In our modern world, where people are often juggling so many different things, rushing from place to place without getting enough rest and often eating on the go, it’s easy to see how we can find ourselves in a constant state of overwhelm. With little time to take care of our personal needs, this can eventually lead to burn out.
So what are the main signs that you are getting burnt out or already in a state of burn out?
Burnout looks different for everyone and it can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally but here are some common signs to look for:
1. Fatigue: You may be struggling to find energy to get through your days and even to get your most basic tasks done without feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
2. Irritability or mood swings: Stress affects our nervous system and therefore our ability to regulate ourselves. When someone is overwhelmed and in a state of burnout they are more prone to anger outbursts, feelings of irritability and impatience.
3. Slower recovery from common illnesses or more frequent illnesses: Lack of rest and a constant state of stress affect our immune system and our ability to recover from illnesses like a common cold. We may also notice that we are constantly feeling run down and unwell. Skin and gut issues might also begin to be an issue.
4. Apathy: People experiencing burnout may start to feel like they are disconnected from life and people around them. Everything feels hard and life has lost its colors. They may also start to stop doing things that they previously enjoyed.
5. Disturbed sleep: This can present in many ways. It may be harder to fall asleep in the evening due to an inability to ‘switch off’ or calm a racing mind. Some people might fall asleep easily but experience night wake ups or perhaps wake up in the morning after a full night sleep but still not feeling refreshed.
With family, work and financial responsibilities, it’s not always possible to just disappear from normal life for a while and stop everything to fully rest. So, how can we support ourselves when we are heading for burn out or feel like we are already there?
Here are nine tips that are simple to follow that can help to restore anyone on burnout:
1. Prioritize sleep: This is so important and very healing for someone in burnout. The body needs a lot of rest for recovery. Try going to bed earlier for a while and doing something calming before bed such as taking a warm bath or reading a book rather than being on a device. Short day naps are also a great way to add in extra rest when possible.
2. Eat regularly and make sure you are including enough protein with meals/snacks: Fasting and missing breakfast during times of burnout will push the body further into stress. Creating internal safety is key.
3. Minimize caffeine and stimulants: These feel good temporarily and you may feel like you can take on more tasks but this is ‘false energy’ and can lead to a crash later. It can also increase anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
4. Commit to a short movement routine that feels good and doesn’t exhaust you: Try going for a walk, a short yoga or Pilates routine or have a swim to help increase energy but not add to stress levels like some more vigorous high intensity exercise routines.
5. Reach out for emotion and practical support: Tell a partner or trusted friend how you are feeling, talking through the overwhelm and getting support on how to manage and prioritize things can be very helpful. A professional might also be needed in more serious cases. On a practical level there might be some areas you can outsource to reduce your load, such as a cleaner occasionally or a babysitter to come for a few hours and look after your kids so you get some much needed time to yourself.
6. Minimize time online, especially social media: Screens and social media can be very draining and overstimulating for someone already in overwhelm. Often hours of valuable time and energy are wasted on scrolling that could be better directed elsewhere such as being outside in nature, connection with friends or some gentle movement.
7. Make spending at least 15 minutes outside in fresh air and sunlight daily a priority: When you have more time, stay out for longer. The more time in nature, the better. Ideally with your bare feet on the ground.
8. Create boundaries around your time and try to avoid multitasking: If you are at home for example with your family, don’t check your work emails. Have specific times for certain tasks so you can focus on one thing at a time and not feel pulled in lots of directions at once. Sometimes it’s a habit to have a quick check but that can mean you get pulled into tasks that you weren’t planning to be doing at that time.
9. Simple breathwork: This is a simple, quick tool that we can use throughout the day. One I particularly like that’s very easy is the 4,7,8 breath. This can be done anywhere, almost anytime and it instantly calms your nervous system and promotes and feeling of safety. Taking these short breaks can give you a chance to also check in with yourself in how you are doing rather than being on autopilot.
If you are experiencing burnout right now, this list might feel a bit overwhelming initially. My suggestion would be to start by just choosing 2 or 3 things that feel doable to begin with. You might be able to fit in a short walk each day in the sunshine for example or maybe just taking the time for a balanced breakfast before you start your day and going to bed a bit earlier. You will be able to try more things as you start to feel less overwhelmed. Small steps will add up to big changes over time.
How about you? Do you have other tips to share with people who may be on burnout?
Feel free to share with Nikki here, she’d love to hear from you.
Nikki Kachum lives on the beautiful island of Phuket in Thailand with her husband and young children. She is a Pilates instructor and health coach with a special interest in the gut and nervous system. She currently helps manage the social media posts for Museflower Retreat & Spa.