5 ways to deal with burnout and overwhelm
Whether you are a fitness professional who reads my blog on the regular or you have just stumbled upon this article from Google, you are probably feeling a bit under the weather right now. You may be suffering with fatigue, burnout or overwhelm; all pretty common feelings for 2020! Burnout, according to Help Guide is 'a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.' Life has thrown us all off balance this year and adjusting to a new normal may have you feeling a whole lot of things. I've been feeling it myself in the past few weeks so wanted to share some of the things I have found helpful to clear my head and get myself back on track.
1. Identify the source of the problem
Being stressed can lead us to feel more fatigued or overwhelmed, so finding and identifying the source of the stress can really help reduce your other negative feelings. In 2020, for me, this has been job insecurity. Not knowing if/when I had a job to go back to lost me a whole lot of sleep over the last 6 months which led to my brain working at 3000 miles an hour trying to process all the available options and caused me to get hugely overwhelmed. I had to logically think and force myself to sit down with a pen and paper and work out the minimum I needed to earn to be ok. Once I realised I could meet this figure without my main job, some of the stress and overwhelm began to lift. Things were a lot clearer.
If you can identify the source of stress and remove it then you will inevitably feel better. If you are feeling burnt out it might be that you are working too many hours. What could you give up to allow you more time freedom? If you are feeling overwhelmed it may be that you have too many choices or a lot of change happening at one time. Allow yourself to step back from the minutia, sit down and honestly think and process.
2. Prioritise sleep
When you are tired and poorly rested, it affects your energy, thoughts and reactions. If you feel like you are approaching burnout, prioritise getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, ideally 9 or as much as you need until your body wakes up naturally. Even if this means giving up social functions or not watching that next episode of your favourite show. Our bodies are generally pretty great in telling us what they need. Feeling fatigued and burnt out is a sign that you are not giving yourself time to recover. Sleep is the time our body needs to regenerate so you need to make it a priority. Try and go to bed an hour earlier than normal until you are feel a bit less burnt out. You may want to reassess your sleep schedule and check that you are giving yourself enough down time each week. I've found that sticking to a set bed time and waking time helps me feel more energised. When I'm going to bed at all different hours of the day, my body responds badly!
3. Find structure
Sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, finding a routine with some structure can help get you back on track. This can include going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. It could be scheduling your workouts in and setting aside time every evening to do nothing, watch rubbish TV and relax. This year removed all the structure we had from our lives and what we knew as normal, so this may take a little bit of time to set up. I've found that using a planner has helped me to find structure and routine. I block out times in the day for work, times for lunch, running errands and doing nothing! The planner I've been using is called iFocus - it's aimed for self-employed/small business owners but can also be great for . The planner I used before, the Lux productivity planner, which was more for personal/social uses, I would also really recommend.
4. Don't beat yourself up for not getting things done
Something I have learned over the last year or so is that my energy comes in waves. I try and plan my days around times I have the most energy to get the most important things done, however there will be some days and weeks where everything just feels like a huge struggle. This is especially true if you are feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Don't beat yourself up if you forget to reply to an email, leave your washing up longer than is socially acceptable or don't quite finish that project by the deadline you set. So what? Did you die? Did anyone else die because of it? If the answer is no, which is more likely than not, it doesn't matter. There will always be more time for you to get these things done. We can't all be super productive all the time, and often its the pressure to be so that leads us to burnout in the first place!
5. Know when to ask for help
There is a difference between being a bit burnt out and really seriously struggling with something, so my final piece of advice is to be able to acknowledge when you need some external help. This can be as simple as taking a few days off work or planning a trip away to break you out of your rut. However it could also be meeting with a therapist to discuss some of your issues, getting a blood test to see if you've got any deficiencies that need addressing or hiring a dietitian to check you're fuelling your body correctly. You never have to battle anything alone and knowing when to ask for help shows massive strength.
So, to summarise, if you are feeling a bit burnt our and overwhelmed, be kind to yourself, give yourself time to recover and don't be afraid to reach out for help. For some more great burnout resources, check out this page from Help Guide.