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Burnout

Burnout has become familiar in today’s hustle culture. If you are unfamiliar with the word, you’ve likely felt it or something similar after a deadline, project, or busy season. For those struggling with burnout, the short breaks are not enough. Instead of feeling rejuvenated and ready to return to their routine, individuals with burnout might feel dread or resentment at returning to work or parenting. These thoughts and feelings can be distressing. Burnout is when you’ve been overworking for a time and now have no resources left. You’re running on fumes. You’re empty. 

We overwork for a variety of reasons, not only at a paid job. The expectations for your performance are too high, you don’t get adequate recovery time, your support system isn’t able to meet your needs, your environment is unhealthy, and more. Essentially, you are asked to give more than you can replace for an extended period of time. 

If you are recognizing yourself or a loved one in this description so far, you might be left wondering what to do. You probably can’t quit your job tomorrow or take a few months off parenting. When the equation boils down to too much demand and too little resource, research shows us time and time again that we are better off adding resources. Yet it is still worth evaluating if your demands are reasonable or if some bigger changes are necessary. First, let’s try growing our resources or having a discussion about what is being asked of you. 

Think about a routine moment in your life you genuinely enjoy. This might be your morning cup of coffee, a walk around the neighborhood, or your pet greeting you at home. Spend one minute mindfully engaging with that activity. These small moments of mindfulness help you engage with your present in a grounding way. 

Examine your support system. As humans, we need a few types of support. We need intimate relationships – close friendships, partners, and family. We need supportive friends to connect with regularly. We also need a community that aligns with our identity. All of these serve to guide connection and long-term support. 

Lastly, consider what resource you are running low on. Is it energy? Time? Emotional bandwidth? And ask yourself what activities add to that resource? Energy might benefit from sleep, movement, and diet shifts. Time might benefit from outsourcing tasks when possible, or developing routines to minimize the time spent making decisions and planning. Emotional bandwidth might benefit from connection with a partner or close friends. 

Prioritize your lowest resource. It might seem simple, but it is often complicated to untangle what demands are asking the most from you and which resource they are emptying. Don’t be afraid to get help. Burnout is complicated, overwhelming, and exhausting. It is a process like everything else, so it is important to acknowledge that there will not be immediate changes. 

We live in a go-go-go perfectionistic culture. At the swipe of a finger we can see everyone around us making the most of their moments. It looks effortless. It looks easy. Yet, behind every flawlessly edited photo is hours of hard work: working overtime to earn the money for the vacation at the cost of connecting with friends for weeks, workouts and diets that overstress and overstretch our bodies limits, and mental stress from debt as people strive for outward perfection. Today at least, give yourself the gift of a gentle day. Check in with what your body, mind, and emotions need. Fill up one of your tanks, even if it’s just a little bit.  

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