Well-Being//

How to Beat Burnout Before It Starts

It starts with saying "no."

Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images
Daniel Grizelj/Getty Images

By Jessica Sharp

Have you felt like you are taking on too much, too busy and overwhelmed? Like you are constantly connected and need a break but feel too busy to take one? Have you let self-care go by the wayside because of all the other things that feel like a priority? These are all classic signs of burnout either coming or occurring.

What is burnout?

Psychology Today describes burn out as a “state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” Signs of physical and emotional exhaustion include insomnia, forgetfulness, some concerning physical symptoms, increased illness, depression, anxiety, and anger. Any of these symptoms can have detrimental effects on your life, let alone more than one of them occurring at the same time.  

Bossed Up works to help women create sustainable lives. Emilie Aries, Founder, and CEO, created Bossed Up because of her own experience with burnout. She was working for the Obama campaign and killing it. Unfortunately, she burnt out and decided to create a life that wouldn’t result in burnout again. Here is a great video that Emilie created to help explain burnout.

There are so many ways that we can get burnt out. I know, for me, it happens when I don’t prioritize self-care and get too focused on all of the things I am doing. I can normally feel it coming, but don’t always do a great job of listening to my body and slowing down.


How to beat burnout:

1. No is a complete sentence.

Beating burnout requires that we take ownership of our lives and not get stuck on the to-do list and shoulds in life. When I read Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes, she talked about the idea that no is a complete sentence (here is a video of her talking about that with Oprah). I know so many women (and I know research supports this) that really struggle to say no.

We feel like we can’t say no because we will let people down. Or even worse, we want to say no but just really feel like we can’t. We have to be empowered to say no to things we can’t or don’t want to do. Saying yes when you don’t want to or can’t manage the extra workload can contribute to burnout. Learn how to say no and be okay with it (and don’t always feel like you have to explain it).  

2. Progress over perfection.

Progress over perfection is another way to help beat burnout. Shauna Niequist, author of Present over Perfect, was recently on Oprah’s new podcast. While I haven’t had a chance to read her book yet, her podcast episode was great. She discussed the idea of no longer trying to achieve perfection.

Brene Brown, queen of vulnerability, discusses cultivating self-compassion and letting go of perfectionism in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She says that perfectionism is self-destructive, addictive, and can lead to self-blame. To be clear, perfectionism is NOT the same thing as striving to be your best and is NOT the same as self-improvement. Perfectionism is trying to earn approval and acceptance. It is unsustainable and can lead to burnout. Self-compassion is the antidote to perfectionism. Self-compassion includes self-kindness and mindfulness. Mindfulness, as described here, means taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings aren’t suppressed nor exaggerated. Being in the moment and really paying attention to our bodies and minds can help to avoid burnout. It is what I don’t always do when I am on the road to burning out.

Self-compassion is the antidote to perfectionism.

3. Play.

Another concept that Brené talks about is cultivating play and rest. It can be really easy to think play is for kids and that we don’t have time. There is one group of thinking that exhaustion is a status symbol and that we have to work constantly. Brené Brown quotes Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist, and clinical researcher, who says “play is not an option, the opposite of play is depression.” We are biologically programmed to need play. We need to embrace play and rest.

Play can look different for every person. For me, play is having a glass of wine with friends on a Friday night and rest looks like taking a nap on Saturday. I sometimes beat myself up about my desire to nap on the weekends, but as my therapist has said, it is critical to listen to our body and give it what it needs.

How to Beat Burnout Before It Starts

4. Practice self-care.

Finally, use self-care as a way to beat burnout. Bossed Up talks about this concept often. They encourage us to schedule fun and fitness the same way we do work meetings. I know I feel so much better when I prioritize exercise and resting. The GenTwenty family has discussed self-care before, so feel free to check out our post on prioritizing it here.

Burnout can happen to any of us at any time. It can throw off your current mood, and potentially long-term goals as well. We would love to help you avoid burnout as much as possible. Let us know what your tips are for avoiding burnout — we would love to hear from you all!

Originally published on GenTwenty.

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