How To Burnout-Proof Your Life

Individuals are burning out at an alarming rate. People feel the constant demand to deliver, so they’re either burning out or they’re leaving their professions altogether, due to high stress and burnout. With COVID-19, this is becoming more prevalent and amplified, due to all the demands from working from home (WFH). Burnout is a state of prolonged emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, that is coupled with excessive and prolonged stress. There are 5 common signs of burnout:

  • Exhaustion due to lack of sleep – Our bodies need a proper amount of restful sleep, in order to repair the damage we do to ourselves on a daily basis. Even if you live the “best” life of proper nutrition and activity, avoiding as many toxins as possible, we still do damage to our bodies. When you don’t get restful sleep, your body loses the opportunity to repair the damage, so the damage accumulates over time, which will make you fatigued and susceptible to burnout. 
  • Lost motivation – When you are burned out, you lose motivation to do anything. Things that used to bring you joy and fulfillment no longer seem worthwhile, so you continue down the road of just working, with no leisure activities. 
  • Increased mistakes and poor memory – One of the signs of burnout is someone having poor memory and increasingly making mistakes. Burned out individuals get frustrated when they can’t remember simple things, and because they’re so scattered in their minds and fatigued, the number of mistakes they make in their work increases. 
  • Struggling to make decisions – “What do you want for dinner?” is one of the most challenging questions humanity faces. When you’re burned out not only can you decide what to eat for dinner, but even simpler decisions seem like life or death decisions, when in most cases, they are not of that caliber. 
  • Irritability – When I had my burnout journey a decade ago, I wasn’t a very nice person to be around. With the combined fatigue, increased mistakes, lack of motivation and feeling overwhelmed with work, I would be very short-tempered with people, which isn’t my normal demeanor. 

 

How did you become burned out in the first place?

  • Long work hours – Prior to COVID-19, many individuals were working extremely hard and long hours at work. When they would get home, many would continue working late into the night. This habit will lead to fatigue and poor sleep patterns, which will build up stress and eventual burnout. 
  • Constant connectivity – Coupled with the working long hours, we are constantly connected to work, social media, etc through our smartphones. We receive so many notifications through our dozens of apps, that we are spending hours and hours looking at screens, which causes both physical and mental issues over a long period of time. 
  • Lack of boundaries – We do not have strong boundaries around how we spend our time. We merge our work and personal lives too much, where we don’t have a proper amount of leisure and rest time. The constant workloads wear us down, creates fatigued individuals.

 

How To Recover From Burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It builds up over time and impacts every facet of our lives. Recovering from burnout has some short-term and long-term steps to follow. For the short-term recovery, follow these steps: 

  • Restful sleep – For restful sleep, you need to cut your digital screen time significantly at night. I recommend at minimum one hour before bedtime, you stop using electronic devices (computers, TV, smartphones, etc). Establish a nighttime routine, and I HIGHLY recommend you start journaling how your day went. Highlight the good things that happened, and be thankful for the opportunity of life. With your restful sleep make sure your bed and pillow are comfortable, as well as room temperature. Install fans or turn down the temperature in your room to a cooler temperature, so you sleep better. 
  • Eat healthier – I’m not going to tell you to go with a 100% kale diet, but I recommend that you use a food journal to document everything you eat, as well as document how you are feeling throughout your day. You may discover that you have some food intolerance or allergies to certain foods that impact your energy levels. 
  • Track your interruptions – Document your interruptions on a daily basis. Interruptions include phone calls, text messages, emails, people stopping by your desk, or talking to you while you are working. You will be amazed at how often you are interrupted in your day. Find a free interruptions template here. Also turn off the notifications on your phone, other than the phone app, text messages, and if your employer uses a special app for projects and communications. Turn off everything else.
  • Set boundaries around your time – If you do nothing else in life, you need to have firm boundaries around how you spend your time. Set a firm start and end to your workday, stop checking emails after hours, and block off personal time on your calendar. Don’t fill up every minute of your day though, you need to schedule some “do nothing” time each day, to help you relax and find clarity. 
  • Schedule 2-3 things that bring you joy every week – Develop a list of things that bring you joy and fulfillment in your life. These could be as simple as sitting in your favorite coffee shop or bistro, going to the movies, spending time with friends, reading, etc. Find a free bucket list template here. From this list, schedule 2-3 of these list items EVERY week. Treat these appointments as if they were the most important meeting with your boss. The boss of your life is YOU. 

 

For long-term burnout recovery

You need to determine why you burned out in the first place. Many of the items listed in this article are surface-level reasons, but typically behaviors, past traumas, thought patterns, and personality play a huge part in why we burn out. To deal with these issues, I recommend working with a therapist or counselor to find out the root causes that led to your burnout, so you can address those behaviors and thought patterns. 

 

 

Michael Levitt
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Michael Levitt is the founder & Chief Burnout Officer of The Breakfast Leadership Network, a San Diego and Toronto-based burnout media firm. He is an in-person and Certified Virtual Speaker, a Certified NLP and CBT Therapist, a Fortune 500 consultant, #1 bestselling author, and hosts the Breakfast Leadership Show, a top 200 podcast on iTunes. Michael's A Top 20 Global Thought Leader on Culture with Thinkers360. and a former Healthcare executive, overseeing $2B+ budgets.

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