Six Strategies To Get Through Burnout

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Probably one of the most loaded questions you can ask someone these days is whether or not they’ve been feeling burned out lately. Between work-life disruptions due to the pandemic, non-stop media-fed social tensions and the general feeling that the world is out of control, it’s easy to feel disillusioned, disappointed, disoriented, disconnected, and awash in a sea of malaise.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to our feelings, our situations, or the pathways that we’ve traveled on our way to burnout. For some people, it’s caretaker fatigue; for others, its parental fatigue, but most of us its a realization that you either miss the past and your pre-covid normal, or you’ve come to realize that you don’t under any circumstances miss the past and want a whole new gig entirely.

Just like there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to our feelings, there is no universal set of rules for getting through burnout either. It doesn’t help that some see burnout as a weakness and as something easily fixed. In our modern world, we tend to see any deviation from normalcy as problematic and fixable, but that’s not the way it works when you’re living in an extraordinary time. Never before in modern history has one event had such a universal impact, and whether you believe in the virus and the vaccine or not, you can’t deny that many are suffering from fatigue related to the events of the past two years.

While there is no universal cure for burnout, there are some different ways of thinking that are easy to try and may help. All of these strategies are simple thought experiments, and they work by making you reconsider your perspective — remember, we assign meanings to everything in our lives, so how we look at our life matters. For best results, take a moment to get comfortable and think about your present situation in the context of the thinking strategies below.

Do the World from 35,000 feet.

No, you don’t have to run out to buy a plane ticket, because this isn’t about flying. Take a minute to think about yourself and the big picture. Imagine yourself above the clouds looking down, and each cloud you see is a phase of your life passing by. There goes your childhood, and as that cloud passes, you see the next cloud where you’re in school; as it gently floats by, the next cloud comes that represents your first job or moving into your first place. The usefulness of this exercise is that it helps you see your burnout and the pandemic as phases, and like the clouds floating by, it’s just one more thing to get through because life, like clouds, is constantly moving. Look at the big picture and take solace, knowing that everything renews and everything passes.

Accept That You’re Burnt Out, It’s Okay.

Throughout your life, you’ve always worked hard and been a responsible person. You’re the one that got up early to go to school and to work and did what needed to be done. You got up early, showed up on time, and worked all kinds of crazy hours while others stayed in bed and complained that the world isn’t fair. Maybe you thought you were superman for a while, but even superheroes have their limits. Accept that you need to pause and reboot and find comfort by looking backward. Look at what you’ve been through! Nothing has been easy for you, but you’ve always been strong and persevered, and you will this time as well. You’ve accomplished a lot in the past, and you will move forward. Everyone’s got a little bit of awesomeness in them; celebrate yours.

Re-Imagine Your Plan.

Nearly anyone has thought about career changes or even the possibility of retirement as the pandemic world has upended the workplace. You don’t want to do anything impulsive that you might regret, but it doesn’t hurt to reassess your next 6 months, year, and five years. Do you want to stay in your present job? Starting over is tough, and the grass is always greener on the other side, so these decisions should never be taken lightly. This having been said, the job market is hot right now as employers scramble to find qualified people. Regardless of your field, from barista to professor, it’s a job-seekers market, so it’s a good time to sign up for notifications from services like Indeed, just to see what’s out there. If you’re thinking that you want to start your own business or try to make a living with an alt-gig such as publishing, art, consulting, catering etc., sketch out a business plan for fun and see how it might work, it doesn’t hurt to dream.

Ask Someone Else How They’re Doing.

Ok, burnout is all about you, but ironically, one of the best ways to take your mind off of yourself is to check in with others. A little reaching out helps us understand that we’re all in this together. Not everyone’s situation is the same, and when it comes to the pandemic, there are vastly different work experiences, from layoffs to impossible shifts with too many hours. Regardless, everyone is stressed in their own way, and learning that you’re not alone can help you get a more reasonable perspective of the big picture and your situation. Humans are hard-wired to be social animals, and the pandemic largely took the social part away; that’s one of the main reasons we’re feeling disconnected. Try to check in with others and see how /they’re/ doing; the cool thing about empathy is that it works two ways: you give, and you get. By checking on others, you’ll feel better about yourself, give a friend hope or a laugh, and get it back in droves.

Remember Your First Day On The Job

Everyone is excited when they land a new job. Some people just need the money, and others are excited to embark on a new career and change the world. Burnout periods are a great time to look back on your first day at work. Why were you excited? Has something changed? When you started your job, you were thrilled, but slowly something has changed, maybe you’ve changed, or maybe the job has changed. Give this some thought because getting back to basics and thinking about your past aspirations from your present lens can help you reboot your dedication to your craft or realize that it’s time to reassess your career and your life goals.

Yes, Take Some Time For Yourself, but…

Too often, we are natural planners. This is great for getting the kids to the dentist regularly, planning a vacation, or organizing a picnic at the park. It sucks, however, when taking time for yourself. Do your best to stay unstructured for once. Do not, under any circumstances, over-plan your ‘me’ time or feel guilty about slacking from your normal rigid routine. If you can’t take a day to sleep in and let the day roll, then shake up your routine just a little to give yourself a break. Take some intentional time to not feel guilty about a little slacking off. Western society runs at full speed, 24/7, so try to meditate now and then, go for walks and runs, or get lost in a movie or series. Cook if you like to cook, run if you like to run, and take some time just being you.

There are no guarantees that these strategies will work for everyone, but you can gain a new perspective on where you’re at and where you’re going by going through these thought exercises. You can’t just think away burnout, like PTSD or just plain exhaustion, burnout is real, and often it’s hard to see the forest through the trees, but taking a few minutes to look at your present situation in different ways can help.

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Educator, author, and over-thinker writing about current events, teaching, learning, and life.

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Dan French PhD

Dan French PhD

Educator, author, and over-thinker writing about current events, teaching, learning, and life.

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