Right now I’m dealing with the worst bout of burnout I’ve ever had in my life. Contributing factors include the emotional and financial effects of the pandemic and breaking free of caffeine addiction. I feel tired, scattered, and less creative.
Recovering is tough, but I’m glad to say I’m getting better. Sometimes I try to think of what I could have done to avoid this. Some factors were unavoidable. We may dream of living a burnout free life, but circumstances may demand otherwise.
Although avoiding burnout is ideal, knowing how to bounce back from it is important too. As I take one day at a time, I am learning so much. I’m learning how to continue writing and taking care of myself, while having low energy.
Here are some tips that have helped me with the slow process of healing from burnout.
Take time off
The biggest factor in burnout is not having enough rest. Taking time off to rest and sleep is essential for recovery. And I don’t mean breaking from work alone. This can also involve taking a break from household chores and other responsibilities.
The difficult thing about resting is that it tends to go counter to the daily demands of living. If you’re facing burnout, do your best to get as much rest as you can. Instead of spending a bunch of time on the internet or watching TV, get some sleep. Cut back on household duties as well. Don’t push through feeling tired. Get some rest whenever your circumstances allow you to.
Create a list of things you’re not going to worry about doing until you feel better. This list can include light responsibilities, social events, chores, and even hobbies.
Let go of guilt
Although rest has helped me the most in my recovery, it has been challenging to commit to it. It hurts seeing myself falling behind on tasks that I used to keep up with. Its difficult going from being active to taking multiple naps daily.
But it’s important to remember that doing less doesn’t mean you’re irresponsible. You’re trying to heal. It may take awhile, but be patient. The wait is worth it.
If you find yourself falling into the trap of mentally beating yourself up as you recover, I recommend reading You Can Do All Things by Kate Allen.
I cried while reading this book because it reminded me that my worth is not tied to how much I do. It’s better to think about what I can do now.
Accept Lack of Focus
Another difficult thing about burnout is that my ability to focus was toast. My focus was already hit and miss from the start, but burnout made it even worse.
If I want to get better, I have to work when I feel like it. I’ve been living this way for the past 6 months, and the decadence of doing tasks when I feel like it makes me feel a little guilty. On top of that there is the fear that if I do things only when I want to, they won’t get done.
The reality is, nothing bad has happened. I’m still able to get the important stuff in my life done. Falling behind on chores is not the end of the world by any means.
It’s like being on a sailboat waiting for the wind. I can’t go anywhere until the wind comes. So I wait. And when the wind comes, I take full advantage of it.
So instead of disliking my lack of focus, I use it as time to enjoy Netflix and other light entertainment. It’s also a great opportunity to make use of extroverted intuition and explore!
If you’re burned out, avoid berating yourself for your inattention on the job or at home. Do the best you can at work and allow yourself to crash at home.
Moments of clarity will come, and when they do, make sure to take advantage of them. When I have moments of focus returning to me, that’s when I work on a short to-do list for the day. I’ve also found that journaling clears my mind when my thoughts are muddy.
If others are involved, let them know that you’re having an off day. Say, “Hey, I’m having a bad day and my brain is fried, so let me know if I make any weird mistakes.”
When I worked in an office, this approach reduced to pressure of not feeling myself, and I had the support of my coworkers. Owning up to having a tough day instead of trying to hide it makes work easier to deal with.
Reduce daily tasks
Recovering from burnout can also be challenging because it requires having control over our daily demands. If you’re experiencing burnout, please realize that it’s not the time for going above-and-beyond. Buy disposable dishes and the healthiest microwave meals you can find. Show others in your household how to clean. Eat out. Let go of complex exercise routines and go for a simple walk.
I recommend reading How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis.
This book helped me to dial back on my responsibilities, even those that I thought I “had” to do.
Learn to appreciate rest
It’s one thing to know that you need a break. Is another to appreciate rest. Being aware of my high sensitivity, I thought I knew how to rest. But I was wrong. I knew how to rest, but I didn’t appreciate it. So as a result, I ended up ignoring my needs.
At the start of my break down, I hated resting. It felt like a waste of time. There were other activities I would rather be doing, and it wasn’t fun. Resting was unappealing.
But since January I’ve come a long way in appreciating rest. As I mentioned earlier, I now take plenty of time for naps. I also find enjoyment in listening to “Sleep With Me” podcasts and sometimes writing down what I dream about.
Beyond sleep, I have a greater appreciation of downtime in general. By relaxing, I’ve discovered new things and become more creative.
If the thought of having to sleep more annoys you, make sleep fun. Get some nice pillows and build a nest out of them. Do some aromatherapy, and listen to a sleepy-time podcast or a wordy audio-book (classic literature is a good choice). Get a journal where you can jot down your crazy dreams.
If you don’t fall asleep each time, that’s okay. Lying there and letting your mind roam can also make a difference.
Don’t let others shame you for resting. You need this. Most likely, the people who are giving you a hard time also have a bad relationship with rest themselves.
Burnout can be terrible, but it doesn’t last forever. You can and will recover, and you’ll come out of it with some wisdom that you didn’t have going into it.
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