Does any of this sound familiar? You come home regularly dead-tired with little or no energy. You stay awake at night thinking about all the things you have to do. The concept of vacation is inconceivable to you – you have way too much to do to go away. You don’t have time to exercise, do anything fun, or see your doctor. You snap at your loved ones and co-workers fairly often. Y ou never see your friends anymore and you feel your life is out of control.
If you said “yes” to those questions, you’re probably burnt-out or very close to it. So now that you know that, what do you do about it?
1. Plan Time Away ASAP. The first thing I do when coaching a client with burnout is suggest they plan a vacation, or at the very least, a long weekend getaway. For those who say their world can’t function without them, consider that you are not at your best when you’re suffering from burnout. You can’t be the loving, creative, intelligent and resourceful person you are when you’re overtired, angry, and at your wit’s end. If you can’t afford a real vacation, ask if you can borrow a friend’s lake house or cabin. Barter your services with someone who has a vacation spot. Sort through deals on the Internet or Airbnb. Get away from everything and leave your laptop and work at home. Only answer your phone for emergencies. Take true down time. The world will not fall apart if you take off for seven-ten days.
2. Get enough sleep- which for you means more. The World Health Organization has considered less than 7 hours of sleep a night a carcinogen. Less than 6 hours of sleep can lead to brain dysfunction and Alzheimer’s, as the brain needs sleep to detoxify and cleanse itself. Lack of sleep contributes to weight gain and obesity, as well as lowered immune function. Aim for 7-8 hours a night. Sleep is absolutely critical to your health, well-being and resilience. Arianna Huffington has written about this extensively in her book, The Sleep Revolution.
3. Spend time with friends. Make it a priority. Research shows there is a strong correlation between exhaustion and loneliness; the more tired people are, the lonelier they feel. In 2017, Dr. Oz and Dr. Crupain conducted a survey of women in America and found that 60% of women have feelings of loneliness or isolation and 20% feel this most of the time. Schedule in time with friends every week and don’t cancel. Being with your friends will help you realize you have support, make your laugh, and buoy you up.
4. Do something you love, which you probably have not done for a long time. Maybe it’s painting or golfing; perhaps it’s taking a class in something you’re interested in. Do something that you get lost in, that brings you joy, and let the world pass by. When you’re focused on a hobby that fascinates you, you forget about everything else and you come to your most resourceful state, the present. When I’m taking a salsa dance class, I’m not thinking about anything but the steps and the dance, I am fully here and now. That can happen for you, too. Be sure to schedule in what you love regularly into your life, so you have something to look forward to.
5. Do something for someone less fortunate. It’s probably the last thing you would consider because you’re so tired, but it could very well be one of the most valuable. Not only does volunteering decrease stress, promote connection, enhance communication and provide a sense of meaning, it also increases your lifespan. Best of all, it gives you perspective. When you are helping those without food, shelter or love, it makes you grateful for all you have in your life.
6. Ask for help. Women, in particular, have trouble with this and yet, it can make such a difference. At home, you need to ask for help around the house, with cleaning, cooking, childcare, pet care, etc. At work, delegate more, collaborate more, say “no” more. Within your greater family, ask for assistance with eldercare and parents. Don’t take on any additional responsibilities and don’t try to do it all. Done is better than perfect. Most people would love to help you if you ask the right way. The magic words, “I need your help,” can work wonders.
Burnout is all too frequent and can wreak havoc with your health, your relationships and your livelihood. Be proactive, get consistent rest, get away from it all without your devices, ask for help from those who can give it, and volunteer for a cause you believe in. Plan time with friends and pursuing hobbies you love. You can bounce back from burnout, faster than you think. But it requires exquisite self-care and taking control of your life and your schedule.