Burnout is real, ya’ll.
As a graduate student and up-and-coming social worker, I often hear a ton about the importance of self-care. But what classifies as self-care exactly?
One way to figure out the best methods for self-care is to focus on…well, yourself. Take note of what’s ailing you lately. In other words, take the time to figure out if you’re burnt out. You might be asking yourself this: how do I know if I’m burnt out? Or, in lamens terms, how do I know that I’m stressed out?
In my experience, burnout can look different for everyone.
To one, burnt-out might be finding that they are continually skipping meals throughout the day. To another, it could be that their concentration has been non-existent, and they can’t seem to focus on the projects at hand.
For me, burnout looks a little like this:
• My room is in a constant state of disarray—clothing piled up on my chair or left out and unfolded after wash day.
• My hair is just left to do its own thing—I should never give my hair too much freedom, it’s not a good look.
• I consistently feel aches and pains that show up in my body throughout the week.
• My eating patterns are complete trash—I’m talking cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Once you identify your signs of burnout, you might be wondering what’s next. What should you do about it? Well, I don’t know what your exact symptoms of burnout are, but I’d love to share with you what helps me in my process of remedying serious stress.
Take a shower first thing when you wake up
This one’s been a tremendous help for me when I’m really feeling worn down. Taking a nice, warm shower helps to clear my mind, by taking inventory of the places in my body that have experienced pain, cleansing my body and revitalizing my soul (listen to some good music while you bathe, it helps!). And after a nice shower, might I suggest grabbing your favorite good smelling lotion and taking the time to moisturize your body well.
Clean up your surroundings and de-clutter your environment
Another helpful task to treat burnout that works well for me is cleaning up my space. I’ve come to realize that usually when my bed or room is chaotic, it often reflects how I’ve been feeling internally: all over the place, unorganized, messy—you get the picture. By de-cluttering my space and freeing up my surroundings, I find that my mind is clearer almost immediately. (Pro tip: feeling like cleaning up your entire space is TOO daunting? Take it one room, one section at a time. Putting away clothes after doing laundry? Tackle them in sections—separate your jeans from your sweatshirts. Your tees from your undergarments.)
Stop scrolling and start reading
I don’t know about you, but for me a mindless scroll through Instagram can easily become a daily (or hourly) habit. So much so, that my mind gets inundated with other people’s lives—people I don’t even know personally. And then all of a sudden, I seem to know everything that they did that day before noon. Instead of picking up your phone to check if they made it through that workout class in one piece, grab some good reading material and get to it. If you’re a creative like me, take a look at: Called to Create: A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk
by Jordan Raynor. If you’re looking for some shorter reads and fantastic visuals, check out some awesome publications like Darling or Belong Magazine.
Tune in and take care of your body
One of the first symptoms of burnout I experience is tension in my neck, shoulders and lower back. I hold a lot of tension in my shoulders on a daily basis, but when I’m really spent, it feels so much more uncomfortable. To remedy this, I’ve found that at times, guided relaxation meditation or 15 minutes of restorative yoga does wonders for healing my body of its aches and pains. Taking inventory of where your body hurts can also give you helpful insight to know what is causing your body pain. Read more about this mind-body phenomenon here.
Let’s not forget—you are what you eat. When burnout is at its peak in my life, my eating habits also take a turn for the worse. When all I eat is trash, I start to feel like trash. By now, we should all be aware of the fact that stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits—but how do we curb our cravings for unhealthy foods, or as Mind, Body, Green puts it, “non-food-junk”? Check out their tips on how to end unhealthy food cravings on the Mind, Body, Green blog here.
Go outside…and play
Guys, I’m the first to admit it: I’m not athletic. But when my friends texted me asking to join them for a game of hoops, I decided that was just what I needed. I needed to play, to be outside and experience the warmth of the sun on my skin. And, you know what? That was just the thing I needed to revitalize my mind and psyche. Even if you’re terrible at it, there’s no shame in giving it a try and laughing at your terrible aim—especially if you’re with good friends!
Just say “no”
As a graduate student, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way many times. I’m in school full-time, working for a professor, and doing an internship for about 16 hours each week. Saying “no” is like my secret weapon—one I don’t use nearly as often as I should.
Over time, I’ve come to realize that there is such power in being able to say “no” to things that are just too much. To people who don’t have your best interest in mind. To activities that stress you out more than they invigorate you. Or events that cause you more unnecessary anxiety than you can manage. Know your limits and honor them. You’re not helping anyone by ignoring your need for rest, time to yourself or even just a minute to breathe.
These are just a few tips that have helped me in the past. And I share them in hopes that you find some tactics that work well for you too. Take the time to understand what’s burning out that bright light of yours and find ways to relight, reinvigorate and revive it.
Have you experienced burnout before?
What works for you when you start to notice it?
Currently, Leighann is working on her Master’s degree in social work at the University of Georgia. She is a Bay Area native who recently sojourned to the South for school. She enjoys exploring new places, meeting new people and spending time with friends and family. Along with blogging, she also considers herself an on-and-off-and-on again yogi, a dog enthusiast, an expert chocolate chip cookie baker, and a bookworm with a soft spot for young adult fiction. Keep up with her work at ohleighann.com or follow her on IG and Twitter (@ohleighann).