When I first started talking about Burnout, (which refers mostly to individuals in the job force), I read the list of indicators such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to make decisions
- Decreased productivity
And I thought- hey, that’s me! The difference was, I was working part-time from home on a project I had deep passion for, and I had a boss who was supportive and flexible. But I was also providing care for my two children who had on-going educational, social and emotional needs. My days were filled with scheduling my kids’ appointments around my work obligations, managing big behaviors and trying to keep everyone (including myself), regulated- not to mention doing laundry, making meals and simply getting everyone out the door on time.
Burnout is a serious condition. It’s not just about being tired, rather it’s the total exhaustion of your physical and mental reserves. Burnout may not feel like a real health problem, but it can lead to serious health issues, like depression or an addiction. If this sounds familiar, know that there are many ways to recover from burnout and re-energize — especially if you catch the symptoms early on.
Recognizing burnout can be difficult because it’s often mistaken for depression. The two are distinct, but they do share some common symptoms:
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Overwhelming feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness, or thinking that your conditions cannot improve
If these sound familiar to you, it’s important that you take steps to recognize burnout and treat it early. If left untreated, burnout will lead not only to a decrease in your performance but also cause a general state of depression and lead to a decrease in your quality of life.
Identify your physical and emotional needs — and make them a priority
The pañcamaya model is an Indian model of human experience that specifically addresses “that which is variable”. Our physical, mental, emotional, behavioral and spiritual needs are always changing and yet they are inextricably intertwined. If your emotional needs are unmet, this will also affect your physical body. Therefore, it’s important to identify your needs, so you can meet them- and this may seem like the biggest hurdle of all. Yoga can help us to get quiet in the mind, so we can hear what our innate intelligence is trying to communicate. Whether you are attracted to the process of journaling or list-making, take note of all the things you desire in your life. Then state any obstacles or identified vehicles for success. A yoga therapist can help you understand how other parts of yourself are supporting your progress and design a practice that can help you learn how to cope with burnout.
Set Boundaries with yourself and others
If you’re overcommitted and stressed out, it’s likely that your boundaries need adjusting. This can lead to low self-esteem and a sense of being overwhelmed. People who are in this situation often have trouble saying no to others or taking care of themselves because they’re so focused on other people’s needs first. Looking again at the pañcamaya model, we can see that all parts of ourselves are connected. When we are pushed physically, our emotional fortitude is strained, when we are unsupported spiritually, we can feel disconnected from our daily habits. Considering how clearly your boundaries are defined and working to maintain them is essential to recovering from burnout.
One of my favorite solutions for helping to regain perspective on wellness is meditation. Meditation that is guided by a Yoga Therapy practitioner can help you to define your needs and re-direct you to the types of activities that support you.
Prioritize what’s essential in your life
Identify what’s essential in your life. When you’re burned out and overworked, it can be easy to lose sight of the things that truly matter. But when you’re feeling like this, it’s more important than ever to pause and reflect on what really matters to you—and then prioritize those things above all else. Ānandamaya is the layer of self described as the “bliss body”, urging you to ask yourself- “What brings you joy?” It is easy to imagine the physical and mental reserves running on fumes, if there is nothing to fuel the soul.
Be kind to yourself and recognize when you’re in survival mode
- Take regular breaks.
- Stop and listen to your body. If you feel like taking a nap or going for a walk, do it! You are the expert on what makes you feel good, so trust your instincts when it comes to taking care of yourself.
- Eat well and exercise regularly. This will help keep your mind clear and give you more energy.
- Get enough sleep every night (ideally eight hours), because burnout is often accompanied by insomnia or other sleep problems that can make everything worse!
Protect your sleep and take breaks to recharge
One of the most important factors in recovering from burnout is getting enough sleep. Sleep allows your body to repair itself, replenish its energy stores, and process information from the day before. If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain won’t be able to function properly—and if your brain isn’t working as it should be, you’re less likely to be able to avoid high-stress situations that can trigger more stress and lead to burnout.
Most adults need seven or eight hours of sleep per night; teenagers need about nine hours; children need even more than that (11-13). The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person depending on their age and lifestyle. It’s also important not just how much sleep we get but also how well our bodies feel while they’re resting—if you wake up feeling groggy after sleeping for eight hours then your internal clock might need some adjusting. Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, also has lots of great suggestions for making subtle changes to our lifestyles- even adjusting the time you go to bed or wake up by 1 hour can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to take care of yourself
When you feel overwhelmed, it can be difficult to see a way out. It’s important that you don’t wait until it’s too late to take care of yourself.
Don’t wait until:
- you are sick
- you are tired
- you are depressed
Burnout isn’t something to be embarrassed about — the stress of modern life has brought many of us to the edge of this condition. Stay tuned in enough to know when you are reaching the point of being overwhelmed, and maintain relationships with people who will tell you, even if you can’t see it yourself. Look inward to the five dimensions of yourself. Which parts of you need care and attention- body, breath, behavior, thoughts, or spirit? Apply steady focus on sleep, diet and personal boundaries, and incorporate yoga practices such as asana, pranayama and meditation to recover from burnout, and live a more fulfilling life.