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Burnout - a few tips on how to get out of it

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Burnout and its consequences have been discussed, written about many times and there are also documentaries following individual stories of burnout sufferers.

It is usually linked to work related stress but more and more specialists agree that it can affect any area of life - from home stay mothers, students to middle aged carers of elderly parents. What contributes to the complexity of burnout is the variety of symptoms - headache, stomach ache, fatigue, getting sick more often, feeling depressed, disengagement at the work place, irritability, increased aggressiveness but also its causes.

If it was only about stress it would be relatively easy - people would be working on reducing stress triggers, learning relaxation methods and practicing mindfulness. Often, when we dig deeper we find out that contributing factors are also toxic atmosphere at workplace, prevailing negativity, clash between personal values and that of the company, lack of supporting network in general, overload, unrealistic expectations from oneself and others, one sided investment of focus and energy etc.

Let´s have a look at a few tips that should help prevent burnout or be used on a recovery journey:

  1. Practice self-care. Common pitfall - I do not have time. It does not necessarily mean, you need to have hours on your own or leave on a wellness retreat. Take 10-15 min. every day for gratitude practice (writing down 1-3 things that made you smile, hopeful, feeling lighter). Alternatively follow guided visualisation, body - scan exercise or breathing techniques. Write down how you spend your time. Use a scale from 1-10 (10 being the highest satisfaction mark). Evaluate how you feel about the activities, tasks, people, environment etc. This helps you to eliminate the "low energy" investments.

  2. Ask for help. Common pitfall - you are not able to admit to yourself that you actually need help. This often comes from our childhood and rather strict upbringing when vulnerability, physical fatigue, lack of motivation were labeled as "not good" and endurance for whatever cost was praised and rewarded. What you can do is to imagine you talk to yourself as you would be talking to your best friend in a similar situation. What would be your words? Your tone of voice, gestures? Gently tell yourself that you can say no, you can delegate, you can outsource and you can ask for a helping hand.

  3. Maintain social life/connection. Common pitfalls - you do not feel like meeting people, you have impression that people around you do not have problems and lead super easy and interesting life. Limit social media usage - in virtual life everything seems better than what you are living at the moment, especially when you are in difficulties. Be in contact at least with one close friend even if it is only over the phone. If you do not trust people close to you, find a trustworthy mentor or pastor. Go for a cup of coffee in a nice local corner cafe, small talk with strangers sometimes makes wonders.

  4. Use self help resources. Common pitfalls - there is nothing new out there, I have zero energy to read a book or a self-help guide. Try short audio podcasts, install a meditation app, follow therapists online - there is a lot of free helpful staff out there, you do not need to read a 200 page long book.

  5. Reach for professional help. Common pitfalls - medication is enough, I am not ready for a long therapy, it will cost me a fortune. Opting for antidepressants or sleeping pills is sometimes necessary, however it should be rather short term solution and accompanied with some kind of support. It does not necessarily need to be a psychiatrist or psychologist, although if you already have clues that it may be connected with clinical depression occurring in the family, childhood trauma, it is probably very wise to do so. You feel more comfortable with a life coach, find one near to you and give it a go. Do you have a lot of physiological symptoms, such as inexplicable pain issues, headaches, muscle spasms in jaw, shoulder, lower back, upset stomach, you feel like you have an obstacle in your throat? Look out for body-mind therapy, yoga classes, breath work classes. Therapy is always an investment, but why to invest into clothing, personal fitness trainer, beauty rituals, body massage and not into therapy?

Although many popular articles suggest that keeping a healthy sleeping routine, eating healthy food, practicing sports and being surrounded by loved ones help navigating throughout burnout and its aftermath, it is often very hard to establish these routines and rely on family once we are in a spiral of self-doubt, fatigue, uselessness, overthinking, feelings of guilt and failure. Therefore, it is better to practice the above mentioned steps when we are relatively fine. Maybe colleagues are often sick, one or two already had burn out, or there is not much joy around you. Or you are a carer of an ill person or elderly relative and you often feel alone. Stay home parent and feeling often angry or frustrated with the child and the whole situation? No time for yourself? Pay attention to these red flags and establish preventive measures or reach out for help.

More than four out of ten workers (44 percent) in the EU say that their work stress has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a survey by the EU's agency for safety and health at work, EU-OSHA. Parental burnout increased also dramatically worldwide during the pandemic.

You are definitely not alone.


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