When I was younger, the burning out seemed to be a complete myth.
I would sit and ponder how someone could lose inspiration or drive to do the thing that provides joy to their lives. Growing up, there was never the stress or the competition of providing something no one had ever heard of before.
That is, until I grew up.
As my age continued to increase, so did my need to outperform my latest piece and push my mind to an ability it was not used to. Some nights I worked from dusk till dawn, yet eventually I found a daily routine. What I thought I’d never experience actually started becoming true.
In this post, I’ll show you ways to conquer the challenges of burnout you might be facing, and how to come back stronger than before.
Unforgettable First Time
The first time I burned out, I was in the beginning years of my college journey. I worked at a newspaper from the minute I stepped foot on campus, and burnout culture was all around me.
I saw my friends get overwhelmed with deadlines and pull all-nighters as if it was second nature for them. They worked tirelessly to achieve their success, and I thought I would never end up having to do any of that in order to feel satisfied with my work.
However, I noticed a change in my patterns pretty fast.
I saw how I wanted to try anything and everything. I was working on two separate staffs, and all my free time was devoted to writing, covering events, or sleeping out of pure exhaustion.
Shortly, the sleep aspect of my free time started to go away, too. At first it was just once every now and again, but then, as the semester continued with more work piling on, the late nights started to become a more frequent trend.
I would see how staying up late to perfect my piece paid off in good remarks and was worth feeling like a zombie the next day. However, it was a temporary solution for a developing problem.
Being able to check in with yourself daily is crucial in order to identify when something feels wrong—physically or mentally. From your physical well-being to your mental functions, try and pinpoint what the root of the problem is.
Notice when work is taking over other aspects of your life you enjoy, causing you to be in an unhealthy routine. Recognizing any unhealthy habits early can help prevent a much worse problem later on.
Checks All the Boxes
According to Very Well Mind, the signs of burnout break down into four simple categories:
- Alienation from work-related activities.
- Physical symptoms.
- Mental symptoms.
- Reduced performance.
I first noticed how my mental health was not performing as well, and I was in a constant state of laziness throughout the day.
In my mind, I thought it was just a hiccup in the road, so I continued to do what I was normally doing and working nonstop. I thought that if I kept working harder, the feeling I was experiencing would go away.
So I kept working, working, working until I noticed that this incessant working was only deepening the wound rather than healing it.
I was hurting myself more than picking myself up.
My anxiety was all over the place and caused some problems, such as forgetting basic tasks I knew I needed to do. My focus was nowhere to be seen, and my work reflected how I was feeling: lost.
Physically, my body was dehydrated and consistently craving energy to push through another 14-hour day.
It was as if I lost the fight before I even got up to start my day.
The raging fire was no longer fueling me but rather destroying me from the inside. It was a slow burn, and then all of a sudden it paralyzed me all over.
I had burned out.
By reflecting on my symptoms and hearing the struggles of others who had burned out as well, it made me feel less alone. With their advice and my taking initiative in my well-being, change was coming. And for once it felt good.
In the next section, I share what helped me get back on the right track. Reflect on your own self—how you feel, physically and mentally—and then, based on my experiences, reflect on how you, too, can find your way back to feeling well.
Although everyone’s journey and healing is different, remember that we are all in this together, wanting to help each other achieve our utmost potential.
Change Is Good
When the end of my semester came, I knew I needed to change my routine if I did not want to fall back on the same road I had been on. So I started with one of the major influences on my anxiety levels, and that was my job.
I decided to change jobs and go to a different outlet, which allowed me to still practice my craft, yet also have more free time to dedicate to myself.
I took the recovery process of my burnout in baby steps. I knew the healing would not happen all at once, and time would be the biggest factor in the process.
After discovering you’re experiencing burnout—or are on the verge of doing so—start to focus more on healing yourself. Grant yourself patience as you focus on yourself to grow.
The article by Very Well Mind recommends preventing and treating burnout is putting yourself first and taking some time away from work.
Changing your sleep patterns, diet, and exercise can all help to minimize the stressful effects long-term, while regularly scheduled breaks and renewal exercises can combat it on a day-to-day level.
The next thing I needed to do was keep myself on a schedule in order to not feel overwhelmed.
To-do lists became my best friend when it came to accomplishing small tasks. This resulted in my being able to go to bed early, fully allowing my body to rest. I began exercising at least once a week, just to get my body moving and to clear my mind.
Although it seems small, it made a world of difference in my overall energy and mood.
Very Well Mind suggests that if conditions seem to be more intense, completely changing your working environment and taking long-needed time away from work can help in the long run.
It can help make the workplace seem more inviting, rather than terrorizing and scary.
Leaving my original place of work was difficult at first, because there were many memories and familiar faces. It was a hard goodbye. Yet I knew that in order to get myself out of the mindset I was in, I had to give myself time apart to make myself better.
Putting yourself first while recovering from burning out is most important. Implement small actions for self-care and find inspiration in the little things to help yourself heal.
Taking care of yourself first will affect the mind, body, and soul in a positive way in the future.
The Ultimate Task
There is one important thing that must be done in order to put yourself on the right path. It may seem small, but it’s sometimes one of the most difficult things to fully accept, and it’s vital.
Forgive yourself for burning out. As a writer, burnout has a negative connotation and is portrayed as a sign of weakness—even though leading up to it you were working on overdrive.
In order to grow past the weeds, you have to acknowledge that they are there.
Forgive yourself for working so much and taking a break to heal. It is not a weakness that you took a break, but rather a sign of strength, of knowing how to accomplish what you need to do better.
When you are able to verbally say you forgive yourself—and truthfully mean it and accept it—the road to the ultimate comeback is more visible.
It is OK to not always be working, and it is OK to take a break to refocus so you can then come back even stronger than before.
We are humans. We are not programmed to work like machines. Taking a break from work and focusing on yourself is not shameful, because you are helping yourself succeed in the long run.
Forgiving yourself can be the closure you need to start a new chapter with yourself and your career after bouncing back from burnout.