Whether you call it burnout, a meltdown, exhaustion, a nervous breakdown, overwhelming fatigue, or one of the 288 synonyms listed, one thing is clear, you are persistently tired.
You wake up tired, you work tired, you parent tired, you go to bed tired and then you can’t sleep. When you finally do fall asleep, it seems like mere minutes pass before you start the day all over again.
The last few months (or years) may feel like the Bill Murray movie Ground Hog Day. Each day you try a new set of tasks, hoping that the next day you will wake up and it will be suddenly so much better. Yet, despite your creative attempts it doesn’t feel like one day is much different than the next.
Burnout is the result of a constant depletion of mental and physical energy with limited refuelling. This emotional and material drain on the body leaves its occupant feeling empty.
It’s hard to live in a world where we are wanted for so many tasks and by so many people. One in which our own pleasures of life seem impossible to incorporate. However, these pleasures are the things that make working/parenting/living worthwhile and fill our bucket. They are the reward at the end of a hard day/month/year.
Yet lately, filling ourselves up has repeatedly fallen to the end of our own “to do” list.
Tips to Get You Out of Burnout and Starting to Fill Your Bucket
One: Control What You Can Control
This means preserving the limited energy, creativity and inspiration you have, by reallocating tasks to others. You have the power to decide where to spend your energy dollars. This may mean asking for help, hiring someone to do a task, or simply moving this off your to do list.
A time savings of just 2 hours a day could provide you an opportunity for self-care, a nap, or just a moment to relax and recharge.
For example, reallocating 45 minutes of those minutes to an at home restorative yoga or yoga nidra class has been shown in research to be as restful as 3 or more hours of sleep. Putting it that way, it seems like an easy trade-off.
Some ideas include:
- Services (laundry, cleaning, pet walking) – these tasks may be able to be downloaded to someone in your household, or can be services that you engage with.
- Setting up a chore wheel – tasks that do not need to be done by you can be assigned to other members of the house to do on a rotating basis – vacuuming, washing the dog, folding the laundry, taking out the garbage…
- Food delivery services – whether the meals are already prepared, need some preparation or simply the groceries arrive at your doorstep, taking some time off of shopping, chopping and cooking can be freeing.
Two: Getting to the Root of Your Goals/Agenda
Whether we state them out loud, or share them with solely with ourselves, there are beliefs out there keeping us doing what we do every day. Our belief system has been built from our interactions with adults in our lives. Our often-unconscious commitment to them drives many of our daily decisions and habits.
If our belief is ‘I have to do it all by myself because that is what is expected of me’. Then it is easy to understand how passing off even a simple task is difficult because we’ve hardwired ourselves to believe that we can’t ask for help.
Or if our belief system is “If I don’t do it, no one will”, we can understand that leaving a task to be done by a colleague/partner or child may feel impossible because our belief embedded in us is that no one else cares if this is done.
So how do we get to what some of these hidden beliefs are?
The next time get a feeling of dread before starting an activity ask yourself:
- Why am I doing this?
- Why do I feel this way?
- What do I want to get from this?
Start journaling down your thoughts. Write them down for a week, and then go back and look at them and see how many of these are similar or different.
How can you make them into better beliefs?
|I have to do it all by myself because that is what is expected of me||I am strong and ready to ask for help so that I can spend my energy on things that are important to me|
|If I don’t do it, no one will||It’s time to show someone else how to do this task so that I can move on to something new and exciting.|
Repeat your new beliefs each morning until they become your automatic reaction and drown out your other non-supporting beliefs.
Three: Setting Boundaries
There is a saying ‘give someone an inch, they will take a mile’. This phrase is often a reflection of our personal boundaries. As soon as we let them down, we forget to put them back up. Burnout is about boundaries.
It’s a reflection of what we have been taught. From a young age that you were taught that saying yes, and doing what you are told is important.
Yet in all the teaching we have had, I have not yet had someone teach me how to say ‘no’.
No should not be a word that is offensive or arrogant, in-fact it simply means I do not want to have this experience/opportunity. It is not right for me.
It is certainly hard to say no, especially to people that are close to us, or influential on us.
However, we are the only ones that can protect our own schedule and our energy allocation. The only way we can prioritize yourself is by saying no to others.
It is going to be hard at first, but the more you say it and realize that people will still love you, and will admire you for your boundaries, the easier it will be.
Saying No Can Be Passive at First:
- Commit to working your 9 – 5 day, during 9 – 5. Stop the urge to check emails before bed, or before work starts. This means that the time isn’t being used by your office, instead you are deciding what to do with them.
- Make Your Own To Do List (ALONE). Writing your to do list for the day before you open your calendar/devices – means you set your own agenda and you are not letting someone else decide what your day will be like.
- Setting up a series of non-negotiables in your calendar. These are the important time-bound tasks, that you have been known to give up when someone else needs that space in your schedule.
This might be – being in bed by 9pm, or working out for 60 minutes three times a week. Book these in as a permanent non-movable schedule in your calendar and see how prioritizing yourself can fill your bucket.
Saying No Can Then Evolve into “In-the-Moment” Requests:
- Saying no to a lunch or dinner party because you had already allocated that time to something else.
- Choosing to pass on a volunteer opportunity because it will cut into your non-negotiable time.
- Refusing a work opportunity because it means you will need to do more and not less.
Burnout is mental as well as physical. A team of healthcare providers including therapists, naturopathic doctors and body workers can certainly help you build your physical resilience, however, just as critical is the work you do to prevent you from re-experiencing burnout over and over again.
Want to know more about burnout? Download my Burnout Scale by filling in the form below.
The scale shows you what to look for yourself, friends and family members and gives you the first step in identifying how you feel.
Want to read more about fatigue and insomnia? Two of the most common aspects of burnout we see in the office, read:
Dr. Christina Carew is a functional medical investigator who approaches health with an out-of-the-box problem solving attitude. Her patients love that she breaks what seems like complicated mumbo-jumbo into humorous stories, and digestible information nuggets. She witnesses that empowering patients to better understand their own health leads to better outcomes and healthier lives.
Christina became a naturopathic doctor after experiencing her own complex heath journey. Her passion to make health “easy to understand” was important for everyone. She is a forever learner, especially around the role our environment on health, how our gut really is the center of many health concerns and how our mental wellness affects our daily living.
An international speaker, a published author, and an outdoor enthusiast. Her husband refers to her as a mermaid for her love of water sports and the ocean.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.