Last year, 75% of people working reported getting burned out.
Even more interesting was that Manila, the capital of my home country, ranks as one of the top 5 cities in the world with the most number of people getting burned out.
And I was one of them.
It was October 2020. I was working late into the evening. It was something I’ve done for years. All of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming surge of emotions coming at me like a crashing wave.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to lash out.
What’s weird was that up to that point, everything was going great for me.
My business continued to thrive despite the pandemic. Just the month before, I closed a contract with another client.
I managed to visit my dad, and we celebrated his birthday while still keeping safe.
I even got time to attend a virtual reunion with my college friends, and it was great to see and chat with them again, even if it was only on Zoom.
Yet, here I was: gripped by overwhelming negative emotions and unable to finish the work that I had to do that night.
I raced to my bedroom and literally wrapped my hands in my blanket, crying myself to sleep.
The next day was no better. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was even wondering whether or not everything that I was doing was worth it. I started to become very cynical and snappy at everyone, including my fiance. I was so critical about everything, and even the pettiest thing seemed to blow my fuse.
I went online and tried to find out what the hell was wrong with me. After doing lots of research, I found why I was feeling all of this: burnout.
Burnout is Serious Stuff
Getting burned out isn’t a catchphrase. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes this is a real and serious phenomenon happening among people who are working.
Burnout is described as a state where you become physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, resulting from excessively stressful events you’ve experienced continuously for a long time.
Some of the symptoms of burnout include:
- feelings of overwhelm,
- extremely exhaustion (even if you’ve gotten enough sleep the night before),
- having difficulty focusing at work,
- losing your interest in what you’re doing,
- trouble sleeping, and
- starting to become pessimistic about anything and anyone.
Why are Lots of People Getting Burned Out?
The COVID-19 Pandemic
We were all caught off-guard when news broke out about the COVID-19 pandemic. Our entire lives had to change literally overnight. We’ve grown so accustomed to many of the things that have been taken away from us.
This, combined with all the regulations we now have to observe, made us all feel like we lost control of our lives, further adding to the stress we’re already feeling.
Work and Personal Life Boundaries are Blurring
The number of people who work from home rose from 71% from 20% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While it’s true there are lots of benefits you get out of working from home, it’s also got its share of setbacks. The biggest perhaps is that you no longer have a clear boundary between work and your personal life.
When you work in a location different from where you live, it creates that clear boundary on when your work begins and ends.
Now that you’re working from home, it’s become challenging to have that clear boundary between your work and personal lives. This can be even more difficult when you live in an apartment or a small home, and you don’t have room to convert it into a home office.
Unfortunately, these blurred lines of separation between work and our personal lives have also caused many employers and clients to forget that their employees have lives outside their work.
According to the International Labor Office, 20% of people working today clock in close to 50 hours a week at work and are given a tremendous workload to accomplish.
Meeting Social Norms
One study reports that women get burned out more often than men.
Aside from meeting the responsibilities that come with their work or business, women also find themselves having to meet the demands of the society and culture where they live.
For a woman, that also means being a good mother, spouse, daughter, sister, in-law, employee or boss, and community member.
Juggling all of these while maintaining your individuality and living out your dreams can really take its toll. That’s the reason why even stay-at-home moms are also prone to experience burnout.
How to Bounce Back from Getting Burned Out
1. Take a Step Back
Trust me, this is easier said than done, especially if you can be quite of a workaholic like me.
Still, it’s the essential first step.
Stopping what you’re doing allows you to look at the big picture of what your life looks like at this very moment. Doing this also allows you to evaluate and identify those events that eventually led you to burn out.
In my case, I realized that one of the leading causes for me to burn out was the fact that I couldn’t go out of my house whenever I wanted to because of the pandemic.
Even though I’ve been working from home for 15 years, I didn’t work at home all the time. Once a week, I would go to a coffee shop to work. I realized that changing up where I’m working allowed me to continuously stay productive while working.
I’d also used to schedule an appointment at least once a month to get my hair and nails done. Hey, what can I say? I enjoy getting pampered and looking good. ☺
When they announced the stay-at-home regulations, I was forced to stay home 100% of the time like everyone else. There were no coffee shops, nail spas, or hair salons to go to. Heck! I couldn’t even do that much grocery shopping because the grocery I would frequent was located in a different city from where I was living, and we couldn’t go there because of the lockdown situation.
When I decided to take a step back, I realized that I was starting to feel trapped and suffocated with the stay-at-home situations. Yes, I would cope by doing DIYs I’d find on Youtube, but it just wasn’t the same.
2. Catch Up on Sleep
Before the pandemic, I’d work nonstop 2-3 straight days without sleeping, usually when we got a major launch coming up.
Little did I know it was actually doing my team and me more harm than good.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, you’re more prone to burnout if you’ve gotten used to sleeping less than six hours. So, to avoid getting burned out, make sure that you sleep anywhere between 7 and 9 hours each day.
So, that’s precisely what I did during that week when I was recovering from burnout. To make sure that I could catch up on sleep, I didn’t turn on my alarm as I’d always done.
And for the first couple of days, that’s what I did: Sleep.
The only times I got up were to go to the bathroom and eat.
That’s when I discovered just how sleep-deprived I was.
As the days progressed, my sleep time grew shorter until it went to the usual 8 hours of sleep.
Sure, there are still times when I’d sleep less than 7 hours at night. Usually, that’s when I got a major project to submit for my clients.
But when that happens, I make sure that I take a nap in the afternoon instead of fighting the urge to sleep with copious amounts of coffee. That way, I’m still giving my body the amount of sleep it needs every day.
3. Do a Brain Dump
Have you ever crashed into bed because your body’s so tired but can’t get to sleep because you feel your mind racing?
That’s exactly how I felt in the weeks leading up to my burnout breakdown episode.
There was so much stuff that I needed to get done. But instead of writing these down, I’d just take a mental note of it.
It was only when I watched a video by Marie Forleo when I realized how helpful and essential it is to do a brain dump every so often.
As David Allen said: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
After completing my first brain dump, I felt so much lighter, and things got way clearer for me.
It also helped increase my productivity levels again because Instead of figuring out what I needed to do, I now have a master list I can check. Each week, I’ll choose three main things I’ll focus on without having to worry that I’ll forget everything else.
If you’ve never done a brain dump before, here’s the video I watched that taught me how to do it.
I recommend doing a brain dump at the end of each week. This helps you start each week fresh. At the same time, it’ll give you the chance to evaluate whether or not you really need to complete those tasks you haven’t accomplished.
4. Spend Some Time to Journal
Studies show that journaling for as little as 15 minutes three times a week significantly helped people suffering from depression, anxiety, and burnout.
One reason is that journaling gives you a place to vent out without having to worry about getting judged or misunderstood. It doesn’t have to look pretty, and you don’t even have to care about grammar, spelling errors, or even if you’re making any sense.
Another reason is that journaling can also help you process your thoughts and feelings productively and positively. In fact, this was what helped me finally decide the focus of this website.
Even though I knew I wanted to revamp my website, I procrastinated from actually doing it for five long years. As I wrote in my journal, I discovered that I procrastinated big time deciding on what I’ll be focusing on.
I initially wanted this website to be related to my business since that’s why I created this site, to begin with. But, something was pulling me towards a different direction, which is towards self-care and self-improvement.
The more I wrote about it, the more it became clear to me that this was the path that I should take. And voila!
5. Ask for Help
When you have a strong personality and have been a go-getter all your life, it’s tough to ask for help, even if you’re practically working yourself to death.
Usually, it’s because of one of two reasons.
First, you’ve developed this notion that the moment you ask someone to help you, you’ll come across as weak.
Second, no one can do it better than you. So if you ask someone to help you out, you’ll end up just redoing it.
I used to think that way, and I realized that both beliefs were 100% wrong.
No one thought I was weak the moment that I finally relented and asked for help.
On the contrary, those I thought would judge me for being weak were relieved that I finally decided to ask for help. In fact, many of them were quick to offer their support.
Sure, they didn’t do things that way I would. But, in many cases, their way turned out far better than I even caught myself saying, why didn’t I think of that?
And the same could happen to you.
6. Learn How to Say “No”
This is a biggie, especially when it comes to my business.
When I finally decided to leave the network marketing industry and go back to doing content marketing, I was drowning in debt. At that time, I couldn’t afford to be picky with the projects I got. Beggars can’t be choosers, after all.
Three years later, I finally crawled my way out to where the debt was now extremely more manageable. But I still kept that mindset of just taking on every project that came my way. Not only that, I was so scared that if I set some boundaries to keep my sanity, I would lose my client and the money I was earning.
Worse, that mindset carried over into my personal relationships. At times, I would find myself saying “Yes” to do a favour or attend a gathering, even if the list of stuff I had to do was already up to my eyeballs.
As a result, I ended up spreading myself too thin that I finally burned out.
Here’s the thing: People will only go as far as you let them.
The only way to recover and prevent yourself from burning out again, you’ve got to learn to set your boundaries and be firm about them.
That means you have to be comfortable with saying “No” to things and people.
Not everyone will like it at first. Many would try to get you to change your mind by either throwing a fit or making you feel guilty.
It can be tempting to give in. Don’t!
If you want to live a healthy, well-balanced life, you need to set your boundaries. Don’t make everyone else’s problems and emergencies your own. You’ve got enough to deal with.
7. Be Mindful and Present
We live in a fast-paced world. Everything is on overdrive. Keeping up with the pace can wear anyone out. No wonder why there are so many people getting burned out.
That’s the reason why one of the ways to recover from burnout is to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is simply about learning how to slow down enough to be present at the moment and enjoy it.
Doing some form of meditation can help you learn to be mindful. But if meditation isn’t your thing, there are other ways on how you can practice this.
For example, instead of wolfing down your meal or scrolling through your social media feed while you’re eating, learn to savour every bite or spoonful that goes into your mouth.
Or try hand brewing your coffee instead of using your coffee maker. This coffee-making technique “forces” you to stand still and be present at the moment as you pour the steaming hot water into the filter. Otherwise, you can end up with a hot mess, literally!
8. Be Kind to Yourself
There’s already enough negativity happening around the world today. The last thing you need is to become your worst critic.
Sadly, many of us tend to be that way, including yours truly.
It’s great to push ourselves and strive to become better. At times, we need to get uncomfortable and step out of our comfort zone.
However, many of us end up being way too hard on ourselves. We expect from ourselves too much, too soon. When things don’t go as quickly as we planned, we end up criticizing ourselves big time.
Nobody is perfect. Everyone is wired differently. That’s what makes us special and unique.
It took me a week to get out of the rut and recover from my burnout. In your case, you might need more time to recover. And that’s perfectly okay.
Embrace the process. If you slip and struggle, don’t be too hard on yourself. Take a deep breath, dust yourself, and keep moving forward.
The same thing is true in everything else that you do.
Remember, good things take time. So be patient. Above all, be kind to yourself.
Now, It’s Your Turn
Have you experienced getting burned out? What steps did you take to recover from it? Share your answers in the comments below so we can help each other out.
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