Ways To Combat Burnout
We all experience stress, frustration, and fatigue at different time points in life (several, in fact), but when exhaustion begins to compromise our immune system, eat away at our motivation, and derail our goals by interfering with our productivity, it could very possibly mean that we are experiencing burnout.
Burnout, whether its academic or career related, is a very real problem that is both preventable and treatable. It is important for us to recognize the tell-tale signs, so that we can take measures to mitigate its full effects. Here are some precursors to indicate that a full-blown burnout might be looming on the horizon for you:
- Loss of motivation
- Feelings of detachment
- Sense of failure in both abilities and accomplishments
- Exhaustion even after getting a full night of sleep
- Increased irritability towards others
- Inability to concentrate and increased forgetfulness
- Getting easily frustrated with trivial matters
- Reduced performance both at work/academics and at home
If you’re experiencing a few of the above listed symptoms, then in all likelihood, you’re at high risk for burnout. Now, what are some ways in which we can tackle these symptoms?
Firstly, it is important to make sure that your body is in good health. Having some control in the balance of your chemicals by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising, will make you less prone to the effects of burnout. Small things, like drinking plenty of water and getting a substantial dose of vitamin D from some good old-fashioned sunlight, not only keep you healthy, but also help you feel good. You might be surprised by how much developing healthy habits affects mood.
Speaking of moods, another helpful way to avoid burnout is by creating a visual of smaller, quantifiable goals you can realistically achieve in a short amount of time. This can be a specific number of assignments you want done before a due date, a number of pages to read/study, a step counter, a water bottle that measures your water intake with a time goal to hit, etc. Tiny accomplishments can add up to a big boost in overall mood because our brains deliver feel-good hormones to us whenever we feel we’ve “won” or accomplished something.
Good habits and creating visuals go hand-in-hand with increasing our organizational skills. Being able to organize tangible things like to-do lists is just as important as organizing intangibles like values and priorities. Start off by listing your values and the important things in your life, then rank them in terms of what you are willing to suffer for the most. What is number one? Is it family? Is it being at the top 10% of your career? A degree? Or perhaps it’s a salary goal? Knowing what is most important to you will help keep you focused on where other tasks rank in priority, making it easier to say “no” to some things, thereby avoiding getting overwhelmed or overburdening yourself. Spreading yourself too thin will not only put you at risk for burnout but will also result in poor production.
Another way to combat burnout is by having a strong support system. Getting along with coworkers, developing a strong line of communication with your leadership or professors, spending time with friends and family, whether chosen or blood-related, will give you a safety net to help you whenever stress gets to be too much. Reciprocating the support (not to be confused with overloading yourself emotionally) will also help you feel good as well.
You can strengthen your support system by having a healthy social life. Now, this doesn’t have to look like party excursions with large groups of people, and it certainly isn’t related to clicking hearts and emoji pictograms on social media. I’m talking about connections who make you laugh and have a genuine good time. Having a small community of consistent and meaningful connections prevents you from feeling isolated, which will keep you from succumbing to burnout.
Do not forget to carve out time for yourself! Doing something you enjoy, that is just for you, contributes to your overall mental health. Using the drive home as a way to deescalate by turning up your favorite songs to jam to, watching a tried-and-true sitcom to make you laugh, investing in a hobby, etc. Whatever “me time” looks like for you, make sure to prioritize it as an important part of your health and wellness.
Lastly, do not forget to ask for help! Don’t try to take on too much, and work on feeling comfortable asking for support, whether it’s from your established support system or a professional in a medical or therapeutic capacity, know when you’ve reached your limit and get the care you need. Self-care and good habits can take you far, but do not try to be a hero or martyr.