8 Steps to Navigate Burnout

What is burnout?

Although there’s no precise definition when it comes to the concept of burnout, according to Freudenberg, it can be defined as both a psychological and physical breakdown. Other definitions, like Maslach’s Burnout Theory, link burnout to the state that occurs as a result of chronic stress. Symptoms can include fatigue, depersonalization, where you feel like an outside observer of your own thoughts and body, as well as decreased overall satisfaction. Some believe this state is caused by internal stress, while others believe it’s caused by being overwhelmed by the daily routine and unmet expectations. Although studies on burnout were primarily carried out with individuals who worked in caregiving professions such as medicine, nursing, social work, and teaching, later studies also indicate that burnout can also be present in other occupational groups. 

You may be experiencing difficulty adapting to change. That could look like a shift in your environment, life transitions, or perhaps you’re under more stress than usual. Maybe your stress tolerance has dropped and you’re feeling helpless and unhappy. Or perhaps you’re feeling like the responsibilities you take on, the job you do, and what’s expected from you in daily life may is too much and you’re in over your head (Okutan et al., 2013). Burnout syndrome is a state of lack of energy, similar to experiencing the feeling of running out of steam. You can cope with the feeling of burnout by shifting your perspective, recognizing and managing your own inner resources, and re-planning your life. If you’re feeling tired, exhausted, out of energy, and so on, try the following steps.

8 Steps To Avoid Burnout

1. Review Your Expectations

Often the expectations we have of ourselves begin to develop, the stakes increasing as we get older. Sometimes, these expectations move past our ability to meet them, leaving us feeling defeated. What we can do is try to realize the place and function of our expectations in our lives. Ask yourself, “What do I expect of myself?” And once you’ve taken an inventory of what your expectations look like, you can then determine which ones are serving you and which ones are depleting you, draining your energy. By doing this, you can begin to identify expectations that are necessary, reasonable, and the ones you really want to meet, leaving behind those that don’t meet that criteria.

2. Recognize Your Current Situation 

Sometimes, the situation we’re in is bigger than us and it’s impossible not to feel stressed, anxious, or tired. In these moments, it’s important to take time for yourself, to understand the situation you’re currently going through. You can start by asking yourself whether or not you’re experiencing ease or difficulty in a particular area of your life. Were there times in the past when you had a harder time than today? What paths did you follow to navigate those challenging situations back then? Knowing that we’ve made it through all of our most difficult days can be helpful because it shows us we’re capable of moving through hard times and can do so again.

3. Be Mindful of Your Feelings & Needs

Review the last few weeks. How did you feel? What emotions did you navigate? Overall, did you feel happy, energetic, confident and peaceful, or depressed, hopeless, and unmotivated? Try to notice the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, are you feeling more hopeless and bored when you’re at home? Would you feel happier going for a walk, chatting with a friend, or moving your body in some way? What you notice as you reflect on these past few weeks can help you see and attend to any patterns between your needs and emotions. 

4. Try saying “No”

Sometimes we’re asked to do something that falls outside the realm of our responsibilities. You’ll encounter these kinds of demands in almost every profession involving human interaction. Do you have the impulse to meet every demand and fulfill every expectation? Do you ever internalize the expectations without questioning them and immediately start striving to meet them?

We can experience satisfaction when we meet expectations given to us by the right person and within the right frame of reason. That said, unrealistic or unanticipated expectations can make us feel anxious, stressed, tense, or hopeless. What if you tried filtering through the expectations you’re trying to meet? It’s important to remember that you don’t have to meet every expectation and request asked of you, so you can start to eliminate some of the less pressing, more unrealistic ones from your list. Being able to say “no” to what you don’t want, not taking on more responsibility than you can handle, is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself.

5. Declutter the Work Environment

We know that a cluttered work environment can reflect our mood and make it difficult for us to focus. When you’re disoriented or stressed, do you notice your desk becoming untidy or piled with stuff? Does that translate to how you’re feeling and the quality of your work? Decluttering your space can allow you room to identify work-related difficulties more easily, enabling you to name your own needs. Simplifying your work space can make your life easier to navigate both physically and emotionally.

6. Take Short Breaks

Taking little breaks while working is like getting gas. Just as the car does not start when it’s out of gas, your performance can decrease and you may feel tired and fed up if you don’t take a break. For example, instead of eating your lunch at your desk, you can make time to get up and go eat outside or in a different room for a change of scenery and to shake things up a bit, clearing your mind. Constantly sitting in front of a screen can make it difficult for you to focus as it regularly exposes you to stimuli and your body loses its flexibility. Taking small walks inside or outside the house during breaks will not only activate your body but also help you to focus and feel better.

7. Create Boundaries

Remember, everyone has their own limits. If you know your own abilities, drawing your own line and setting your own boundaries, you’ll have a clearer sense of what you can and cannot do. It’s up to you to balance your own capacity with what’s being asked of you. If you know what you can carry, you can say no to what you can’t, thereby protecting yourself from that which may “feel like a burden”. Setting realistic expectations and achievable goals is an essential step in order for you to navigate the world as your most authentic self. So, what are your boundaries? How are you setting yourself up for peace? 

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8. Explore Your Resources

Each of us has resources we turn to when we’re in need of support. Maybe that means we cook, talk to a friend, or do some yoga. Or perhaps it feels good to read a book or take a walk outside. So, what are your resources? Where do you need to go to access these resources? Can you access these resources on your own? Is it better for you to navigate these feelings alone or with people in your support system? You can attend to your needs by identifying your resources, planning how and where to reach them. Remember, you have inner resources and external support. You’re not alone and you can do this.

Translator: Ebru Peközer

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