Most of us have been there—you feel like you just can’t catch a break, things that typically bring you joy now feel like burdens, and overall you just feel drained, unenthusiastic, and perhaps a bit apathetic. This is what we call burnout. Burnout refers to a state of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion that comes as a result of heightened and prolonged stress and exhaustion. It can happen to anyone—whether you’re a student, a healthcare worker, an entrepreneur, an athlete, a stay at home parent, work a typical 9-5 job, or something else entirely. Burnout builds over time and has immense consequences for our physical and social health. When we feel burnt out, we don’t perform our best nor are we able to bring our best selves to the table.
With remote and hybrid work on the rise, and the expectation to constantly be available, many of us identify so strongly with our work that we often lack balance and boundaries between our work lives and personal lives. While we can’t always control all of life’s stressors, the earlier we identify the signs and symptoms of burnout, the faster we are able to take actions to reduce the omnipresent feeling of mental and physical exhaustion.
Here are some common signs of burnout
- You find yourself becoming increasingly irritable and quick to get angry
- You have trouble concentrating on the task at hand and find your mind wandering
- You aren’t able to celebrate or take joy in your accomplishments and achievements
- You are struggling to get a good night’s rest—and may have troubles falling and/or staying asleep
- You constantly feel exhausted even if you are getting sufficient sleep
- You feel discomfort and inflammation in your stomach and gut or experience other musculoskeletal pain
- You’re getting headaches more often, particularly tension headaches
- You aren’t fueling your body with nutrient dense food
Constantly operating under a state of exhaustion can put you at risk for health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, alcoholism, and more. Burnout doesn’t just impact you—it has a ripple effect and oftentimes hurts people closest to you. When you’re burnt out, you may feel disengaged and disconnected from healthy and nurturing relationships in your life which can further perpetuate the cycle of hopelessness and fatigue.
Here are three ways to protect yourself against burnout:
We get it—life can be hectic and carving out time to be still is challenging. We’re not saying that everyone needs to spend an hour meditating everyday, however we should all be making time for self-reflection on a regular basis. Kickstart your morning with our 12-Minute Morning Routine. Taking time for yourself gives you a chance to pause, think about where you are, the progress you’ve made, and where you need to focus your energy. Whereas in our professional lives, we’re often thinking about what’s next, meditation offers us the opportunity to be fully present in the current moment. Through meditation, we can gain clarity on what is most important to us and what we want to prioritize. Having that clarity helps us take actionable steps to better care for ourselves and set boundaries that reduce stress and protect our mental health and well being.
When possible, set up times to meditate or self-reflect throughout the workday. If you know you’re going to be at work for 8 hours, set up short breaks every hour or so to give your body and mind the chance to take a break and disconnect. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, write down what you’re grateful for, or take a short walk without any electronics. You’ll soon find that making the time to take breaks and sit with your thoughts will improve your attention span, cognitive function, and efficiency. For an extra brain boost, try adding TB12 Focus to your daily routine.
It doesn’t have to be intense and it doesn’t have to be long, but studies have shown that not only does exercise have a positive impact on how you feel physically, but it supports you mentally as well. When you move your body, you release endorphins which reduces stress and improves your sense of well being. Taking time to exercise can also help break up the monotony of your daily responsibilities.
Find a workout that you love and try to be consistent with it. Check out our At-Home Workout playlist on YouTube for some quick ways to get your body moving and heart pumping. We also love using resistance bands for quick workouts that require minimal space and equipment. Make sure and properly refuel after moving your body.
We’ll shout this one from the rooftops—sleep is the best tool your body has to recover from a tough day! Get a good night's sleep and you’re on the right track to have a good day. A bad night’s sleep puts you at a disadvantage from the moment you wake up and can negatively impact your mood and performance for days to come. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, the communication between different regions of the brain is disrupted. This can lead to emotional imbalances and poor decision making. The hippocampus, located in the temporal lobe, is the center for emotion and memory. Getting a good night’s sleep allows the hippocampus to reorganize itself, synthesize what happened the previous day, and retain information. This helps keep you sharp and creative, and productive. When you’re able to have productive days, you’re better able to unwind at night.
You can optimize your sleep routine by taking time to roll out muscles where you hold tension, drinking a warm cup of tea, staying away from electronics in the hours before bed, setting your thermostat to 65 degrees fahrenheit, and taking TB12 Sleep on nights where you need a little extra support.
Of course, life and work will always throw stressful situations our way, but when we intentionally make time to pause and care for ourselves, we’re better able to navigate these moments. Check out Tom’s Tips for Mental Toughness for more on how he handles tough days.