I think now more than ever, burn out is something we’ve all likely faced, felt, and been around. It is important to remember that nearly all of us have a very full ‘glass’ and anything on top of our new day-to-day is going to feel overwhelming.
With a pandemic, financial worries, and what is this ‘new normal’ we are going to having is, it’s understanding we will all be feeling fatigued. In all of this overwhelming, out of the norm moments with raw emotions are the forefront, we begin to care less for ourselves. But as important as making sure we look after ourselves is, we are the often the first thing that gets dropped.
I’m no stranger to burn out; it’s the biggest teller for me that I’m not taking care of myself because I take on too much. It’s my thing, and it’s how I end up in a tizz and usually curled up under my duvet.
The biggest thing is recognising your burn out signs.
Mine is that I become impatient quickly. I literally snap from cool to climbing the wall, and it’s my biggest teller. Another is that I want to be alone. I opt for silence, prefer to be alone in a room and don’t like to reply to people—which is something others in my life notice.
There are likely others, but acknowledging and knowing your signs help to dial things back. Sometimes life is just overwhelming as f*ck, so it’s hard to correct or take a step back, such as moving house or planning a wedding. These are both stressful things you cannot drop the ball on just because you’re stressed or overwhelmed. But, recognising that you are can help you to try and not become more burned out than you already are.
For the purposes of this post though, I’m going to talk about the normal burn out. The day-to-day burn out that comes from not looking after our mental health or just having a tough time.
These are all my opinions and tips I have found work, I cannot guarantee they will work for you, and if you’re struggling with pro-longed burnout or symptoms/feelings that aren’t normal for you, please speak to a medical professional.
1. Have a ‘You’ moment
This one is likely self-explanatory and yet the hardest to actually achieve. Firstly, we drop ourselves and our self-care the moment things become too much. But, when you start to show signs of burn out, it’s crucial to spend some time checking in with yourself.
Whether you love a night in the bath with candles and Netflix; whether it’s a takeaway and a new book. Whatever you love to do, do it. Some people love having a moment with their partner, friend or family member, and that’s okay too. But put your phone down, slide all those worries to one side of your brain and check back in. Spend one evening doing some self-care for you—whatever that is.
2. Can you control the outcome?
During my therapy session, I learnt I’m a people-pleaser, but mostly I also learnt I worry about things out of my grip. It’s hard to stop the worry, especially when you can’t get a handle on the negative thought. But, for me, burn-out comes when I tend to unravel on a point I cannot control.
So, now I ask myself ‘can I control the outcome?’ If the answer is yes, I can unpick what I’m worried about, and understand how to navigate that worry. But, if the answer is no, I try to stop that negative thought in it’s tracks. Usually, I do this with the knowledge I cannot do anything about it.
Don’t get it twisted; it’s hard. The thought still keeps knocking even if you tell it to do one, but reminding yourself that you cannot do anything about it, helps. Eventually, it stops knocking as you don’t allow it the space in your brain it deserves, unknotting the thought and stopping it in its track.
3. Talk. Journal. Write. Paint. Dance.
Therapy is the first thing I’d recommend to get a handle on long term burn out, but it’s not something easily accessible or necessarily affordable. So I thought I’d include other tactics I use when I’m not in therapy.
I’m not good at journaling or having a diary, I tried, and then I’d forget, and the guilt would just be another thing to worry about. I also tried the five-minute journal, and thought it would be manageable, but a bad day meant I forgot and then I spiralled and now it’s collecting dust.
For me, I write or draw when I’m feeling burnt out. I don’t do it to avoid the thoughts, no, I do the opposite, I challenge the thoughts head-on. I tend to write down my feelings because I’m not a great talker of my own mental health. I write it as if I’m writing a blog post or a chapter in a book, having the character going through what I’m going through.
Another option, I send myself an email of my thoughts. I write it as if I’m sending it to someone else as if I’m sharing it with someone (because my issue with sharing is worrying I’ll bog someone else down). The thing is, the email is sent to an inactive account, and no one but me reads it, which is massively reassuring and feels like I’m unburdening myself in the process.
I also bang on a wicked playlist, and I draw nothing, I make lines and just think through each thought as I draw. It’s a hot mess, but I can throw it away at the end. It’s for me, and no one else, and whatever process you use to banish those thoughts giving you burn out is for you, and only you.
And an extra one:
Mindfulness is a fantastic way of redirecting our mind to focus on the here and now, and also allow us to tap into our feelings, while letting things come and go as they please.
I admit, though, I’m no expert when it comes to mindfulness, it’s something I struggle with as my brain loves to be active. But yoga and pilates have been an enormous help in getting me to tap into this side. Chloe, my pilates instructor, has helped keep me level headed even during lockdown, with virtual classes.
The best advice I can give you is to make sure you are aware of what you are doing. For example, mindful eating is where you notice each texture and flavour, it allows those nagging and intrusive thoughts no space to appear, which can be a huge help when you feel you’ve been battling all day.
Again, as I said above, none of this will help with long-term intrusive thoughts, and your best advice will come from a medical professional, not a blogger on the internet. As scary as it can, please seek out medical professional help. As someone who did, I know how much it takes from you to do so, but in the long run, it really does help.