seems never to end. You may feel helpless and hopeless, and despite what you think are your best efforts, nothing is getting better.
Not being mindful of the need to take better care of yourself, you begin to breakdown and burn out.
Burnout Recovery and Prevention
Keep in mind that getting burned out is a process. It takes time to feel burned out and the sooner you recognize that you are on the road to becoming a victim of burnout the quicker you will be able to either prevent it or recover from it.
If you are suffering from burnout treat it very seriously. Your health and well being is truly at stake here. Burnout is the equivalent to chronic stress in the extreme and paying immediate attention to it can be critical.
Burnout Recovery Strategies:
STOP: Whatever you are doing that is tied into your feeling burned out needs to stop. This does not mean forever or that you need to take a long vacation (which may be true) but at least for the time being you need to shut it down or at least shut down your participation in it.
It is essential that when you are about to go over the cliff of burnout you must apply the brakes and take time off. At this stage it is not enough to simply take an hour or two for lunch or a nap; you may be beyond that point.
Those simple strategies are better utilized early on before the stress level gets extreme.
Get Help: When pulling away from the source of stress you may feel even more depressed or hopeless because you believe you were unable to successfully resolve things before becoming burned out.
This is normal. You need to realize that being in the process of burnout is like being in a tunnel; your vision is narrowed. Therefore coming up with creative ideas and solutions, especially on your own, is that much more difficult.
In addition to unplugging temporarily you should share your thoughts, concerns fears and ideas with trusted family, friends or a professional. It is important when taking time off that you can learn ways to re-energize, become refreshed and gain clarity.
Rethink or Reconsider: Whatever you have been doing before getting to this point has not been working well enough.
While you may feel that you just need some more time or a little more sleep, the likelihood is that, if you are burned out, a little more time or a little more sleep will not really help.
You need to rethink what is important and redefine your priorities and your goals. You need to evaluate whatever you were doing to understand if it truly aligns with your values.
You need to consider whether you have changed in a way that has caused you to lose self-respect or self-worth. You need to widen your perspective and see things from a different point of view.
This self-examination is essential for you to be able to return with a renewed sense of purpose and the strength to go on.
Burnout Prevention- Top 10 Tips
Practice relaxing: Take a few minutes (only a few minutes), close your eyes, take a deep breath and tell yourself to relax. You can program your mind to calm down with just a little practice. You can also take a warm bath, stretch several times a day or just take a 5 minute nap. Do this every day and you will notice an improvement in your stress level.
Sleep: If you are not sleeping well or are sleep deprived you will likely perform poorly at work, feel irritable and be short tempered. Sleep deprivation is often a major contributor to burnout.
Exercise: This is an obvious no brainer. Every study shows the benefits of getting any form of exercise. It will help to reduce stress and is essential for well being. It may not prevent burnout but it can delay it.
Cut down on alcohol: If you drink more than a glass or two of wine or have more than one or two beers and do this every night you are probably drinking too much. Drinking too much will wear you down, reduce your creativity and can potentially cloud your judgment.
Laugh a lot: Laugh often, lighten up, be a little less serious and try finding the humor in things. You’ll cheer others up and enjoy yourself more often. Laughing is good for you physically and mentally and can help put things in perspective.
Get organized: Lack of organization can lead to unnecessary frustration. Freeing yourself of clutter and learning better time management skills can go a long way to reducing stress and preventing burnout.
Express yourself: Be assertive not aggressive and say what’s on your mind and in your heart in an effective, respectful way at work and at home. Don’t let resentment and anger build up. Talk to the people you care about and who care about you.
Don’t procrastinate: If you often find yourself putting things off or avoiding what you know needs to be done you are unnecessarily causing stress. Deadlines can creep up quickly and you may find yourself becoming frantic because you procrastinated.
Learn to compromise: Negotiation is a fundamental principal in business, politics and life. If you want something you have to give something. Everybody wins when there is flexibility.
Stay positive: Have positive references handy so you can call upon them when you are stressed and feeling gloomy. Know the things in your life that you are grateful for and think about them often. Stop beating yourself up with negative self-talk…it’s time to change your thinking!
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance. He also works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy.