Life is crazy.
I’ve learned that much.
One moment you’re working to make everything good in your life and career, then before you know it, you’re flat on your back, unable to do much more than dream up words that rhyme with “burnout.”
If you’ve ever been burnt out, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’re nearing a burnout, then chances are, you’re probably ready to skip right by this article because you have stuff to do and this doesn’t relate to you. But you might want to bookmark this and come back to it later. You’ll need it when you realize you need to turn that burnout around.
You’ve run on empty before—like on a busy day when you simply didn’t have time to do anything but work—but this is different. It’s like your tank is constantly filled with sludge or concrete, and mustering the energy to do much of anything is nearly impossible.
To turn this burnout around, nourishment is non-negotiable. This includes nourishing your body by getting quality rest, eating food that will fuel your body’s recovery, exercising gently, and getting fresh air. But you also have to nourish your heart by doing things that make you feel like you—like listening to music, hugging your partner, laughing with a friend, meditating, or feeling the sun on your face.
This is more than putting gas back in the tank; this is stepping up and accepting responsibility to make sure you’re okay through all the pressures and priorities in your life. It doesn’t matter what it is or how you do it—what matters is making your own nourishment a priority.
Acknowledge Your Part
Take off the blinders and pull your head out of the sand: You’re burnt out because you let yourself get burnt out. In all reality, you probably encouraged the process.
It’s easy to blame the world and everyone else for not seeing or stopping what was happening to you. However, it’s only by acknowledging why it happened and taking responsibility for your part in it that you’ll be able to get back up—without the risk of repeating those same patterns of behavior.
Whether you always said yes to taking on extra work, internalized the need to please everyone else, or constantly worked on weekends, put the excuses to one side and face the real reasons you burned out.
Build Some Guide Rails
Burnout can happen quietly, through creeping fences. Inch by inch, you sacrifice more ground—because what’s an inch in the grand scheme of themes?
So you stay an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day. You take that early morning call. You absorb the extra workload without so much as a whimper. You roll over when bad decisions are made or when louder personalities make the wrong call. Ultimately though, those inches turn into miles.
Establishing new boundaries and guide rails can be an important part of getting yourself back together. The point is not to become a stubborn, self-serving, black-and-white stick in the mud. This is about knowing the difference between the things you’re happy and willing to go the extra mile for when life demands it (e.g., staying late, taking an extra meeting, or helping a colleague hit a deadline) and the things that mean enough to you for you to enforce your boundaries (e.g., a family birthday or date night).
Don’t Do it Alone
Being burnt out feels personal. It hurts. It’s sometimes even a little embarrassing.
That can be enough for you to want to keep it private and not tell anyone—which is not the best strategy, considering that one of the beliefs that leads to burnout is that you need to take care of everything yourself.
It’s okay to seek support. It’s healthy, not weak.
So, talk with HR. Speak with you boss about scaling your responsibilities back. See if you can get some time away. Let a colleague know where you’re at, and let in the people closest to you.
Don’t do this alone.
Give a Damn
What if being burnt out was an opportunity to take a stand in your life?
I hope you agree that the wrong thing to do would be to go back and do everything the same exact way you did before (that’s the definition of madness, right?). Sometimes, being in a crappy place can be the perfect opportunity to make some new choices.
Burnout can be the shot in the arm you need to start that new venture you’ve been dreaming about. Maybe now’s the perfect time to switch into a different role. Maybe you need more autonomy, or maybe you want to create something that truly matters.
Let’s assume that you get one shot at this life thing and that you have only just started to scrape the surface of what’s possible. What would giving a damn in your life look like right now?