When Burn Out is Knocking On The Door

I’m not unfamiliar with the how’s, why’s and wherefore’s of burnout. I’ve been a clinical social worker for more than a decade so I have had my own interactions and experiences with burn out. 

But, I’m here to tell you about my own bout with burnout and how I turned it into a superpower. 

Recently, I had a surgery that was far more complicated than I could have anticipated. And the outcome wasn’t even close to what we had hoped or desired.  

About six days after surgery, I found myself assessing my mental and emotional situation to find out if I was experiencing post-surgical (anesthesia-induced) depression or if I was actually burned out. 

After going through the quiz again. (Because, self-assessments are necessary, even when you’ve been doing this for a decade!) I found out, I’m actually burned out. Mentally and emotionally prepping for the surgery, having to go through the surgery, not getting the outcome I wanted, and having to deal with the physical pain and healing I was doing after, wore me out. Literally.

Since I’m a busy woman who owns more than one business, I had just a couple of days to get my head back on straight.

So I’m going to share the coping techniques I used to bust through the burnout and reframe it into being my best superpower. 

One thing I have to let you know is, this is work - it’s not hard, but it takes effort. And when you’re burned out, the last thing you want is more “work”. But if you don’t prioritize this, you struggle to get past it. 

So, please schedule (and commit) to engaging in these things on a semi-regular basis. Although even doing them intermittently is enough to change your experience of burnout.

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  1. Engage In Some Non-Thinking Time:
    Let’s be perfectly honest about this one. Many of us are living from one social media alert to the next, one engagement to the next, or one obligation to the next. We are over-committed, over-stimulated, and overworked. Our brains need downtime. We need to allow ourselves time to heal, time to decompress, and time to recover from the demands of our lives. So that’s going to require you to take the initiative and unplug. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every day. But here’s the thing, you need to become mindful in those moments that you are not being tugged at and you are completely free.

    So, shut down your laptop, plug in your phone (and put it across the room) and just watch some Netflix. Or just spend some time in nature. Anything. Just do NOTHING. And acknowledge that you are doing nothing (and likely enjoying it ;) ).

  2. Do Some Deep Breathing:
    Yoga breathing helps me stay focused and clear, even when the pressure is on. My clients also enjoy the increased oxygen to their lungs, as well. It’s rejuvenating, it’s refreshing, it’s increases the flow of oxygen to your lungs, brain, and other organs and it’s super easy.

    It’s a great way to clear the stress from your brain and body and helps you to reset. Taking up this practice will help you feel more calm, more centered, and more focused. It’s such a quick exercise with such amazing results.

  3. Using Your Connections:
    One of the best things I did this week was shared with a couple of people who are super close to me what I was experiencing.

    I knew them well enough to know they would follow up with me and ask how I was doing at a later day and time.

    There is an old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved, a joy shared is a joy doubled.” Try it. The truth to it is empowering. And you’ll feel supported and nurtured.

    Figure out which connections are valuable and worthwhile and focus on them. Put your energy into them and allow yourself to reap the rewards.

  4. Engage In Some Form of Meditation:
    Transcendental meditation is best described as the ability to clear your mind of all thoughts.

    Try thirty to forty-five seconds, to begin with. If you’re like me, and I know you are because you’re here! LOL, it may be difficult at first because when we get silent or try to clear our heads, EVERYTHING we have to do comes charging at us. So try smaller bits of time and build up.

    Pick a word that has meaning to you to focus on, set an alarm and be gentle towards yourself. You got this!

  5. Get Enough Sleep:
    Many people believe that they are getting enough rest, but in truth, they are actually suffering from at least a low level of sleep deprivation. Aren’t we? LOL

    Tighten up your sleep routine, give yourself the grace to allow yourself to obtain a couple of hours more of sleep, and make sure that you will be undisturbed.

    Especially in times of increased stress to make sure that you are getting enough REM sleep. From a brain wave perspective, your mind heals itself when it goes into a Theta state of sleep, while your body heals itself in Delta. So you need to take steps to make sure you’re getting into those states when you sleep, if you want your sleep to be restorative.

    Sometimes it’s important to consider concepts such as reducing the amount (or time of day) you ingest caffeinated beverages and having a bit of a protein snack before bedtime. Things to help that are: stopping caffeine late in the day or having a protein snack before bedtime. You can also try making sure your room is completely dark and your phone should be off, in another room, or on airplane mode with Wifi and Bluetooth disabled, as these have been shown to interrupt your brain patterns during sleep.

Also, please make sure you track how you feel before and after implementing these tactics. You can choose one to put into place at a time or you can try all 5, but whatever you do, give yourself time to really feel their effects. Try them for a minimum of 7 days, but ideally for 28.  

As always, if there’s anything I can do to help you use burnout as a superpower, you can find me here.