Breaking the Cycle of Burnout: Steps to Renewal and Resilience
Updated: Oct 8
When you come out of the last few hours of your weekend with the Sunday blues with dread of the upcoming week. It may be because you have endless work you know you're getting back to or a boss that just grinds or constant meetings that start to seem meaningless. This may indicate you are burnt out from the pressures, deadlines, or expectations that feel debilitating. You might not even feel you have enough time for bathroom breaks. It's can be a serious threat to your overall health and well-being. Burnout has a negative impact on everything from your physical to mental health, as burnout often leads to anxiety, depression, hypertension, sleep difficulties, and cause strain on your professional and personal relationships.
Burnout differs from stress, as it is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress over prolonged periods especially in a work-related context. Most suffering from burnout can no longer cope with the demands of their job. Burnout is characterized by feelings of cynicism, detachment, and decreased productivity, as well as a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
While stress is a normal part of life and can be managed through various coping mechanisms, burnout is a more serious and complex condition that requires specific interventions to prevent or overcome it. It is important to recognize the signs of burnout and take action to address it before it becomes a more serious health issue.
Take it from someone that has juggled 3 jobs, trying to navigate a new marriage, and buy an apartment in already stressful city like NYC. Burnout can creep up on you and at times you are bouncing from one task to the next while never feeling you're getting anywhere with things. Event when you're working from home it becomes difficult to focus because you're spread so thin.
Here are ways identifying when you're burnout:
Burnout leaks into all aspects emotionally, cognitively, and physically no matter how much you're accomplishing. As this progresses it becomes harder to focus, you feel so low that you lose any sense of joy from things you previously liked. Even when you sleep 12 hours on your days off, you can't seem to catch up and feel fully rested.
Dissociation and Detachment
It occurs as you lose your sense of meaning and fulfillment from your work. Where you might've been excited about your career previously, you find yourself detaching by losing focus, in a fog, distracting yourself with unrelated tasks, scrolling, or games. When you feel overworked and your workplace boundaries get crossed, you start to internalize this with feeling guilt and shame. Over time, you distance yourself from the work. When you reach this point, you might disassociate by looking for other strategies to cope such as drinking, drugs, shopping, anything that offers quick ways to move you away from the work.
You question your value and worth, believing you're an imposter. Internalizing messages that you're incompetent, comparing yourself to others, obsessing over your mistakes, and overlooking your achievements. It gets compounded each time you fail to meet others and your own expectations that you question the quality of your work, skills, and abilities. This is especially common when there's a lack of positive feedback and recognition from peers, colleagues, or management for your efforts.
Steps to Renewal and Resilience by Increasing Self-Care
If you identify with any of those, you likely suffer from burnout.
Here are some steps to recover and prevent the worst outcome of having a breakdown, quitting, getting fired or making a career change.
Take steps to practice good sleep habits. This can be personal in the amount that is optimal for you, whether it 5 hours or 9 hours of sleep. Prioritize sleep as it is essential to combat burnout. Sleep is vital for your body and mind to maintain good physical health, cognitive function, reduce stress, and restore your energy levels. Create a ritual to wind down an hour before bed by reducing stimulation from all electronic devices as this will prime you for going to bed.
Nutrition impacts your energy levels, mood, stress response, and ability to focus mentally. Just as when you have pasta or high carbohydrate meals for lunch cause you to want a midday nap, your food choices are sources that can support your well-being and resilience to stress/burnout or hinder you. Choose foods that provides the fuel for your day, such as lean proteins, whole grains fruits, vegetables, and nuts and seeds. In addition, hydrate, drinking water is also essential for maintaining energy levels throughout your day.
Having exercise has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, including reducing symptoms of burnout. Over 17 studies have found that physical exercise interventions had a moderate effect on reducing burnout. You don't have to exercise in a gym, you can also include movement in your regular routine by getting outside for a nature stroll, taking a bike ride, or joining a group to learn to dance, play a sport, or martial arts.
Seek out social support from colleagues, supervisors, and friends has been found to be effective in reducing burnout among professionals. Over 47 studies found that social support had a moderate effect on reducing burnout. Gain positive relationships and learning opportunities by finding coaches and mentors that can expand your perspective beyond yourself. You might also consider volunteering to get involved, it increases your sense of accountability, increasing your collaboration and in turn boosts your overall morale. It also demonstrates taking initiative and showing your leadership skills by working with others.
Mindfulness-based practices such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), have been found to be effective in reducing burnout. 15 studies have found that mindfulness-based interventions reduces symptoms of burnout. I offer mindfulness exercises here, you can also check out Insight Timer for free guided meditations and workshops.
There are numerous benefits of meditating among seniors and Retire Guide offers more on techniques and how to get started.
Take inventory of your energy spends with people, tasks, by identifying where you expend the most. This way you can prioritize by setting a time limit on how much you allocate to each project. Be realistic in setting your goals for each task. This also includes setting limits on amount of time spent on emails and taking calls/meetings with clients/colleagues.
Limit exposure to tasks, people, situations that aren't essential, anything that will put you in a negative mood. Invest in time with people or activities that boost your energy, space for restful, positive time away from work. This may mean scheduling breaks 2-3 times during the work day to practice the self-care strategies named above.
Reduce job stressors by identifying when to say "no." Know what is within your job requirements and what is going beyond it. Increase you understanding of your value and worth. Create boundaries to protect yourself from overextending beyond your job description.
Get to know where your recognition lacks, showcase your work. Identify your wins, by starting with the last month and move to the last 6 months. As you start this input this into a spreadsheet and include anytime people give you any recognition by email or personally. You need to be first in recognizing your accomplishments before others can. By taking inventory of your own accomplishments this can help you build your portfolio both for self-efficacy and for the upcoming review with management.
Workload Management such as time management and prioritization strategies are effective in reducing burnout. One way that would help is to structure how you manage your time by planning ahead. What has helped me is to organize the week ahead with priorities for work, personal, and aspirations. Break up your day and even schedule the breaks that you need, it's helpful to start with a 5 minutes break and increase gradually. whether with a planner or calendar; streamline repetitive tasks, setting realistic deadlines, and breaking tasks down to smaller, more manageable pieces, and schedule regular breaks to manage workload more effectively.
Talk to a Professional
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. Numerous studies show that CBT was effective in reducing burnout. This can be in an individual format or in a group setting. At times, speaking to a mental health professional would offer the added support that goes beyond what you're able to do alone. There are other methods of treatment approaches that can be catered to your specific needs.
Inquire here for a consultation to meet with a therapist: firstname.lastname@example.org
Burnout is a serious threat to our well-being that requires specific interventions to prevent or overcome it. Don't allow burnout to take over your life. Therapy will allow for you to make sense of how you've gotten to this point and start to feel better. Unlike stress, burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by chronic stress over prolonged periods, especially in a work-related context. Burnout has negative impacts on physical and mental health, leading to anxiety, depression, hypertension, sleep difficulties, and causing strain on professional and personal relationships.
To prevent or overcome burnout, it is crucial to recognize its signs and take action before it becomes a more serious health issue. Therapy may feel costly, ask yourself whether there is a price tag on feeling relief, support, and regaining your sense of self again.
If you are experiencing burnout, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Burnout can be treated and overcome, and with the right interventions and support, you can renew and increase your resilience. Taking care of yourself is the key to preventing burnout and achieving overall health and well-being.
If you're looking for additional resources to overcome burnout, here are some helpful resources:
Fresh Path NY: https://freshpathny.com/
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): https://www.nami.org/
American Psychological Association (APA): https://www.apa.org/
Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/
Retire Guide: Guide for seniors
The Burnout Fix: Overcome Overwhelm, Beat Busy, and Sustain Success in the New World of Work by Dr. Jacinta M. Jimenez
Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski, DMA
The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood, MD, MSc
The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-Week Program to Free Yourself from Depression and Emotional Distress by John D. Teasdale, PhD, Mark Williams, PhD, and Zindel V. Segal, PhD
You are not alone in this. With the right support and interventions, you can overcome burnout and achieve a healthier and happier life.
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