April 22, 2023

From Exhausted to Empowered: 5 Strategies to Prevent and Heal from Burnout

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Feeling a little… burnt out lately? You know, that overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and non- stop stress that seems to seep into every part of your life? If so, you’re not alone.

According to a trends report from the American Psychological Association, posted in January 2022, “American workers across the board saw heightened rates of burnout in 2021 . . . 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress . . . Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%) . . . 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019.” [source]

So that crispy feeling you’ve been stuck in—with all the frustration, the lack of joy, and stress that comes with it—is unfortunately not all that uncommon these days. Burnout is a widespread issue, especially in our fast-paced, “post-pandemic” world where we’re expected to be constantly connected and productive. This is especially true for parents, healthcare workers, and educators.

The good news is that a burnout fix is possible (or, you might even prevent it from happening in the first place) so you can get back to feeling like your real self again.

In this post, I’ll talk through some of the most effective techniques I’ve found as a therapist in the Seattle area to help my clients overcome or reverse burnout, so you can step back into your power and passion for work and life.

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea), get comfy, and let’s dig in.

1. Understand the Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Step one: we gotta know what we’re talking about when we talk about burnout, and that starts with understanding the signs and symptoms of burnout.

According to Christina Maslach, who created the Maslach Burnout Inventory and who works as a professor emerita of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, some of the most common signs and symptoms of burnout include:

● Exhaustion—both physical and mental. For example, you might feel tired all the time, even after a full 8 hours of sleep or drinking extra coffee in the afternoons.

● Feeling like you’re not making progress or getting anything done, even (or especially) when you’re putting in a lot of effort.

● Being more irritable, on edge, or quick to anger, in a way that is unusual for you.

● Not really caring about or feeling motivated by things that you used to enjoy.

● Trouble focusing or concentrating, especially on things related to your work, but also on things you typically enjoy or don’t struggle paying attention to.

● Getting sick more often or experiencing unusual physical symptoms that don’t have any known cause, like random headaches, stomach problems, muscle tension, or generalized pain.

2. Create a Burnout-Busting Game Plan to Reverse Burnout

If you’re already feeling the burn, it’s vital that you create a game plan that is doable, manageable, and sustainable for where you are right now. The last thing you want to do is add yet another long list of tasks to your already overstuffed list of to-dos.

A game plan to bust burnout might include small, consistent tasks you can implement into your current routine, or it can be small things that take just a few minutes a day to complete.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Get set up for sessions with a burnout therapist.

You might try to grab a session spot during a regular lunch hour, break time, or “down period” where you’d otherwise spend your time scrolling TikTok, or when you’d be more likely to take on tasks for other people rather than focusing on yourself. Counseling for burnout can help you learn what’s contributing to your burnout while giving you the support and tools you need to start setting boundaries that will help you reverse burnout in your life.

Practice the difficult art of actually saying no—and sticking to it.

This might mean starting with smaller, less risky situations where saying no won’t get a ton of blowback. After you’ve got some practice in saying no to things that aren’t as scary, you can work your way up to trickier, “riskier,” or more challenging things or people to say no to.

Move your body.

I know, I know. Exercise is such a “typical” therapist suggestion. But that’s because reconnecting with our physical selves—even for a few minutes a day of play, flow, or heart- pumping activity—can do a lot for a tired heart and mind. So go ahead and grab those sneakers, dance shoes, or even your swim trunks and find a joyful way to move your body to reverse burnout.

3. Plan for Setbacks & Barriers to Busting Burnout

As a therapist, some of the most common barriers I see with clients who are trying to heal from burnout include:

● Guilt around prioritizing themselves

● Fear of others being upset, angry, or sad when they set boundaries

● Lack of energy, time, or resources to make the necessary changes

● Feeling stuck, helpless, or unable to change their situation

● Lack of support from important people in their lives

These barriers are no doubt a huge challenge to folks who are trying to heal from burnout. As a therapist in Seattle, I work with my clients to find manageable, realistic solutions to their barriers.

Sometimes this looks like strategic and logistical support around finding resources, and sometimes it looks like creating a space where they can process the guilt, fear, and “stuckness” that comes up as a result of burnout.

What’s most important here is to anticipate and plan for barriers so you’re feeling more prepared—rather than angry or defeated—when they eventually show up.

4. An Apple A Day Keeps the Burnout at Bay

Okay, so maybe eating apples isn’t going to keep you from getting burnt out and crispy, but there’s a lot of truth to the idea that prevention is the best medicine, especially when it comes to burnout.

There isn’t one solution that will work for everyone when it comes to preventing burnout, but here are a few unique ways you can get your proverbial apple-a-day:

Add protected blocks of time to your schedule wherever you can.

Even if all you have is an extra 10 minutes at the end of each night, take that time, block it off on the schedule and dedicate it to something that you find restful, enjoyable, intriguing, fun, or calming. Protect those times fiercely like you would for any other important meeting in your day!

Schedule a midday nap.

Yes, you read that right! Taking a short nap during the day can help recharge your batteries and give you the energy you need to power through the rest of your day.

Try a new hobby where you’re a beginner.

Finding a new hobby or activity and getting into a beginner’s mindset can be a great way to take your mind off work and give yourself a mental break. Whether it’s painting, cooking, or gardening, find something that is intellectually or creatively stimulating, where you can learn something new and make time for it regularly.

Take a digital detox.

Sometimes, being constantly connected to our devices can add to our stress levels. Make time for regular digital detoxes, whether that’s for a few hours each day or for a full day each week, to give yourself a much-needed mental break.

Get support from a burnout counselor.

Sometimes, we all need a little help to prevent or overcome burnout. Even in today’s hyper-busy world, it’s vital that we take time to give our brains, bodies, hearts and minds a rest. Working with a therapist who understands what it’s like to be burnt out—and how to find your way out of it—can be an essential part of your recovery from burnout.

Burnout Counseling in Seattle

As a therapist in Seattle who helps clients overcome and prevent burnout, I’ve worked with many people who want to understand and find healing from the mental and physical toll of burnout. I know how hard this process can be and would be honored to help you find your way through this modern-day challenge.

To learn more about working together to overcome burnout, contact me for a free consultation to see if I’m the right fit for you. I can’t wait to chat with you!

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