As I explored in my previous post, burnout is happening in the workplace and it may be getting commingled with quiet quitting. It seems difficult to decipher between the two but let’s review what the official criteria of burnout is. Let’s review. According to the World Health Organization:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
· feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
· increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
· reduced professional efficacy.
If we look at the criteria, part of the treatment is in addressing the various components of burnout. Below are some tips which seek to help you work on burnout so that you can better determine whether it’s burnout or rather it is time to explore other job/career options. Recognize that burnout is a cumulative process that occurs over time and without our conscious awareness. This is especially true in a culture that promotes hustle and go, go, go.
Once recognized, be aware that it could take weeks or months to work through before you feel better. One weekend of work on burnout is not going to cut it. Dealing with burnout will require consistent, intentional habits to ensure that you are making burnout recovery a priority. In this post, I will address the first criteria identified – energy depletion or exhaustion. Dealing with exhaustion is crucial to dealing with burnout, and stress overall.
In a follow up post, I will address the other criteria and offer tips in those criteria. So, let’s identify the biggest tip for burnout recovery. Rest. Rest is a core component of burnout recovery but did you know that there are different types of rest? Let’s explore.
There are different types of rest to consider besides the rest we tend to think of which is to go to bed earlier and engage in a sleep ritual. That is the obvious one but there are a variety of other areas of life that are depleted which need replenishment. Explore these various areas of your life and ask yourself if you have been resting. They include:
1. Physical rest
How much sleep are you getting? What is your routine around bedtime? Are you doom scrolling before bed? Are you going to bed late? Are you snacking before bed. Incorporating a routine where you try and give yourself an extra 30 minutes to an hour of physical rest can do wonders for your psyche. It may mean getting in your pajamas an hour earlier or staying in bed a few minutes later to meditate or journal. Give yourself the time to restore. Plan for daily wind downs and see what you can do for 30 days to foster physical rest.
2. Social media rest
How much time are you spending on social media? As a business owner, I am encouraged to engage with my social media accounts daily for marketing purposes. And this doesn’t include the engagement of social media I do in my personal life. Identify how much you’re engaged in social media professionally and also personally. How many social media accounts do you check on a daily basis (Instagram, TikTok, Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube). And this doesn’t’ include email!
What is the point of all this engagement? To unwind? To check in with family? To see what’s going on in the world? You are overwhelming your already burnt-out brain with input, even if it’s pleasant. Can you commit to just checking one or two social media accounts for a few weeks? Or perhaps you choose to utilize social media for one purpose (i.e., checking in with friends and not to follow the news). Taking a total time out from all social media for a few weeks, would be best but is not always realistic, but start somewhere and take a break from checking every day. Replace that time with nourishing activities.
3. Sensory rest
This is similar to social rest, where you are being inundated with information. But instead, we are focused on the overload to our senses. Whether it be lots of flashing lights, loud music, rough fabrics, unpleasant foods, or smells that make you nauseous, focus on turning down the volume of your senses.
Maybe you need a house without TV or music for a few hours, even if it’s content you enjoy. You may love Metallica, but for a period of time, maybe you just don’t listen to that in order to give your brain a break. Spicy foods may be your jam, but for a while, maybe you just eat food without the added extra heat. You are trying to reduce your body’s response to stimuli so that you can recharge your energy store. This leads into the next type of rest.
4. Nutritional rest
Have you been eating junk food as a stress response and for comfort? Are you eating late into the night? Look at your diet and see where you can incorporate some nutritional foods into your diet. Studies have shown the effects of preservatives and sugar on our mental health and if you are struggling with burnout, these foods only make the problem worse.
It can be difficult to eat well if you have limited time, a limited budget and limited mental bandwidth, but just looking at your diet and acknowledging that certain tweaks can be made is a start. Maybe you decide not to eat an hour before bed? Maybe you decide to focus on tea and water instead of sugary drinks and coffee. Allow your body to rest and digest from processed foods, with a focus on providing your body and brain things it needs to nurture you.
5. Emotional rest
Are you around draining people who always complain or have problems or are always needing you to fix their lives? If possible, take a break from those people and interactions. It’s one thing to try and manage those relationships with coworkers or a boss, but if you have to manage those personalities at work and at home, it can feel impossible to get the rest that you need. And you risk snapping at people because you feel overwhelmed. Where possible, take a break from those people.
Draining people often do not realize that they are draining, so it may be on you to simply say “I’m going into hibernation mode” and I won’t be as available as I usually am. You can always fib and say you’re moving to Alaska for 2 months and won’t be accessible. However, you can manage it, try and take a break from people who take from you without offering support in return.
In addition to reducing your time around draining people, also consider reducing draining experiences as well. If meal prepping is stressing you out, explore ways to outsource or streamline the process to give you a mental break from the constant bombardment of decision making. Being a part of a volunteer committee or the classroom mom may be enjoyable but also equally draining, so consider taking a step back for a few months until you can restore your energy levels.
Often people think that they should have to give up the “fun” stuff because work is killing them, however, your body doesn’t know the difference. It’s exhausted and you have to give it what it needs, even if it doesn’t seem related.
6. Creative rest
Are you expected to produce or show up at work 1,000% every day? Are you expected to come up with a new project or meet a deadline in 48 hours? In cases of burnout, we are often asked to meet impossible deadlines or to do the work of 3 people because the office is short staffed. And if you are constantly stepping up to meet those impossible tasks or deadlines, it is not sustainable and you will just crash and burn.
Is it possible to communicate to a higher up that you need more time to complete the project. Perhaps that is a futile mission but I also consider the alternative that you mayavoid doing it altogether, you may quit the job and leave the task unfinished or you end up calling out and the project flounders.
And if you can’t slow down creatively at work, can you slow down creatively at home? Do you have to Cricut the kids’ backpacks or can that wait? Explore ways to wind down from utilizing your task oriented brain to produce results. This does not include activities you undertake where there is no deadline or there is no expectation of performance or perfection. This only refers to situations where you have to meet a deadline and do the task perfectly.
7. Mental rest
Do you overthink? Over plan? Think about worse case scenarios and how you’re going to fix the problem? Worried that something is going to fail and you won’t be able to deal? Our brains think between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day and if those thoughts lean into the realm of negativity, fear and worry, is it any wonder that we will shut down? It is not as simple as saying, “hey, just stop worrying”, but instead can you look at the types of thoughts that take over? What is the quality of those thoughts? If it is frequently, resentment, anger, frustration, just know that this will lead to angry, resentful and frustrating experiences with your coworkers and friends.
Part of the recognition of recognizing your thoughts is to ask yourself, how can I reframe these thoughts so that it is more helpful or I am more productive? Maybe that means, talking yourself into establishing boundaries or seeking the solution to this problem. Maybe you need to communicate that you are frustrated and need more time to work on the issue. Venting is great, but venting without a feeling of hope will just lead to more burnout.
8. Spiritual rest
Do you engage in a spiritual practice? Whether it’s prayer, journaling, mediating, listening to an uplifting podcast or lighting candles, it’s important to get grounded in practices that nurture you. So often in cases of burnout, we are depleted because we are being asked to give more of ourselves. If there is never time to connect in with yourself or a higher power, it will be difficult to release the cynicism and hopelessness that you’re feeling.
Spiritual practice is often one of the many things that gets neglected when we are burnt out because we don’t have time for it, or to do it makes us antsy because we are overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts, negativity and worry. If you are experiencing burnout, a spiritual practice is truly necessary because you need to connect to a purpose higher than just your job or the day to day obligations. Look to incorporate some sort of daily spiritual practice that offers nourishment to your soul or grounding.
So if you have considered the possibility that you are experiencing burnout is present at work, take some time to come up with an action plan to deal with it. As I noted above, burnout is not something that gets resolved over the course of the weekend. It can take weeks or months of intentional action help you come out of burnout. Burnout is often so subtle that it progresses right under our awareness but when it hits, it hits hard. So, focus on being intentional in your healing. Next week, I will offer tips to address the other components of burnout. Let me know if you have tried out any of the suggestions and what has helped and not worked. Comment down below.
My name is Eddie and I am a mindfulness-based therapist in Bordentown, NJ who specializes in trauma, anxiety and Mom stress. I provide online counseling throughout the state of NJ and specifically in Mercer and Burlington County, NJ (Bordentown, Chesterfield, Robbinsville, Hamilton and Princeton).