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How to break the burnout cycle

Exhaustion, reduced productivity, stress, anxiety, brain fog, irritability, loss of passion and purpose, feeling down, chest pain, palpitations, inefficiency… Sounds familiar? You might be experiencing burnout.

Young woman working on a laptop seen from the back

It’s a word you’re probably familiar with but have you considered what burnout really is, how it can impact you and how you can overcome it?

Burnout is when you become emotionally and physically exhausted. It is the result of prolonged stress, often from a job or studying, but it can also be a result of other types of stress in life, like having to look after a loved one. It can affect both your physical and mental health, which means your sleep, mood and general wellbeing can take a big hit.

Burnout can impact all of us at times and whilst it is sometimes tempting to ignore these feelings and push on it’s going to help you a lot more if you recognize and take steps to support yourself. Burnout is common and natural but it isn’t sustainable. You will do your best work, and be the best version of yourself if you practice self-care and nurture yourself through.

Here are our top five tips for moving past burnout and preventing it from reoccurring in the future.

1) Find the source of burnout

In order to overcome burnout, it's really important to find the root of the problem. Maybe your burnout is a result of taking on too much at work, or not having enough time to see your family? Perhaps you are finding studies overwhelming? Or perhaps it is because you have to look after your elderly parents and that takes all your time away from doing anything for you.

Keeping a wellbeing journal and noting the things that happen that give you good energy and the things that trigger stress and anxiety can help you understand what is feeding into your burnout. Your journal is then a source of things to feed your soul with, as well as helping you be mindful of what elements of your life are causing stress.

2) Alleviate stress factors

Finding the root is an important first step, but what do you do once you have found it? Eliminating or reducing stress factors is key! For example, if you are in the midst of exam time, are there ways that you can structure your revision? If it's work that's causing the issue, can you delegate some of the work to your team?

Can you do more to get support around you? Would your manager or course tutor be able to help you manage your workload? If you are able to write down a list of what is feeding into your burnout you could try writing one way of mitigating the impact for each.

3) Reassess goals

Sometimes, even after we have found the source and eliminated the stressors, it can be really hard to get back into a rhythm that feels right and not too overwhelming. If that sounds like something you are experiencing it might be useful to reassess your goals and see if the path you are on is the right one for you at the moment.

For example, if you are putting all your energy into getting a certain grade in your studies perhaps look at whether you could allow yourself to shoot for a lower grade? At work, could you take a step back or break from some activities or responsibilities that you currently have?

If you are finding life really tough right now try to be ruthless and think about what might have to happen to enable you to feel better and more able to cope. If that feels too much you can work back to more manageable steps that might go some way to helping.

4) Go back to basics

It might sound so obvious that you forget about it altogether, but getting enough sleep, water, nutrition and exercise are incredibly important to our overall wellbeing. Even if you have perfected having enough water, nutrition and exercise, not getting enough sleep can leave you with memory issues, a weakened immune system, mood changes and much more.

Getting a good balance is key. Once you have mastered the basics you can move onto prioritizing self-care, which will always be beneficial, both physically and mentally.

You could practice self-care in the form of, taking peaceful walks in nature, meditating, finding physical outlets for stress such as yoga, or boxing, running yourself a bubble bath, taking regular breaks, or just having a day off for you. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference these things can make.

5) Connect

Finally, finding a supportive network is really important when you are struggling with stress and exhaustion. Not only can connecting to other people help you feel less alone and less stressed, but it can also be a great way to stop you from bottling up your emotions.

You can find support through friends and family, a therapist, and even online with peer support group (that's us!). Don’t be afraid to speak up, there’s no embarrassment in being burned out.

It’s not easy to stop and take stock of how you are really doing. Many of us carry on regardless. But if you can take a moment to check in with yourself, to notice how you are, and to consider what steps you could take to look after yourself then you will thank yourself in the long run!

And remember, above all else, you are not alone.


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