Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability. Many people spend the majority of their waking hours working, and if you're feeling an usually consistent sense of tiredness and resentment toward work, you're likely experiencing some degree of burnout.
It's grown especially concerning over the past year with more people working from home and therefore less able to "turn off". There's also been a growing feeling of helplessness with the state of the world that can severely impact burnout, especially for healthcare workers and others at the forefront.
No matter what day(s) you do or don't have off this Labor Day, it may be the perfect time to hit the reset button and give yourself some much needed rest, relaxation, and reflection. Even if you don't get your groove back so quickly (let's be realistic here), perhaps you'll discover some practices you can incorporate into your life more regularly moving forward.
Here are 9 ways to begin:
Start a morning routine.
This is especially tough for those of us who aren't exactly morning people, but it just might be the most effective. As someone who spends most of my day responding to emails, making decisions in back-to-back meetings, and fielding countless pings, it's imperative to begin my day by responding to my own needs, and no one elses. This means not checking my phone until I've had quiet solo time and get through my core priorities, but here are some other ways to set a strong tone for the day.
It's easy to feel burnt out if your energy is focused on the negative. You might be surprised how much your mood shifts by simply taking a few minutes to appreciate the positive. The 5-minute journal is a great way to manifest an attitude of gratitude by setting a daily affirmation, listing 3 things you're grateful for, and later reflecting on the highs (and one low, or opportunity to improve) of the day.
Are you aware of what drains you and what energizes you? Many people don't notice, because it's not always obvious in the moment. Look back at your calendar and identify which appointments were of value and which were not an ideal use of your time. Identify patterns, then act accordingly.
Try a new type of meditation.
Mind-wanderers, unite! The first few times I tried meditation I thought "yeah this isn't for me". I was too anxious and couldn't figure out how anyone gets their mind to focus on nothing - which is exactly why we need meditation in the first place. Our brains are busy, and we must hit pause to practice mindfulness. I've since found that meditations focused on counting, calling out body parts, or breathing in specific patterns are game changers. They allow your mind to focus on something, but that something is actually calming your nervous system in the process.
Whether you need to block out breaks on your calendar, create strict start and stop times for work, actually USE your vacation days (sans email!), say no to certain meetings, delegate tasks you don't like to someone who loves them, or whatever it may be - setting boundaries at work is the only way to take back your day. In fact, boundaries are essential at home and in all of your relationships, too.
Revisit an old favorite.
Think of something you loved years ago. Is it playing guitar, drawing, taking a walk in the park, making your favorite sandwich, or perusing old cartoons? Do you still do it? When was the last time? Perhaps it's time to try it again, and see if you reignite that flame of passion within yourself that burnout quite literally burnt out.
Breathe in the air.
Staring at the same four walls every day is disastrous. It's healthy for humans to change their environment every now and then, as it awakens the mind and body in new ways. If that environment just so happens to immerse you in some fresh air outside, even better!
Move your body.
There's a great quote that says "If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation." Doctors use it, coaches use it, professors use it, yet the greater population has been slow to catch on. If you're feeling tired, anxious, or unhappy, see what 15 minutes of exercise - literally any kind - does to your mood. It just might become your greatest addiction.
If all else fails, give yourself time to rest. No obligations. No to-do lists. Just be. The world will still be spinning when you're done, and your mind and body will be better equipped to latch on for the ride.
Happy Labor Day, y'all! You deserve it.
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