For my entire adult life, I’ve been working, typically an assortment of jobs simultaneously. In college, for example, I had five jobs and internships at once (on top of my double-major, double-minor course-load). Even now, several years post-grad, I’ve kept the habit, with three online businesses (including this blog!), and my writing career, not to mention my professional/personal development efforts, household tasks, and other requirements of adulthood.
After more than a decade of over-booking my schedule, I’ve gotten pretty good at juggling all these metaphorical balls in the air. But, even still, I know it’s not sustainable. More often than not, I’m flirting with burnout, if not outright wallowing in its depths. I find myself overwhelmed and overworked, skipping meals and workouts to work more but struggling to focus on the task at hand all the more as a result.
What is burnout?
A simple burnout definition: a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress
When you’re experiencing burnout, you may feel like you can’t accomplish anything, you’re cynical and negative, and you don’t have the energy to do the things you enjoy. Burnout can also lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and sleep problems.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to burnout, including job demands that are excessive or incompatible with our abilities, lack of control over our work, and job insecurity. Unsupportive work environments, such as those that are chaotic or hostile, can also contribute to burnout.
This struggle on top of my existing health issues (both mental & physical) makes for a particularly painful combination—and one that I just can’t keep up. So, while I’m not sure that burnout recovery really exists, I’m working towards burnout remission.
Typical Burnout Tips
When you research “burnout advice” or “burnout recovery,” you’ll find a few particular tips come up again and again.
- Setting boundaries, especially between work and home life
- Taking breaks or resting
- Practicing self-care
- Exercising and healthy eating
Of course, burnout—like any human condition—affects everyone differently. It makes sense that burnout relief comes in many different forms, too.
My path to burnout remission, or at least my plan to follow as I try to get there, is based on plenty of research (and some extra time digging through Pinterest). I’m sure it will change over time, but these are the methods I’m implementing upfront.
Say yes to myself.
I finished Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes a few weeks back and can say without a doubt that it changed my life—and I’m confident it will continue to. The portion that stands out the most to me, in retrospect, is the idea of saying yes to play.
In terms of my path to burnout remission, I’m committing to saying yes to all things fun. One of the animals comes over to snuggle? Cuddling for a while will do us both some good. My sister wants to watch a movie? I can rearrange my schedule and make some time. The opportunity to do something spontaneous presents itself? There’s no reason not to snatch it.
Listen to my body.
Slowly, I’m getting better at the basics, like remembering to take medicine when something hurts or taking time to nap when I can’t keep my eyes open much longer. But I’m determined to tune in even further.
Desperately want a certain food? I’ll enjoy it whenever possible. Ignoring the symptoms of dehydration for far too long? It’s time to drink some water (not just another cup of coffee). Tense or just feeling the need to stretch? There’s a reason I subscribe to Down Dog.
Maintain the simplest habits.
When burnout gets bad, I’ve noticed that the simplest of habits seem to become impossible. I don’t drink water or eat fresh foods. My vitamins go back in their weekly case after a day of neglecting them. I stop meditating and fall behind on my learning efforts, like online courses and Duolingo.
This time, I’m trying to cover these basics before I continue down this path to burnout remission. I’ve downloaded a tracking app and inputted some of these simple habits—now I’ve just got to stick to them!
Delegate when I can.
Right now, I’m not able to hire an assistant or bring on others in most of my businesses. As I work to grow the funds I’m bringing in, I hope to hire a VA to help manage some of my tasks (and support a fellow freelancer!).
For the time being, I’ll try to delegate what I can. At Nightingale & Sparrow, I have an incredible team of volunteers working on the literary magazine, and we’ll be adding a few new birds to the nest soon. At home, I’ll work with family to let others tackle tasks I can’t find time to manage. And, when the opportunity arises, I’ll bring on additional help to keep things going and growing.
Create & implement systems.
I’ve been wanting to create & implement systems for various parts of my life for a while. With suspected autism/ADHD and other issues, I think an outlined process for my recurring tasks would save so much time and energy, not to mention mental fatigue!
So far, I’ve struggled to determine the best methods for documenting these systems, much less creating them. But, with some more brainstorming and potential research, I’ll figure it out eventually. Feel free to comment with suggestions if you’ve got them!
Set categorised short-term goals.
I have a detailed five-year plan outlining my goals in various subsets of my life, similarly to my 101 in 1,001 list. In the past, I broke those down into yearly, quarterly, weekly, and daily mini goals. Lately, though, that breakdown has fallen to the wayside, too.
As I plan ahead, I’m trying out a sort of opposite method this time. I’ll be setting short-term goals outright, with the backdrop of my ultimate milestones. Best of all, I’m starting today, with the start of a fresh, new quarter! Few things motivate me as much as a blank slate, however unimportant that might be in the grand scheme of things.
Raise my rates.
This one is very specific to my businesses (particularly my freelance business), but I’m determined to start charging what I’m worth for products and services. Because I’ve struggled with money so much myself, I tend to undercharge in the hopes of being more accessible to people like me. But, in the process, I’m maintaining my own financial struggle and forcing myself into a perpetual cycle of overworking for underearning.
So, I’ll be raising my rates, researching industry standards and factoring in my skills and experience. If someone approaches me with financial need, and I’m in the position to take on the work at a discounted rate, I’ll work with them. But, if I don’t set myself up for success and self-worth upfront, I’ll just return to burnout with painful regularity.
Learn new tools to beat burnout.
I love personal development work, so I have plenty of background in various tips and methods that could help me combat symptoms of burnout. But, even still, there’s no shortage of new tools to be learned!
Recently, I invested in a massive haul of professional/personal development books. As I work through them, I’m determined to take action and implement what I learn to be a happier, healthier version of me.