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Burnout — Lessons Learned So You Can Avoid It

Updated: Oct 11

Burnout can happen rapidly and without our awareness… until it’s too late. What I have learned is that anyone can be susceptible to burnout, even me. This article is about how easily burnout can happen and steps to recovering from burnout. Hopefully, these steps will keep you from ever experiencing burnout.

MY EXPERIENCE OF BURNOUT

I know firsthand how easily burnout can happen because I was recently a victim of burnout. But I didn’t realize that I was headed for burnout until I had reached the crisis stage. I contracted a virus that made it almost impossible to get out of bed and I couldn’t stand for longer than 10 minutes without feeling lightheaded and ready to pass out. Walking was easier than standing but, after walking from one room to another, I had to sit down to catch my breathe. This was accompanied by aches and pains all over my body.

YOUR EXPERIENCE OF BURNOUT

You may recall a time when you were so sick that you were bedridden for a couple of days. You may even remember that, prior to getting sick, you were very busy burning the candle at both ends. Illness can be your body’s way of telling you that you’ve been using up your resources faster than you can replenish them. If you’re wise, you listen to your body and make as many lifestyle changes as you can so that this doesn’t ever happen again. I’m not talking about regular colds that go around but a real I-can’t-function-even-if-I-wanted-to illness.

When I got sick, no one else around me had been sick. So, I couldn’t say that I had gotten something from someone. It wasn’t until I was barely able to get out of bed and barely able to take care of my basic responsibilities that I realized that this was the result of burnout. I had been trying to be Super Mom and Wonder Woman, taking care of everyone except myself. But I thought that I was taking care of myself because I was keeping up with an intense workout schedule on top of everything else I was doing.

RECOVERING FROM BURNOUT

There’s nothing like being forced to stay in bed to make you look at your life and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” This isn’t the time to blame yourself, though. We take on the responsibilities that we do because we think that we have to. We look at our lives and tell ourselves that we need to do this or our world will stop spinning as smoothly. This subconscious belief hides the truth: it’s entirely possible to keep our world running just as smoothly with adjustments on how we do it. It’s possible for your life to run well if you’re willing to make some changes to what you’re doing now. Things may be a little different but it’s a small price to pay for feeling significantly better about your life and avoiding burnout.

STEPS TO RECOVERING FROM BURNOUT

The steps to recovering from burnout are similar to the steps I talk about in my eBook 3 Steps to Dramatically Reduce Your Stress. The first step is to look at everything that you do to keep things running smoothly and list all of your responsibilities. List everything that you do down to the smallest details. Be as detailed as you can because this is where the possibilities for change lie. Be as specific and detailed as you can about everything you’re responsible for doing to keep things from “falling apart.”

Now make another list of everything that you’re worried about, the things that keep you up at night. Sometimes we use worrying to motivate us to keep going and not let our responsibilities get away from us. If you forget something, chances are you’ll wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. Even if you’ve remembered to do everything, worrying can keep you up at night with thoughts of what if you’re not doing enough. Worrying keeps us from realizing that we’re headed for burnout.

Now that you have your list of responsibilities and your list of worries, it’s time to remove the veil that keeps us believing that this is the way our lives have to be. It’s time to look objectively at your first list, your list of responsibilities, and decide which of them can be delegated, deleted or have to be done by only you.

Take 3 different colored highlighters/pens/crayons, whatever you can find. Use one color for any responsibilities you can ask someone else to do. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to ask because you feel uncomfortable asking someone else to do them or think they can’t do it as good as you can. Just color it because it’s possible for someone else to take on this responsibility. Take another color for the responsibilities that can be deleted or eliminated with minor changes in your life.

Use the last color to highlight responsibilities that you do because you want to and not because you have to or can realistically only be done by you. This should be your smallest number of items. If you’re being objective, there are very few things that can only be done by you and no one else in the world.

When you’re done, look at your list of worries and write out the worst case scenario for each one. What if these worries came true? What would happen? It’s important that you write these down, especially when it comes to worries. There’s a big difference between having something behind your eyes and having it in front of your eyes. Although, what you wrote down in your list of worries is what you worry about, it’s the worst case scenarios that we really worry about.

After writing out the worst case scenarios, look to see if you can come up with ways to keep them from happening. If you can lower your worries by creating safety nets, then your worries will start to lose their hold on you. You’ll be less driven to get into a burnout state.

LIFE AFTER BURNOUT

My life is different now than it was pre-burnout but it runs just as smoothly and I feel like 10lbs have been lifted off my shoulders. It’s not the picture of the ideal life that I was working towards but I’m so much less Type A that there’s now space to enjoy more of life. We all want a great life for ourselves and for our children. But the lesson of burnout is that life is not about what we accomplish but about stopping to appreciate what we have already accomplished. I learned my lesson. Will you?

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