The reality of burnout: What do you do?

Whether we notice it or not, burnout is a more common occurrence than we might imagine. Burnout can occur to anyone and affects people differently, and it is something that I have dealt with and continue to battle throughout my life. Being able to balance one's plate is no simple task, and can cause you to question yourself as an individual.

I first realized the impact burnout had in my 5th and grad year at UBC. The anxiety of graduation, and still being unsure of my career post-grad was coupled with work, school and other projects. For any current student reading this, you can likely relate to the feeling, and it isn’t a pleasant one. The best metaphor I could think of for the situation was that I was swimming as fast as I could, but going nowhere. And that is when I knew that my body and mind were burnt out. 

Now what?

The inspiration from this blog was sparked from a question I got during the Q&A of my workshop at the UBC Me Inc Conference. A conference that focused on helping students see the potential career paths in their life. She asked the following question:

“What do you do when you don’t feel like working anymore or when you hit that creative block?”

A question that I don’t think gets asked often, as sometimes society expects us to always be working and “grinding” towards our goals – I was a culprit of this hustle culture and still sometimes forget that it is ok to take a break. I was certain also that although she was the only one that asked it, there were other people in the room who were perhaps thinking the same thing.

You’re feeling burnt out and need to take a break, but what is it that you actually do? As mentioned earlier, the feeling of burnout can come in different ways for everyone. The steps outlined below are ones that have helped me and continue to allow me to not only realize when I am approaching burnout, but also help me ensure that I maintain a healthy relationship between work and leisure – which isn’t always easy.

1. Take a step back and reflect

Hitting a burnout can sometimes come alongside a sense of overwhelm towards not being sure what it is you have to do. This occurred to me in my earlier example of when there were so many things on my plate, I wasn’t even sure on where to start. As people, we sometimes want to get everything done and have that sense of accomplishment or instant gratification, but it is chasing that rush that can allude to getting burnt out.

When feeling overwhelmed it is important to take a step back and come to the realization that you don’t have to figure everything out immediately. For example, if you have a lot of tasks on your to-do list but don’t know where to start, make that list into a smaller one and take it on in chunks. Whether it be physically writing these items down or using an app like SmartTask that can help you outline your work – I use SmartTask on a regular basis and break down each task depending on categories. Start small and work your way up. It is a marathon not a sprint :) 

2. It is ok to step away

The advice above is more of a productivity/task management hack more than anything, but what if you simply aren’t in the right mindset to even do any work – this usually is an indicator that your burnout is starting to build up. When I hit my creative block, whether it be when I am trying to write a blog (like this one) or thinking of new content to create for my other projects, sometimes the best help is to actually completely step away and get a fresh perspective. This can be as simple as going for a quick walk around your neighbourhood, chatting with a friend or working out. The separation from yourself and the task at hand ironically makes me think clearer on the situation and allows me to come back to it with a different approach. Similarly, you could also get started on whatever it is you’re working on and then finish it up on a different day, it doesn’t all have to be completed immediately. Coming back after a few day(s) offers that different perspective to your content piece while also maintaining a balance of not overworking, and wanting to finish it immediately. This is actually a strategy I sometimes implement in my blog writing, if I feel that I am not exactly in my flow state.

3. Netflix is actually ok

One more episode… We have all said or heard this before, and sometimes it is partnered with a sense of guilt as we aren’t being productive. You have a huge to-do list, things need to be completed and you just can’t seem to get yourself to do any work. Trust me I’ve been there and it can be a tough situation to be in. However, as I touched upon in my first lesson, you have to not only self-reflect, but also be aware of what your body is telling you. These rest days should not be filled with guilt but instead be days where you take the time to disconnect from your work and be able to recharge the batteries, and if that is achieved by binge watching the latest Netflix show – I just finished Drive to Survive S4, any RedBull fans? Then that is totally ok.

Of course these recharge days aren't just limited to binge watching TV, but instead can be a day where you focus solely on family, friends, partner or simply yourself. What that day looks like is up to you, but it is important to instead of feeling guilty to be cognizant that this is your body telling you that you needed a break. 

Burnout is normal‍

To summarize, getting burnout is not something that indicates that you did something wrong or that you should completely change your lifestyle. It happens to many people and can creep up when we least expect it, but instead of trying to get frantic in wanting to go back to being productive right away it can sometimes be more beneficial to embrace the situation and see how you can learn from it.

I hope this week’s blog helped you in one way or another, as I know burnout is a common thing among many in today’s society. If you want to chat more about these tips or want to send me a message feel free to do so on my LinkedIn or Instagram. Feel free to share this blog with your friends or family who may also be going through a period of burnout.

Take care everyone!

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