In the last two weeks, I’ve been on a total of six flights zipping from Toronto to Montreal, Ottawa, and London, UK. As soon as I sat down at the gate of my last flight home, my body knew work time was over, and it just crashed, all systems down – not the kind of words I’d like to use before boarding a flight.
I am an introvert, so after long days of facilitating which involves a large amount of energy to work with people – the best way for me to recharge is to be on my own. This means no devices, no chores, no socializing. Doing nothing means my body and brain shut off completely from work.
With exhaustion, naturally, the mind leans towards negativity. It was clear I was starting to suffer from burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. To identify if you have burnout, ask yourself the following:
- Have you become cynical or critical?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with others?
- Do you lack the energy to get started or be consistently productive?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Are you feeling exhaustion, body aches, unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
I had said yes to most or all of them, you’re in burnout (or getting there). When you’ve identified that you have the physical, mental and emotional symptoms, it’s important to address and correct them. Over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression, and obesity.
Here were some tips that worked for me:
- Exercise – The exercise does not need to be intense – get outside, get some fresh air, sun and walk in nature. Try yoga to help bring movement and breathing to your body,
- Prioritize Self Care – During your downtime, pledge to have no work devices and no thinking about work. Rest your mind and body. Do activities that can help relax your mind and de-stress yourself. Go for a massage if that helps. If you are tired, then sleep more or lay in bed and read a non-fiction novel, binge on Netflix. Do what you need for you and take care of yourself,
- Get Organized – Understand all that is on your plate and re-prioritize what is really important. Declutter your working space, a cleaner work environment can help clear your mind. Organizing yourself doesn’t just have to be physical – have a conversation with your boss, or your partner to align on the priorities and ask for support.
- Meditate and Breathing Exercises – Try to meditate and focus on your breathing for a few minutes, a few times a day. Notice your thought patterns, recognize what you are saying to yourself. Are those thoughts serving you, or are you placing pressures on yourself? When you focus on your breathing, pause and ask yourself, what do I need at this moment and feel what comes up for you?
You should take this seriously – burnout can lead to other mental health issues like depression. Understand that the pace you’re going when you start heading towards burnout is unsustainable and know that you don’t have to go through it alone. Reach out to your boss, colleagues, family members or close friends. The road back from burnout is easier when you don’t isolate yourself when you express yourself to others and taking the time for self-care. Put yourself first for once.
After this period of burnout – I wouldn’t want to put myself in a similar position. However, there are some times we say to ourselves: “We can do it” when it comes to a big opportunity for our career. What is critical to consider in this case of putting yourself through a high-intensity period is to embrace the fact you made that choice, ensuring the time for you to recover and being very clear to yourselves and others that this isn’t a regular occurrence.
And on that note, feel free to reach out to me, if you need more tips in managing burnout or talking through your burnout. You deserve to have support during a very challenging time physically, emotionally and mentally.