You have a full day ahead and planned to get an early start so you can prepare for the staff meeting that will run way too long, finish the three projects that should have wrapped up last week and hopefully get home in time to cook a real meal vs. McD’s drive-thru. Again. Same plan as the day before. And the day before that and … Pushing snooze for the fifth time, you think, “What’s the point? I can never get it all done.”
Or maybe you own the title of Holiday Bash Queen, having for years provided lavish gourmet buffets, beautiful full-home decorations, and homemade gifts for the selective 20 guests who anxiously wait to see if they made the attendees’ cut this year. And you Love. It. All. Except this year. You barely have the energy to brush your teeth these days and see no purpose in even a small pitch-in gathering. “Who cares anyway?”
Welcome to the land of burnout. The term was first coined in the 1974 book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement” by Herbert Freudenberger. Being completely drained looks different from person to person. It can be tied to personal, physical, emotional or work causes. We all live busy lives, often claiming exhaustion, but how can you tell that you’ve truly hit your limit and need to recharge? And why is taking the time for self-care so vital?
Signs of burnout
WHO defines occupational burnout as “general exhaustion, increased cynical feelings about one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.” Well, that can apply to every area of our lives, can’t it? Everyone wears burnout differently, but there are three telltale signs that you’re dressed in it now, whether it stems from work, relationships, responsibilities or all three.
1. Physical and emotional exhaustion. This goes beyond the tiredness we feel having missed a few hours of sleep. A nap will not cure this depth of depletion. This is bone-deep, inescapable, unwavering tiredness. If you wake up tired regardless of how many hours you slept, feel like you’re slogging through mud to get ready every morning, and have an overall sense of dread about today and tomorrow, poke yourself with a fork; you’re burned out.
2. Cynicism and detachment. If you’re normally the mostly cheerful, easy-going person in the group but now second-guess everyone’s motives, find yourself on the verge of anger nearly all the time, or simply have no passion for the things that once held your heart, you’re probably beyond a “have a cup of tea and a nice nap” cure.
3. Feeling ineffective, unmotivated and purposeless. Once your burnout reaches a certain level, you’ll start to question your own value, your ability to contribute and the worth of anything associated with you. This typically manifests with apathy, a massive sense of being overwhelmed and frequent “what’s the point?” questioning. Often, hopelessness descends.
The importance of daily recharging
Recharging is basically a practice of self-care and rest. Giving yourself a real break. Taking back some of the joy the day snatches from you. Now, if you’ve reached the level of No. 3, it most likely will take a minute to get back on track and healthy. Don’t minimize where you are. Be honest with what you’re feeling and thinking, and seek the help of a professional if you know it’s too much to go it alone. But if you’re teetering and haven’t tipped into full burnout yet, take steps now to begin a habit of daily pouring new life into you. Why?
- To cut stress. And, boy, is this world one big pile of stress, right? Stress turns off everything positive about yourself, your environment and your life. And when you’re surrounded in negatives, it’s hard to add any sunshine. Stress kills. Daily renewing kills stress.
- To increase creativity. We need creativity to unlock our minds, which are all too often stuck in detail mode and miss the big picture, the broader perspective. Talk about overwhelming! Implementing creativity brings a clarity of which linear thinking is simply incapable.
- To boost mood. Yes, please. Relaxing and participating in an enjoyable activity releases serotonin — I know you’ve heard of that! — and other feel-good hormones, which set everything right in your sensory mind.
- To extend life. Again, stress kills. Recharging kills stress. ’nuf said.
- To boost immune system. In post-Covid days, that sounds like a winner, huh? When you relax, your body rests, and rest ramps up its ability to heal. Even mentally.
Ways to recharge
So how can you recharge? Here are some suggestions:
- Set aside one day a week to fully rest. No-nothing Sundays are perfect.
- Take a break from technology. For real. Turn off your WiFi and remove the battery from your phone if you have to.
- Avoid energy vampires, aka, people who drain you. Boundaries are your friends.
- Meditate or pray. Even a few minutes can do wonders.
- Journal. Write it out, color it out, mind dump … whatever gets it out of your head, do that.
- Give yourself a week of easy nights. No errands, no meetings, no hassles.
- Take a break at work every day. Fifteen minutes minimum of nothing at all work-related.
The most important aspect of recharging is to find something that resonates with you and be intentional in making it happen.
As complicated beings, we must work to ensure our own well-being is a priority. Many of us take on so many responsibilities that we forget how little time we have here on this planet. Making the opportunity to recharge is never a waste of time and should be part of everyone’s consistent routine. By engaging in activities that you enjoy, life can feel less like a grind and more like a dance.