Burnout gave me an important wake-up call to change my lifestyle.
We often find ourselves saying, “I just have to get through this week.” And then that saying turns into every week. Between work responsibilities, chores, and spending time with family and friends, the calendar can start to fill up quickly. And unfortunately, there was a time in my life where I let these activities push self-care right off my to-do list, leaving me feeling exhausted and burned out. Before this experience, I always thought burnout was predominantly mental, not necessarily physical. But then I experienced a major wake-up call.
A couple of years ago, I was working long hours and then filling my hours after work with hobbies, chores, and spending time with my significant other. And then this constant mental drain started to take a physical toll on my body.
I felt tired all of the time.
I gained 10 pounds in a short amount of time. I was experiencing constant joint pain and headaches several times a week. Sometimes I would even get chest pain and a fever.
Naturally, these physical symptoms were alarming, so I went to see my doctor. She heard my long list of symptoms and thought that I may have a serious issue, so she sent me to get some bloodwork.
I felt nervous as I waited for my results. The prospect of facing a serious health issue in the midst of all of the other overwhelm I was experiencing at the time felt like it was more than I could handle. When I got the email notifying me that my test results had come in, I took a deep breath and opened it up.
Everything was clear. At first, I was confused. How could I feel so sick when nothing was wrong?
My diagnosis? Stress and burnout.
After talking it over with my doctor, we determined that my lack of self-care was causing me to feel exhausted to the point where I was developing physical symptoms in addition to my mental ones. I was stunned. How could I feel so physically sick because of stress and my mental health?
This felt like an important wake-up call. I needed to change my lifestyle.
Previously, I would often turn to unhealthy ways of coping with stress, like treating myself to fast food for dinner every night. I decided to tackle this issue head-on and use self-care to help myself recover from burnout and get back to being my normal, happy self.
After investing in some self-care, I started to feel more like myself again. I felt rested and my physical symptoms began to disappear. Because burnout often stems from overwhelm due to our hectic schedules, in addition to rest and self-care, I began to take things off my to-do list.
Downsizing my to-do list allowed me to set a more realistic schedule for myself, so I was able to lower my expectations on how much I should accomplish every day. Along the way, I learned to forgive myself for not completing everything on my to-do list.
When feeling burned out, it’s important for us to be gentle with ourselves if the quality and quantity of what we accomplish isn’t up to our usual standards.
It can be difficult to say no to people at first, but the more we do it, the more comfortable we start to feel with letting others know we don’t have the bandwidth to support them right now. It’s also important to be realistic about time frames and what needs to be accomplished every day. When creating a to-do list, we should strive to estimate how long it will take to complete each task in order to avoid agreeing to too much.
Take time to rest and relax.
If we are feeling sick or experiencing physical pain from burnout, we need to take time and care to treat these ailments. It’s also important to mentally rest and recover. Instead of spending my downtime watching TV or scrolling through social media, I dedicated myself to spending some quiet time relaxing.
Sleep is also really important in preventing burnout and exhaustion. If we find ourselves cutting back on sleep to make room for items on our to-do list, that tells us that we might be biting off a little more than we can chew.
It’s important to find the right self-care activities. Self-care activities help us mentally decompress from the stressful impact of our daily schedule.
Some great self-care activities for when feeling burned-out include:
>> Taking a nap
>> Reading a book
>> Lighting some candles
>> Enjoying a warm cup of tea
>> Taking a hot bath or shower
>> Getting a massage
The key is to find the right self-care activities that are enjoyable and leave us feeling relaxed and refreshed. We should not choose activities that are mentally and physically draining when we are already feeling burned-out.
There is hope.
When feeling burned-out, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Working through burnout can feel like an impossible challenge, but with a little patience, self-care, and personal TLC, we can find relief.