Tips for feeling overwhelmed and burnt out

These days I feel that being burnt out and overwhelmed is, unfortunately, the norm rather than the exception. I’m finding that everyone around me is simply trying to survive, anything more than that is asking for too much. Burnout, where one feels exhausted, unmotivated, withdrawn and negative affects your own functioning as well as your interaction with others. Even though you might be feeling like there’s just no hope, it is important to realise that it is possible to “un”burnout and reignite that flame within you.

The process of getting yourself back on track is however not an easy one and requires perspective, positivity and perseverance.

Just breath

When things feel like they are just too much, you have to take time to stop, take a few deep breaths and reset. Your negative inner voice is probably going to tell you that you don’t have time to do this, but logically you can afford five minutes. In this time, ground yourself- literally if you want, by placing your two feet sturdily on the ground. Do a few breathing exercises. Or practice mindfulness by focusing on your five senses. You can also reset by putting time aside for some “me time” or if possible by taking a few days leave from work.

Let it go

Any parent of a young child will recognize these famous words. Elsa sure was one wise princess! In times of burnout and stress, you need to be critically selective of the battles you are going to fight. The serenity prayer should become your daily mantra. Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest. Stephen Covey speaks of a circle of control, influence and concern. Imagine your life as a fried egg. The yolk is what you can control e.g how you act. The white is what influences you but you cannot control e.g. how your colleagues behave. And the crusty edge around the white is which concerns you but you have absolutely no control over e.g world politics. In today’s climate, our emotional reserves are running so low, you can reenergize by stepping back, having the perspective of your challenges, focusing on what you can control and then prioritizing areas of change.

Eat that frog!

Feeling overwhelmed is most often due to procrastination, not knowing where to begin and difficulties with decision making. If you feel like you don’t know where to start, sit down and write a list of ALL your current problems or challenges. From the smallest to the biggest. Then prioritise them in order starting with the one that is currently causing you the most stress and is the most urgent to resolve (normally the one that tends to be delayed the most or ignored!). Then, I’m sorry to say, you just have to suck it up and eat that frog! Follow problem-solving steps such as properly identifying and defining the problem, listing all possible solutions then selecting the most realistic and effective one. During this time, “park” the minor problems until the prioritized problems have been resolved.

Know yourself

The saying goes: Prevention is better than cure. If you feel like you might be heading for burnout, you probably are. Don’t push it until it’s too late. Trust yourself, you will know when you are feeling overwhelmed. Your body and mind will show you warning signs and you need to listen to them. Look out for changes in your sleeping patterns and eating habits, energy levels and mood. Are you more anxious than normal or less sociable? At this point, take some time out and make some changes and healthy choices. Being self-aware and treating self-preservation as a priority will prevent any further more significant impact on your functioning.

So if you feel like you are burning the candle at both ends, you just need to remember to breathe, put “Frozen” on repeat, eat some frogs, tune into your body and you should be OK! Remembering that: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you” – Anne Lamott.

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