With the Covid-19 pandemic taking a toll on our lives, and many of us suffering from the ever-crumbling walls separating private and professional realms, burnout is a very real concern.
But, even if things were “normal”, how many of us can say they never felt overwhelmed by a hectic schedule juggling work, side hustles, family life, and our own time?
The danger of burnout is especially prevalent with women and homeworkers. We have the hardest time drawing boundaries between work and home duties. And it’s not just home working: over a third of Americans battle job burnout every week, as professional demands are constantly on the rise. If you’re also considering a side hustle to supplement your income, you’ll increase your chances of burnout.
So, what really causes burnout and are you at risk of mental health pressures from your lifestyle? Can you recognize the signs? How can you avoid burnout by taking some time for yourself and remembering to breathe?
What is burnout and who gets it?
Although we hear a lot about burnout in the media today, this is actually a concept that’s been around since the 70s. It was first used to describe a “severe stress condition.” It leads to serious mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. In other words, it’s a very serious issue and it can indeed affect you much more than some may think.
Burnout comes about from lots of sources. It can seep in slowly, gradually developing as you take on more and more responsibility in your job. Or as your family grows and you’re multitasking finding less time for yourself.
It hits you at the same time as an illness that knocks you out for a few weeks so you find yourself way behind with everything in your life, struggling to get back. Wondering if you are ever going to get back to normal.
Either way, burnout is normal and very frequent. And anyone can get it.
The most common occurrence is, of course, work-related. However, you can start to burn out in a family or personal life when you take on a side hustle. You suddenly have fewer breaks throughout the day, blending work and personal life into one.
You may also end up suffering from burnout after severe stress-inducing events in your life. For instance, a death, a breakup, or a big move, for example. Literally, there are thousands of scenarios and anyone can suffer.
Signs you might be heading for burnout
How can you prevent a feeling of acute exhaustion other than by taking on less work or fewer responsibilities? And what happens when this is simply not an option for you?
The best thing you can do to prevent burnout is to recognize its signs and do something about it before you’re heading down a slippery slope.
Here are some tell-tale signs of burnout I’ve experienced or seen others experience:
Exhaustion / “Tired all the time” feeling
Don’t think that feeling tired is normal because you’re busy. It is possible to be “good tired” and “bad tired” – the latter means you’re literally feeling emotionally and physically drained. This creates physical ailments such as odd headaches or stomachaches.
You can see this coming by a simple increase in how lethargic you feel at the end of the day and how “up for it” you’re feeling in the mornings. If you feel exhausted for 2-3 days in a row, it’s time to take a break.
As burnout “properly” settles in, you’ll probably feel so tired you don’t want to go out and see your friends and family anymore. This will trigger feelings of isolation.
This is extremely important in the world today with constant quarantines and fear of Covid. Learning the signs of isolation becomes more difficult the more we are used to staying at home.
Extroverts and very social people recognize this as a sign much faster because they are used to enjoying the company of others. The pandemic is blurring the lines though of what we miss because of quarantine versus burnout.
Although, I am getting burned out from Covid stay at home rules.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming of a holiday, but if you find yourself constantly wishing you weren’t where you are, that’s a sign that something is wrong.
In the past, anytime I found myself dreading going to work, I knew it was time for a change.
This is one of the worst signs of burnout as it negatively impacts people around you without them deserving it! Do you know how being tired and/or hungry makes you grumpy? Being exhausted all the time obviously causes you to lose patience easily and become angry about the smallest things.
Not only does it harm your family, but it can also create problems with your work and your business. I’ve learned over the years not to deal with angry or frustrating customers when I am in a funk. I recognize my signs quickly and step away to catch my breath and gain my composure before dealing with them.
The last thing you want is for your mood to negatively impact your profession or business.
Illness / Weak immunity
Overworking leads to a weakened immune system and, in turn, opens the door for potential illnesses. If you’re starting to get the flu, that’s usually a sign you’ve been tired and not taking care of yourself properly.
6 EASY ways to make time for yourself
Your mental health is a precious commodity, so making sure you’re taking good care of it and avoiding burnout is essential for your wellbeing. Here are a few easy tips to step back, take a breath, and make time for yourself before burnout really hits:
Stick to a routine
Whether you’re working from home during the pandemic, side hustling, or freelancing, you need to set clear boundaries between work and non-work time. Sticking to a routine to allow yourself downtime, is also another key to avoiding burnout.
To do this, establish a routine with set times when you’ll be working and switching off, and respect it! You’ll be more productive in your work time as a result, too.
Schedule breaks and walks into your day
Yes, your calendar is full, and yes, you have to make time for everything. But marking in time for your wellbeing, which means taking in some fresh air every day and moving your body avoids aches and pains from sitting for too long.
The easiest way to make sure you take breaks is to schedule them in, just as if they were work meetings. Then, when the reminder pops up, respect it just like you would if you were meeting someone in real life.
Better yet, schedule an outdoor break with a friend. Meet them for a 10-15 minute walk. This refreshes your brain and interacting with friends also gives us a boost of dopamine. Plus, you’ll be accountable to another person, so you’re less likely to miss it!
Simplify and declutter
Physical clutter leads to mental clutter, which, in turn, makes your feel overwhelmed. This pattern of environmental uneasiness causes depression and burnout.
Avoid this by setting decluttering your space, whether for work or in your personal life. With a pared-down, minimalist environment, you’ll be more efficient, find things more easily, and get more time for yourself than when you run around aimlessly trying to tie up loose ends.
Embrace the outdoors
Whether you take time to go for a quick walk or just sit outside for a few minutes every day, the power of fresh air and sunshine cannot be overestimated. Set a timer for 5 minutes to sit outdoors and simply enjoy your environment.
Don’t think about meditating or exercising, just sit and look around, taking in the world around you. Your mind will be calmer and more settled as a result.
Find your happy
What makes you truly happy and comfortable? It can be a good book, a favorite cake, a cup of coffee, scented candles and a bath… any or all of these!
Take a few minutes to write down and recognize your sources of happiness, which helps you recharge. Stick them on a post-it note within view at all times and, if things feel rough, “find your happy” – press the “pause” button and use one of your escape options to calm down and relax.
Easier said than done, but consider this: are there things you’re doing right now that you could delegate or simply say “no”?
You could share more household chores with the rest of your family or delegate some tasks at work, for example. If finances permit, you could hire help.
The other question to ask yourself is: what can you do without being a perfectionist?
You don’t always have to be perfect and excel in every aspect of your life. If you really can’t drop something, perhaps you can accept some tasks won’t be done to the same standard as others. Is this an option for you?
Hopefully, some of these tips can help you realize what’s most urgent and what can be left for another day, so you can find more balance and avoid burnout. Remember, health can’t be replaced, so protect it rather than treat it!
I also have some great articles that can help like 7 Productivity Hacks for Working at Home!
Until next time,