Burnout. The one word that frightens me to my bones.
I have never thought that I would be a victim of burnout. I strongly believed that if I enjoyed my work, personal and social life, and maintain a healthy body and mind, I would protect myself from burnout and intense exhaustion.
After many years of thinking this way, I burnt out in 2017 after finishing my master’s degree.
I felt that I was tired of my personal and professional lives. I no longer derived satisfaction from the work activities I previously enjoyed. I spent most of my time distracted by social media, movies and TV shows, and food, leaving the majority of my professional responsibilities to the last minute. I was at a higher risk of procrastination because I was lacking the intrinsic motivation, energy, and commitment to continue my professional life.
I believe that it is important to know what physical activities and mental orientations cause burnout and how it may be prevented to improve one’s psychological state and enjoyment in professional life. In this blog post, I describe some strategies that were successful in supporting my recovery from burnout and exhaustion.
- Thinking Time
Recovery takes time and commitment. Eventually, you will recover.
For some, it may take a year or longer. I am still recovering from my burnout in 2017. Also, recovery does not have to mean returning to a normal state before the burnout. In fact, burnout should contribute to your personal and professional development. You have changed yourself to a new normal, marked by significant improvements in your character.
It is okay to take your time to recovery from burnout. Give yourself time to think about yourself, your role, and how you perceive your role/purpose in this world.
- What is the meaning of my life?
- Am I satisfied with my professional lifestyle?
- Do I enjoy my work activities and tasks?
- What are my most immediate short-term career objectives?
- What are my most important objectives for personal development?
- What are my long-term career goals?
- Am I in good terms with my family and friends?
- Do I regret anything about work, career, and life?
- How do I accept the consequences of my decisions?
- How can I be more grateful for my work and life?
- Know Yourself
I cannot stress enough how essential it is to know yourself.
This advice is not only beneficial for dealing with burnout but also with efficiency, work management, and interpersonal skills development.
During feelings of burnout, you need to reflect on the things that matter to you the most. For each person, this reflection will be different. For example, personally, I place a strong emphasis on work and professional success. I measure how successful I am by focusing on internal feelings of learning and satisfaction with life. Others may emphasize the quality and quantity of their social networks.
The corollary is to use what you know about who you are such as the activities you enjoy genuinely and how you behave in moments of uncertainty or stress, to slowing rebuild your attitude in life and recover from burnout.
Knowing yourself is a lifelong journey.
My grade 12 math teacher once encouraged me to enhance my personal capacity to be self-critical. She recommended to (1) engage in community events, school projects, and other tasks, (2) outline my personal outcomes and expectations of the engagement, and (3) reflect on how these outcomes and expectations changed or shifted my thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours.
Adopting this framework for engagement may enable you to increase your appreciation of yourself as a person. It may also allow you to enhance the efficiency of your work by making it more enjoyable and context-appropriate.
- Process Over Outcome
I have made this point in previous blog posts. But, I honestly believe that an orientation towards the process over their outcome is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I realized that one of the reasons for my burnout was that I became so engrossed with the intended outcomes of my activities that I ignored the learning process, reflection, and the advice of my high school teacher.
In turn, I fixated on getting things done as soon as possible instead of learning from the process of getting things done.
I believe that this orientation towards the outcome of an activity was a major reason why I encountered burnout. As I regained the mental and physical space to reflect and revisit the qualities I know about myself, I began to reemphasize process over outcome. With time, I revitalized my motivation and dedication.
Although I need to make further improvements, I believe that focusing on the process over the outcome of activities is the crucial foundation to build recovery from burnout.
In my blog post on Strategies to Succeed in Moments of Failure, I described some strategies that may enable you to better emphasize processes over outcomes:
- Remind yourself that you love to learn (before, during, and after each activity)
- Immerse yourself in the activity
- Remove all distractions when you are working
- In your work, remind yourself that you are enjoying this experience
- Use a portfolio or journal to track your self-development
- Have frequent walking and hydration trips
- Ensure your diet is adequately nutritious
In addition, here are some other tips informed by my personal experience of burnout:
- Create a mental and physical environment for sincere reflection and self-development
- Reflect on what you are learning about yourself (e.g., how you handle burnout and demotivation in life)
- Seek authentic social support who give you the thinking space you need, make up your identity, and remind you to focus on the process over the outcome
- Consider joining classes on mindfulness meditation
Let’s face it. Sometimes we may feel that we want to literally push everything away and leave our home, our city, and our country. In this situation, we may really dislike our lives (dare I say hate?), routine, and work.
Personally, I felt this in June 2017 when I was at the peak of my burnout.
In such a situation, I believe it is healthy and important to consider vacationing.
The objective of a vacation would be to reacquire our love, satisfaction, purpose, and motivation in life. The vacation should allow us to let go of our routine life activities for an amount of time that enables us to regain an appreciation for what makes our life meaningful. The vacation should enable us to reflect upon the events, people, and interactions that cause us to maintain a joyful, motivated, and exuberant temperament.
My vacation was to the United Arab Emirates for more than three weeks. I am grateful for this opportunity to explore another part of the world and its culture. It reoriented me towards the things that mattered the most. By the end of it, I disliked the UAE and longed for my home city and routine. This is when my recovery process began.
I hope these strategies are helpful to you now or in the future when dealing with burnout. If you have any strategies you use, please share it with us on the blog!