17 Ways to Reduce Burnout
Burned Out? Same.
In approximately 10 days I’m going on vacation. I. CAN’T. WAIT. For the last two-ish years I have worked an intense schedule. A light week is anything that clocks between 40-50 hours, and a standard week is easily 50-65 hours. Add to this, the nature of my work is physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing. Most days, I love my job. I am so very grateful this is where I landed career-wise (it was not what I planned, but that story is for another day).
Alas folks, I am burned out. I’ve felt this way for the last seven months or so, and have chosen to just kept plugging away. My rationale is: We are so close to the finish line. The remnants of my husband’s last student loan are being attacked in full force. It should be paid off by the end of this year (hopefully sooner). Until we pay that off, I am (currently) unwilling to step away or reduce work. I keep telling myself, when we are debt-free (sans the mortgage), I will take a long, hard look at my schedule and design it to be what I want.
This is not to say, you should stay in a miserable situation. If you hate your job or relationship, by all means, do what you can to change it! Life is too short to be miserable. Thankfully, I am more of the worn-out variety (rather than miserable). I have to be extra-aware of capitalizing on the good, when I am powering through the exhausting.
Why do I Feel Burned Out?
It is important to always stay curious. About life, about people, and above all, about yourself. So naturally I asked myself, “What’s going on?” The realization that my work schedule was not sustainable is (surprisingly) surprising. Like I’ve stated previously, I truly enjoy my job and the challenges it brings. It also pays very well. Understanding that my current set-up wasn’t going to work out long term, was a mild blow to my career plans. These were facts I had to accept.
Once I worked through the disappointment I was, in fact, a human, and not the quasi-machine I envisioned myself to be, I felt relief. I don’t have to keep doing this forever, this way. And the choice to keep my current work hours rests with me. Where I previously felt powerless, I remembered that I have the choice, and this has emboldened me.
Part of my aggressive work schedule has been influenced by our desire to want things. We wanted a house (it makes more sense to buy vs. rent in our area), to adequately save in our retirement accounts, to have a healthy Emergency Fund, and to obliterate student loan debt.
Accomplishments In 2018:
- Paid off ~$47,000 in student loan debt
- Bought/mortgaged a house
- Paid off my car
- Got married—frugal wedding
- Maxed my 403b
- Maxed my IRA
- Husband got a big time promotion
- Husband picked up a side hustle on Friday nights at the local cigar shop
- Totally frugal Christmas/holidays
- Helped two family members obtain/pay for attorneys (2 different legal issues)
- Put in a flower garden
- Accepted free furniture (upstairs sofa, office desk, etc.)
- Willing to DIY things to save money and learn skills (picked up free furniture, sealed shower, assembled flower bed, an endless list)
- Both of us earned more money this year than in previous years
- Did a year-end financial review for first time
- Started investing in taxable accounts
- Saved up for new living room floors in full
RanWalked a 10k with my mom
Alas, the euphoria of knocking out all of these goals and building my business has waned. That doesn’t mean these things aren’t important to me anymore—quite the contrary! Rather, the momentary high at accomplishing some of these things has faded. At times, I have difficulty keeping my momentum going. What to do?!
How to Reduce Burnout (and How I’ve Kept my Sanity)
- Adequate sleep: Make sure you’re getting your Zzz’s. Babies get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep, and so do we.
- Do a little Self-Care everyday: Even if it’s 2 minutes of breathing exercises, listening to a solid audiobook on your commute, savoring your coffee, or a nice hot shower/bath, do something to love yourself.
- Reduce impulsive decisions: Sleep on it. Once of my saving graces has been realizing “I don’t need to make a decision/respond to this/take an action right now”. Some things do require immediate attention, but most, don’t.
- Unplug: Now, I don’t mean everything! But if you find yourself scrolling through trolls or depressing news on Twitter, close/delete the app, even for a few days, and do something else instead.
- Leisure activities: Relax! If you can relax outside, even better! Let the kids run around while you sit in a lawn chair. Every single moment of your day does not need to be productive.
- Rest: If you can take a nap here and there, great. If you can’t, even just sitting in your office chair with your eyes closed and hands folded for 3-5 minutes, will allow your busy mind to rest.
- Keep a journal: Mine is nothing special, just a notepad on my tablet where I recount my accomplishments of the day. Anything as minor as “slept in” to “washed dishes” or “spent 4 hours on the phone to get a insurance quote reduced” goes on the list. See what you’ve done for the day. This has especially helped me when my Things-To-Do list feels never ending. I have found I do much more than I give myself credit for.
- Exercise: Whether it’s HIIT workouts 6 days a week, or Yoga With Adriene once a week (Odd factoid: I know her dad!)—do what you can.
- Structure your day: If you’re an over-scheduler, this may be an area to rein in your multi-colored pens and planner (that’d be me). But if you aren’t, maybe having a rough outline of your day (e.g. work til 5, come home and make dinner, clean up kitchen, respond to a friend’s text, wash a load of clothes, veg out with the spouse/kids, shower) will help ensure you are working and playing in a balanced way.
- Laugh: watch a dumb/smart comedy on TV, google “funny things kids say”, horse around with your friends or your spouse—do your part to make life fun. It’s those little moments that keep me going the rest of the day when I’m grinding it out.
- Eat good foods: fuel your body with foods that will nourish it. It makes more of a difference in mental health than we might give credit. Though you don’t need to go meatless, here is a list of our go-to healthy meatless meals.
- Hobbies: Do you like reading? Video games? Gardening? Try to spend some time, a few times a week, doing what you love. I promise you, the world can wait.
- Meditative breathing: Take a few minutes to breathe consciously, eyes open or closed. Focus on your breath, expanding your belly, and exhaling through the mouth. Remember, you are alive!! Isn’t that wild?!
- Drink plenty of water: it’s good for you! And staying hydrated is paramount to our bodies operating efficiently, therefore not tiring out so easily. The rule of thumb I use: Half your body weight in ounces. Meaning if you are 150 lbs, you need about 75 oz of water a day.
- Acknowledge that life changes: Even if your days feel the same, they aren’t. Even if you feel stuck, everything is temporary. For better or worse, it‘s ever-evolving. This time next year, things will look different. Stay present and remain hopeful about the future.
- Do nothing: Sleep in, putter, watch trash TV, do whatever you want. Doing nothing is just as important as doing all of the things.
- Make a list of accomplishments: It’s nice to get some perspective. See my above list.
When All Else Fails—Go On Vacation
As I ramped up work these last few years, I diligently worked on self-care and kept a watchful eye on my mental health. And even with all of that, now, it’s just plain time for a vacation.
Don’t get me wrong: I have taken time off in the last couple of years. But not for more than 4 days at a time, and not without family (parents/nephew, etc). Our upcoming trip is a belated honeymoon and we will be gone over a week. No Wi-Fi, no obligations. Just reading, the sun, and relaxation.
What do you do to reduce burnout?