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How To Deal With Burnout When There Is No Time To Catch A Break

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

by Beatrix Kang |

Have you ever felt drained and exhausted as the place where you used to strive towards with all your might, is not fulfilling anymore? It starts off slow and deceptive, then all at once it hits, causing you to lose the joy in doing any task.

Well, you might be experiencing burnout, where excessive and prolonged stress causes a state of exhaustion - mentally, emotionally, and physically. The answer to the problem sounds easy, where we should just take a vacation or rest in order to regain our strength.

However, sometimes, burnout does not have such a simple solution, and there is no luxury that we can afford to take to recover from it. Fortunately, there are a few ways to prevent burnout before it happens, or at least cope and manage until we get time to rest.

1. Keep Your End Goal in Mind

Burnouts usually start when it feels like the amount of work that you’re required to give and the rewards are not parallel to the difficulties, where there is no end and the work just keeps going.

However, you can keep on rejuvenating yourself and prevent this state by keeping a goal in mind, something to look forward to and work towards until everything will be over. This way, you can keep your morale up because, despite all the difficulties and tiredness you face, there’s something worthwhile at the end of the line.

For example, if you are managing a project and the exhaustion starts to hit after the honeymoon phase dies, you can always put a sticky note at your memo board, the corner of your laptop, or put a lock screen message that reminds you of why you are doing the project. It can say something like “A better life for my family”, or “To save enough to go to Europe”, or “To have more free time later on”, or “Take a break on 11/10/2020”, so long as it reminds you of the core reason of why you chose to do the work, to begin with.

2. Maintain Healthy Physical Habits

Though burnouts feel the most taxing on the emotional and mental side, there is no doubt that the physical side takes a toll too. However, even if you do not have time to catch a break, you can always develop some healthier habits that make it easier for your body to cope with stress.

At the very least, you can start by getting some sleep. Even if it is hard to get 8 hours of sleep, it helps to tell yourself that by a certain time, it is time to be in bed and sleep, like 12 midnight. Switch everything off, lie down and relax, and even if you can’t sleep, you’re at least giving your body rest.

Alternatively, if your work schedule is pretty unpredictable and you find yourself working around the clock, you can try a technique called ‘segmented sleep’ or ‘polyphasic sleep’. This is a technique where you segment your sleep across the day so that you get enough rest for your body instead of going throughout your day with a lack of sleep.

For example, you can try the ‘everyman’ sleep cycle where you sleep for a chunk of 5 to 6 hours, and take three 30-minute naps throughout the day; you can learn more about the 4 different types of sleep cycles here. This way, even during your breaks, you at least can get some sleep. This is, however, not the best technique long term, but it is enough to cope until things get better and you can go back to getting 8 hours of sleep a day.

Besides that, make sure to check in with yourself if you have eaten or not. It does not have to be a full meal, but enough nourishment or a snack in the middle of the work that gives you some fuel to keep going and also a mental break from the huge chunk of work you’ve been doing. Have finger foods that you can munch on as you work, like protein bars or granola bars, or even prepare vegetable sticks or biscuits in the morning before you work.

Even if you can’t leave your desk to grab anything to eat or are constantly on the move, it is important to at least stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle with you or leave one on the desk. Remind yourself to take a sip every 30 minutes or every hour if you get carried away. It helps refresh you and also maintain a feeling of fullness even if you cannot eat.

3. Have a Healthy Support Circle

Burnout can make us feel very isolated from our loved ones once it consumes us. It is understandable that it is easy to forget that there are people outside our work that can help us regain our emotional health and connection.

However, you can always take some time to gain back that connection. Have a 5-minute call with a supportive friend, do something you enjoy, or arrange for short therapist meetings over the weekend. This can help you vent out your frustrations and the tiredness you feel from work.

Besides, by choosing the right people, they will encourage you on or help provide another perspective that helps you reevaluate if the amount of work you are taking up is healthy for you. Also, it is also a short way to rejuvenate your need for emotional connection. These people help you remind yourself that at least you have them when things feel too heavy and that there are people rooting for and believing in you, so you can believe in yourself too.

Burnout is often a precursor to chronic burnout, but with the proper managing tips, you can always prevent constantly burning out. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate, sometimes it’s the little habits that you incorporate in your days that help the most.

You can learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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