Round-the-clock productivity, extensive to-do lists, and overscheduled days can put you on the fast track to burnout. Fierce progress toward goals can be followed by your hitting the wall with a big thud.
Burnout often feels like depression, but it’s not the same. It cannot be managed with therapy or medication. Behavioral shifts are necessary to restore your energy and recharge your spark.
Burnout starts with highly driven, nonstop activity. Fueled by the desire for accomplishment, you override your body’s need for rest with caffeine, sugar, pure will-power, or stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol).
But eventually, your body’s natural rhythm wins out. You begin to feel irritable, restless, and exhausted. With your physical and hormonal reserves depleted, you become more prone to stress-related illnesses. (Headaches, ulcers, insomnia, high blood pressure, and heart disease are among the many.)
Today, after several weeks of intense, perpetual activity, I had an overwhelming need to take it easy. I woke up at 10 a.m. with a splitting headache. Having a cold didn’t help either. I texted my friends, Kat and Steph, to say I wouldn’t make it to brunch. Then I went back to bed and slept some more.
When I woke up again at 1:30 p.m., my headache was gone and my cold symptoms had subsided. I had slept for a total of 13 hours. Many things I had planned to do didn’t get done. But that’s okay. I couldn’t have done them effectively when I lacked the energy.
Whether you’re dragging or you’re burned out, here are 5 ways to recharge:
Sleep. Getting enough shuteye is critical. While I would not recommend 13 hours of sleep daily, I needed that amount today. Sleep helped me deal with my headache and cold symptoms. It restored my energy so I felt well enough to write this blog post.
Research shows that most people need seven to eight hours of sleep to feel fully rested. When you’re burned out, you need more – perhaps up to ten hours plus frequent naps. Allow yourself to get the rest you need. Let go of the guilt. There’s a big difference between being lazy and being tired.
Shed your should-do list. If you put too much pressure on yourself to produce and create, you could wind up with mediocre work. Or you might just plod along with nothing to show for it.
Go with your instincts. Do only what you must do or want to do. Forget about what you think you should do.
Indulge in quiet time. Turn off the TV. Disconnect from the Internet. Shut down your smart phone. Give your brain a rest from external stimuli and information overload. Keep a notebook or an electronic device to jot down creative ideas or random thoughts that clutter your mind.
Take a walk around the lake, in the park or down the block. Be with nature. Embrace the space. Meditate and reflect. Notice your breath and slow it down. Practice savasana (pronounced “shah-VAHS-anna”).
Engage in self-care. Take in food that is loaded with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. Eat your veggies and fruits. Drink pure water. Exercise for the sheer joy of it. Reconnect with your loved ones (family members and friends you likely neglected while you were busy striving for your goals).
Get in touch with your natural rhythm. Stress is inherent to leading a fully engaged life. But burnout is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard and too long.
Skip the latte (caffeine), Oreos (sugar) and other artificial stimulants. Get in touch with your natural rhythm. Tune in to the ebbs and flows. Neutralize intense creation and productivity with deliberate rest and renewal.
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Photo by: tjuel