We live in a society of more, more, more. We grew up believing that we have to do more, to work harder, to always be busy. It’s as if rest is a cardinal sin. As if you’ll get left behind when you stop doing what you’re doing, and that’s just not acceptable. In a fast-paced world, being slow can mean you’re less. Let’s face it. A lot of us—if not all—feel less than when we see friends reaching goals, stepping up the ladder, getting ahead, while we feel like we’re not even there yet.
So what do we do? We work harder, do more. We push ourselves to the point of burnout, until we’re at the point of exhaustion—physically, mentally, emotionally—that we just can’t anymore. Then comes the guilt of feeling stagnant. There’s this nagging voice in your head, telling you, “You can’t stop, you can’t rest; you’re being unproductive. Shame on you.” And so, we ignore the exhaustion, we ignore the rest our body needs, we ignore the need to take care of ourselves. It’s a long, exhausting cycle. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’ve done up until recently.
Just as spring started, I felt exhausted. I don’t want to do anything. I just want to lay on my bed or spend the whole month as a couch potato. Suddenly, things that once excited me felt unappealing. Even work, which I honestly love doing, seemed daunting. My body just felt heavy. I just can’t anymore.
SAD or Burnout?
Around the same time, I’ve seen online content talking about burnout and depression arise. Apparently, I’m not the only one feeling this way. It would appear that what I and many others are feeling is caused by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Now, you may be thinking that it’s unlikely, since SAD occurs only during fall and winter months. But, apparently, experiencing SAD during springtime occurs as well, albeit less common. “It’s thought that the increased heat and humidity in spring and summer can play a role for some people,” consultant psychologist and The Chelsea Psychology Clinic co-founder Dr. Elena Touroni said. Because of the change in seasons, what we’re feeling can also be caused by disrupted sleep as the days get hotter and brighter.
Now, I’m not saying that seasonal change is solely to blame for this feeling of exhaustion and signs of depression. There are other factors to consider too. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been working like a cow without rest. Or, maybe it’s because it feels like we’re at a standstill. The global state and economic unrest due to the pandemic also come to mind. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these. Whatever my reason and yours may be, we’re tired and just can’t anymore. But it’s our response to this feeling that matters. So, what did I do? I listened to what my body was telling me; it’s exhausted and wants to stop. So I did.
Here are seven things I did, in order, when I felt burnt out and just can’t anymore.
7 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Burnout
Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist or a licensed psychologist. If you feel like these things are not working for you, it may be time to consider seeking help from a doctor.
Reorganize a room
You may have felt like you’d rather do something else than finish or get on with a task you’re suddenly dreading to do. However, you don’t want to feel unproductive and do nothing. This may be the part of yourself that’s always on-the-go, denying the fact that you need rest. You may just need a few hours or even a day to step away from whatever it is that’s bothering you, and focus your energy on something else. For me, reorganizing and revamping a room is a productive form of therapy. This activity lets me shut off my brain but lets my body feel like it’s being productive. With reorganizing I don’t have to think, I just do.
A lot of people may think sleep is counterproductive. But, in actuality, we are more productive when we’re well-rested. In his TEDx Talk, sleep specialist Dr. Matthew Carter, Ph.D. talks about the paradoxical productivity crisis:
One of the biggest reasons people don’t get enough sleep is because they feel they have too much to do or because they are stressed about what they need to work on. We’re not getting enough work done because we’re sleep-deprived, and we’re not sleeping because we’re not getting enough work done.
Now, more than ever, we need to take care of our body and listen to what it needs. It’s not a crime to give yourself quality sleep. Give yourself time to rest and recuperate. Don’t fault yourself for being human.
Bingewatch on Netflix
Sometimes we all just need to shut down and escape. Escape to a virtual reality, that is. Going on a vacation is expensive, not to mention impossible at the moment (thanks, COVID), so what cheaper and safer way to cool off than bingewatching a show or a dozen movies? When we don’t have the strength yet to evaluate our emotions and be present, it’s okay to shut off our minds. A gentle reminder, though, to make sure to steer clear from triggering movies or shows.
Clean your space
Our physical environment is often a direct reflection of our emotional and mental state. When we feel disorganized and burnt out, we tend to put things elsewhere and lose them; stuff we can’t be bothered to organize piles up. Cleaning your surroundings and putting order into things can make you feel like you’re regaining some sort of control. Lack of control is one cause of burnout, and being able to take control of what you can will help lessen that feeling of stress.
Sometimes we’re just too overwhelmed and too tired at the moment to do anything, and that’s okay. Stay still and just breathe. When we’re burnt out, it’s usually a sign that we haven’t given our brains a second’s rest. “If you don’t allow yourself a moment to catch your breath, you end up risking burnout.” health care psychologist Ulrika Leons said.
So, do nothing. Do nothing and breathe. Steer clear from letting your mind work and avoid consuming information—reading the news, watching a show, listening to a podcast or music, reading a book, and so on. Instead, pay attention. Pay attention to your surroundings. Be mindful of the present moment, and just breathe. Canadian company Inward Breathwork offers guided breathwork classes to help you slow down and reduce the overwhelming feeling that results in burnout.
Take a walk
Another way to practice mindfulness and reduce burnout is by taking a walk outside. Studies show that walking significantly improves your mood. Not only does this benefit your mental health, but this benefits your physical health too. Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author and ignite80 CEO, encourages people to step away and reexamine the big picture. “It’s often in the intervals between thinking really hard about a problem and then stepping away that solutions becomes apparent,” he says.
Just like how it is important to constantly check your body for any symptoms of illness, it’s equally important to check in on yourself and how you’re feeling. “It can even be helpful to sort of note your mood throughout the day,” Dr. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at the Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR Life Kit.
For this, I recommend journaling. You don’t have to be artistic to keep one. You can even use a small notebook to simply keep track of your mood and what you did prior to the mood change. This helps you review and analyze how and why you felt the way you did.
Here are a few helpful prompts to get you started:
- I am feeling: _____________
- What happened before I felt this way?
- What do I physically need right now to release this negativity?
- What do I emotionally need right now to release this negativity?
- What do I spiritually need right now to release this negativity?
(Story by Assistant Editor, Carmela Valencia)