Every aspect of life is affected by burnout. When we have burnout, we are not just physically tired or emotionally delicate. We don’t just feel existentially unsure or question all our life choices. It’s not only that our brains feel mushy and we struggle to remember things. We are not merely easily irritated and disappointed. It is all of these things – and more. Burnout impacts everything. The more serious the burnout, the greater the impact.
Paradoxically, while burnout makes us (and our life force) feel diminished, it simultaneously amplifies many of our responses.
What might have made us slightly irritable before burnout can send us into a white-hot rage while in burnout.
Instead of nibbling a square of chocolate after supper, we demolish a whole bar.
Instead of feeling a little bit tired after mental or physical exertion, we feel flattened.
Things that used to make us feel a little bit sad become devastating.
Tiny sniffles are fast-tracked to bronchitis or pneumonia.
Burnout starts small but, left unchecked, escalates rapidly and can soon make life feel overwhelming and terrifying.
Recovering from burnout – and ensuring that we stay recovered – requires fundamental and far-reaching changes to how we live our lives. These changes can be achieved by adopting three key habits:
- Asking for help
- Saying no to what doesn’t serve you
- Getting enough sleep and rest
It sounds simple but be warned: simple does not necessarily mean easy. These habits are often hard to adopt – not because they are complicated, but because they go against our instincts of being strong and competent, of wanting to please everybody, and of wanting to work hard and push ourselves to achieve and succeed.
You will have a better chance of success if you start small and be consistent. Every day think about what you can ask for help with, what you can say no to and how you can get enough rest or sleep.
You could ask for help with finding something at the supermarket, or with directions, or with household chores.
You could say no to staying up late, or that seventh cup of coffee, or going to a social event you hate the idea of.
You can get more sleep and rest by going to bed earlier, by napping for 15 minutes instead of scrolling through social media, or by stepping away from all technology at least an hour before bed so that, when you go to bed your brain will be relaxed enough to actually go to sleep.
You could even do all three at once: ask your family to help you to say no to staying up late by reminding you to go to bed at an agreed upon hour.
My new book Recover from Burnout: Life Lessons to Regain Your Passion and Purpose will help you to understand burnout, how and why we get it and how to recover from it (and not get it again). Now available on Amazon.