Burnout is a result of chronic stress and can cause a physical or mental collapse, or a complete shut down. Essentially, burnout is when you push yourself to the point where you literally can't even. But when we are all stressed and busy, how do you know if it’s burnout?
We all feel stressed at one point or another, and that is absolutely normal. We’re not here to shame you about how you are mismanaging stress. Stress is a part of life, especially with the demanding lifestyles so many of us lead. Burnout occurs when that stress goes from a normal part of life, to an overwhelming and constant burden that feels impossible to overcome. The initial stressors may be:
Physical: like an illness, injury, or surgery
External: like responsibilities with your work or family
Emotional: difficult relationships, grief, and break-ups can all be sources of emotional stress
Over an extended period of time, these stressors can overwhelm your physical and emotional system. And similar to the way a sunburn is an inflammatory response in the skin, stress causes an inflammatory response in the body, creating even more stress. Prolonged stress and inflammation have been linked to the root cause of many physical ailments ranging from aches, pains, and migraines to chronic disease and autoimmune conditions. Skin conditions like rosacea, break-outs and acne are also connected to some form of internal inflammation and stress. So the initial stress can beget more stress, increasing the likelihood of experiencing burnout.
Burnout can be different for everyone, but a common response to this stress overload is a shutting down of your normal responses. Simple tasks may feel completely overwhelming. You may feel exhausted or fatigued all the time, even after a good night’s sleep. You might find yourself withdrawing from friends and family, not wanting to be social, or not feeling interested in the things you normally do for fun or as a creative outlet. Brain fog, forgetfulness, or inability to pay attention, and decreased productivity can all be signs of burnout. Anxiety and depression, hopelessness, and feelings of apathy can all be due to burnout as well. If you’re wanting to hide under the covers all day every day, you might be suffering from burnout.
So how do we recover from burnout? These are some of our tips for coming back to balance and feeling good again after burnout:
Take a break. Taking time off to rest is crucial. If you can’t take a day or two off (mental health days are real, y’all!), take a half day or at the very least a half hour to yourself. Let yourself sleep, turn off your screens, email and text alerts, and rest. Eat some tasty, nutrient-dense foods, take a bath, take a walk in the woods, do what feels restful and nourishing to you. When you get back into the swing of your life, continue to schedule short time-outs for yourself. Maybe a short breathing or meditation break through the day, or a 10-minute walk around the block in the afternoon. Dedicated time to honor yourself and recharge your battery is so important.
Protect your time. If your burnout is a result of doing too much for too long, one part of the recovery process will have to be doing less. As you work to rest and recover, you may have to practice saying no to more people and obligations. Practice establishing better boundaries with work and those around you. Protecting your time will in turn protect your spirit.
Journal. If you’re burnt out, your thoughts may feel like an overwhelming tornado of anxiety and to-do lists. Journaling can help to get everything out of your head, and may help you to make sense of the root cause of your stress. Moving your thoughts on paper often helps the thoughts and feelings move through you, allowing you to process deep seated emotions and old beliefs that may no longer serve you. You can also encourage a gratitude practice through journaling, which is a wonderful way to shift your perspective from what’s lacking to what is abundant in your life. In the evening, take 3-5 minutes to jot down 3 things you’re thankful for each day.
Connect. It’s normal to want to isolate yourself if you’re feeling burnt out. Spending time with others may feel like too much effort. But connection is incredibly healing, reminds us that we are not alone and that we do have support. Reach out to close friends or family, and ask for help or support. If going out, or spending time with a group feels like too much, get some one-on-one face time in with the people you love at home or in a cozy space. Connection can also come in the form of support from healing practitioners, like counselors, therapists, or doctors. Because burnout is so tied to physical stressors, it can be very helpful to get the support and guidance of practitioners like doctors and acupuncturists who can support you in balancing your hormones and adrenals and reduce internal inflammation. Remember that you’re not alone and there are many networks and resources just waiting to offer the emotional and physical support you may need.
We hope this helps encourage you to prevent any burnouts but if you're currently in one, there are ways out. Take the necessary steps listed above and know that it's okay to ask for support. Life is about ebb and flow so just know that you'll make it through!