In American culture, hard work, hustle, and financial gain are such high values that burnout is all too common. People who struggle to make ends meet and people who make a lot of money alike can experience burnout. Burnout can be the result of stress in relationships, home life, and health.
People reach this point and often continue to push themselves to keep going and fighting through it without addressing their needs and prioritizing rest. The opposite is also true – people give up.
Signs of Being Overwhelmed
Some of the main signs of burnout include:
- Feeling exhausted or tired most of the time
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in appetite
- Body aches and pains
- Frequent illness
- Withdrawal/ isolation from others/work/ other responsibilities
- Loss of motivation or drive
- Negative thoughts patterns
- Low sense of self-worth or feeling of accomplishment
- Putting things off for too long
- Slacking at work
- Using poor coping methods, such as food or alcohol
- Easily irritated with others
Because the signs and symptoms of burnout are often ignored, people eventually crash and are unable to function. The goal is to be aware of the signs when they present, pause to take care of oneself and one’s responsibilities, and create healthier patterns to prevent burnout.
Best Ways to Manage and Prevent Burnout
Make time for exerciseIt cannot be said enough that regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage and release stress in the body. It is what doctors prescribe more often than anything else when a person is stressed to the point of burnout. If a person is not making time for exercise, they will never be able to be physically or emotionally healthy.
Exercise releases endorphins into the body, which reduce pain and boost pleasure. They are called “the happy hormones.” Because of the hustle of daily life with work, family, and community responsibilities, people do not prioritize exercise, but it is what they need the most to manage and prevent burnout.
A person can begin with going on a walk three times a week or taking a bike ride once a week or doing yoga every Friday. Because it is difficult to get in gyms now due to Covid, there are many apps and virtual programs that are inexpensive and easy to use. Make time for exercise, even if you need to write it in a calendar.
Take time for recreation and relaxation Fun activities and relaxation can also boost endorphin levels in the body. People are too busy to play, they say, but play is needed for sanity and a sense of fulfillment. God set the precedent of rest right from the beginning when He created the world in six days, and then rested on the Sabbath. That rhythm is meant for people, to show them that they need to pause and rest and do things that fill their cup when it is getting empty.
Take a day or two every week and go on a coffee date, get a massage, do yoga, spend time in solitude and prayer, have a fun family day outdoors, watch a good movie, go on a date, play a game, or hang out with friends. Life is not all about work or success, even though the bills need to be paid. If a person is not able to take a full day of play and rest, then weave it into smaller pockets of time during the week.
Remind yourself of your vision, purpose, or mission
Burnout can make a person forget why they are in a role in the first place. They are so drained that they no longer see their purpose or mission. A helpful exercise could be to write down one’s “why.” Why do you love being a mom? Why did you choose that job and why do you stay if it is toxic? What wakes you up in the morning? What are you most passionate about, and is that reflected in your daily routines?
Schedule time off
This is simple. Take time off work. There is not a person in this world who needs to work 365 days a year. Take time off work. Use vacation time if you have it, but if not, budget to be able to take a day or two’s pay cut. Work should never be the center of life and taking time off is a good reminder of that.
Assess your needs
What do you need? Are those needs getting met? If you have reached the stage of burnout, it is highly unlikely that your needs are being met. Consider your needs physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and financially. What needs are already met, and which still are wanting?
Talk with a loved one about your needs
Be honest about what is going on. No one will be able to help if they do not know you are so burned out. Be clear about how you have been feeling and what it is you need, especially if that person could help meet any of those needs.
Develop healthy rhythms
Wake up and go to sleep around the same time every day. If working from home, set specific work hours and commit to honor those hours. If working outside of the home, avoid working over normal hours unless absolutely necessary. Incorporate play and rest and exercise into those daily and weekly rhythms when the time allows. Try to develop a healthy rhythm and routine.
Set good boundariesSet boundaries around family time, work time, time with Jesus, and time with others. Protect that time at all costs. A person can also set material boundaries, how they spend money and what resources/environments they steward. They can set relational boundaries, and they can learn when to say yes and when to say no. A person needs to know and understand his limits, and not continue to push himself beyond those limits as much as possible.
Cut out toxic people and places
Some jobs need to be finished, and some relationships need to go. If burnout is constant and affects most areas of one’s life, it is time to assess what needs to stay and what needs to go. Are there people in your life that repeatedly trigger your stress? Are they people from whom you can distance yourself? Is there a situation that has brought more stress than joy and fulfillment? Maybe it is time to walk away.
Lean into community
No one can handle their burnout on their own. Many of those with the “I-can-take-care-of-myself mindset” will try, but people are made for community; to lean on and support one another. Lean into the close community in your life and allow them to help meet some of the needs you have. Ask for help with the kids while you take a few hours to yourself or go on a date. Delegate a task if possible. Spend time with friends and loved ones.
Humor and laughter are always good medicine. When burnout is present, much of the joy seems gone. A person can cultivate it again or lean on the truth of Jesus and who He is and what He has done to bring a sense of hope. Laughter can feel like hope, so either way, allow laughter to come again.
Burnout does not need to get the final say. People will experience it, and they can use these tactics and many more to reduce signs and symptoms of it. People can be refreshed and rejuvenated. They simply must commit to taking care of themselves.
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