Burnout—constant stress that leads to uncomfortable mental and physical symptoms—is real. It creeps into your life, making you detached and physically ill. Whether you have too much on your plate at home or an unrelenting project at work, it’s easy to try to push through the stress, but this can make burnout worse. And with technology that keeps us constantly available and a pandemic that has blurred the lines between work and home, the risk of burnout is high.
The first step to understanding burnout—or treating it—is to recognize the signs. Exhaustion but the inability to sleep. An overwhelming to-do list but no concentration or creativity. Little things make your blood boil. Headaches and stomachaches. And if burnout goes on for too long, you find yourself constantly sick with a cold or depressed. Nothing is fun anymore.
Once you’ve recognized the warning signs, it’s time to pause and consider how to stop burnout from progressing. And don’t wait until you are about to resign or fall into a pit of despair, learn to take action early and often.
- Establish boundaries: Burnout often results from spending too much time working or caring for others without making time for yourself. Boundaries are a healthy way to maintain balance and ensure you have consistent time to recharge. If you are working from home, set up a workspace and don’t bring your email into the areas where you relax like your bedroom or family room. Make a rule to disengage from work in the evenings or on weekends. Create a ritual where you have an hour before bed to read or meditate alone. Establishing boundaries may require respectful conversations with friends, partners, and managers, but know that taking time for yourself is not selfish—in fact, it will make you a better friend, partner, and employee.
- Prioritize sleep: Rest is key to keeping your mind and body healthy. When overworked, it’s common to cut into sleep time—by pulling an all-nighter or getting up early on the weekends to tick through your to-do list. Being low on energy makes it difficult to concentrate and increases irritability. Try to set consistent sleep and wake times, and start winding down two hours before you head to bed if possible. If you have trouble sleeping, use restful meditations like a body scan to help relax.
- Exercise: Moving your body, whether it’s a spin class, a walk around the neighborhood, or a game of soccer with the family, can improve your mood and help with sleep. It’s also a great way to improve your mind-body connection and help you detect physical symptoms of stress before they get out of hand. Exercise can also be a great way to socialize with friends and family.
- Take time off: Taking a vacation is a great way to remove yourself from a stressful situation and take stock of what you need. But be careful not to use time off as a band-aid—a momentary respite before heading right back into the same stressful situation that creates another bout of burnout. Make the most of your vacation by signing off and disengaging—don’t work or check-in. Consider new habits and boundaries to establish when you go back to keep yourself healthy and balanced.
- Meditate: Meditation and mindfulness can decrease stress and promote feelings of calm. These practices also help you live in the moment and handle uncomfortable situations and emotions in positive ways. Finding time to meditate every day—even for just 10 minutes—can improve your mood and help you take positive actions to stop burnout.
Be sure to check out the Be Meditation Virtual Studio, which offers a wide range of classes throughout the day so busy professionals can take a moment to re-center and breathe.