Many of us are intimately acquainted with the feeling of burnout. We’ve worked ourselves to the breaking point and now we can’t handle one more thing. The World Health Organization¹ puts it another way, stating that “burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
In the new work landscape created by the pandemic, managing our stress is a whole different beast. Many of us have doubled our workplace stress by bringing it home and we’re feeling more burnt out than ever. Everywhere we walk in what was supposed to be our oasis now has work memories imprinted on it. And in a climate where so many people have lost their jobs, many of us are working harder than ever to ensure we keep ours— taking fewer breaks, no vacations, and working as if our jobs and our lives depended on it.
We can tackle burnout from at least two vantage points: preventing it and repairing it. It’s the difference between going to the gas station to “top off” your gas tank and waiting until you’re stranded on empty. Basically, the lower you allow your tank to get, the longer you’ll spend at the filling station. Sometimes, if the “fuel low” light has been on for some time, it seems that it takes forever before your tank is back to full.
In an article for the New York Times,² time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders writes, “I’ve seen that at the core, burnout prevention is about living out what is true about your body, your personality and your reality.” She goes on to say that “You can help reduce the energy depletion associated with burnout and facilitate restoration by prioritizing three universal core needs: sleeping, eating and moving.”
Same “what,” different “how”
While the practices for burnout are the same whether we are preventing it or repairing it, it’s “how” we do the practices that will shift.
How to prevent burnout
Practices for preventing burnout should focus on being short but consistent. In this case, we are maintaining our energy—practicing to keep the tank full and stay healthy. If we do this right and we’re consistent about it, we don’t have to do much. However, we really need to do it every day. Brushing our teeth is a perfect example. If we brush our teeth 2-3 times a day, we only need to do it for a couple of minutes at a time. However, if we keep skipping it, we’re likely headed for some painful and expensive dental work down the line.
How to repair burnout
Repairing burnout requires digging deeper and dedicating more time to healing. If we have postponed our own health and pushed ourselves to the breaking point, we’re going to need more than a 5-minute meditation to heal. In order to not just “top off” your tank, but truly fill it up, you’re going to need to spend more time with these practices.
Practices for burnout
Yin and Restorative Yoga
These yoga practices were not designed as exercise; they were created to actively bring new energy back into the body. They are slow-moving and can take some getting used to, so try shorter classes at first. You’ll find some great options in our class collection, Burnout Repair Kit.
Our bodies are built to move—all animals inherently run around and stretch upon waking. If you’re consistent, just 20- 30 minutes a day can be enough, however, it may take some time to start feeling the effects if you’ve been neglecting physical activity for a while. But what if you feel so tired that you just can’t get moving? Begin with a short walk around the block, it doesn’t need to feel like exercise. What you don’t want is to get into a cycle where you’re too tired to move and then can’t really rest. Try a 15-minute walk in the morning and a 15-minute walk in the afternoon or evening. You might even set your meditation timer and try a mindful walk.
Meditation and Breathwork
Meditation and breathwork help to shift our mental and energetic patterns and bring them back to a healthy homeostasis. Some people love the simplicity of meditation and some find that it is easier to bring their being into focus with breathwork. Try one of our breathwork classes and see what feels right for you.
Nutrition and Hydration
We know you know, but it’s always worth saying again. Without proper nutrition and hydration, your body will feel depleted and search out quick fixes like caffeine and sugary snacks. While these can be fine in moderation, consider that they are contributing factors to a sense of burnout. Taking the time to have a healthy meal and ensure that you’re properly hydrated will elevate your energy level.
You may have been trained that if you sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep, you’ll gain time you can spend doing something else. We now know that sacrificing 30 minutes of watching tv, browsing the internet, or even working toward that deadline and devoting another half hour to sleep is one of the most important ways to keep your tank full. Quality sleep helps you maintain your energy and consistently show up to every encounter with more patience, gratitude, and efficiency. If you’re looking for classes to support sleep, see our sleep collection here.
Most of the time, we recommend always focusing on the positive in life. But noticing those moments where we feel a little less than positive can be an effective tool at times. You may be able to uncover a pattern and find places where you can strategically create some boundaries from people or actions that drain your energy. Forbes³ suggests finding 4-5 “mini resentments” that might be creating irritation and impatience, then finding a way to fix them before they build up and become overblown.
If we push ourselves to the breaking point, our body and mind often send up warning signs. While it may be painfully obvious that we’re overstressed and overworked, we often don’t realize that we’re about to completely burn out. If you notice that you’re exhibiting the physical and mental symptoms of stress and exhaustion, it’s time to stop and give yourself some serious TLC. However, if you work self-care into your everyday life you can prevent yourself from getting there in the first place. Wherever you’re at right now, prioritize what you need to fill your tank today. You won’t be at your best—in your work, relationships, or anything else—until you’ve allowed yourself some time to rest.