Mental Health Monday

Burning Out or Backing Off

Hello, hello! Happy Monday. With the start of the work week comes, well, all the work. Exercising, meal planning, work, extra work, hobbies, lunches, commitments, kid’s games, and so on will fill the week. The games have begun! But what happens when you start getting tired? Unable to function and cranky all the time? Are you going to push through or take a break? What should you do?

Well, provided that you have the ability to do something about this fatigue, you should take a minute, an hour, an afternoon, or a day all to yourself. I do understand that not everyone is afforded this luxury. BUT more often than not, when we are faced with some sort of mental, physical, or emotional fatigue we don’t stop. There’s just too much to do! Not enough time to cool our jets. So we don’t back off. And instead, we risk burning out.

Scary, especially because it’s in red. Let’s a take a looksie at what burnout feels like.

It’s not good. Bottom line, you’re angry, you’re cynical, you’re tired, and you feel awful about everything you’ve tried to accomplish (this applies to physical and mental burnout). Some other symptoms I’ve noticed? You’re so tired. Sleeping may or may not work because of your old friend insomnia.  With this comes not remembering anything and I guess this falls under the category of focusing. Work might become extremely hard because every five seconds you’re looking for something, rereading something, or trying to remember what you were doing. There’s a much better, in-depth article about that here. Check it out!

So that’s mental burnout. What about physical?

You can’t work out. You just can’t. The thought of doing so makes you sick. It makes you want to cry. Maybe you do it anyway, convinced that a workout is what you need. I’m not willing to believe this is a bad or detrimental mentality. Pushing yourself is great but you need to know where your body and mind stand. So, if you are consistently performing below your average, if you’re workouts feel awful, or if you just can’t get motivated you might be facing a workout burnout. For me, when I start approaching burning out, my appetite either goes away or increases like crazy. I want to eat nothing or an entire Trader Joe’s. There’s no balance. As well, your sleep might be bad. If exercise used to help you sleep and now keeps you up, something isn’t right. Look at it and acknowledge it before you go further.

If we learn to acknowledge the steps leading to burnout, we can avoid it altogether. That is if we choose to. Our choice is this: burning out or backing off. And it’s a lot harder than most people realize. Having faced burning out several times, I’ve come up with some ways to avoid it. By no means is this a full-proof method. Just what works for me.

adult architecture athlete boardwalk
Photo by Pixabay on

1. Accept it.

This might be the hardest part. It is for me at least. I tend to want to think that I can go forever and ever without a rest. But I’m human which means that I can’t, not even if I want to. Even if I stop for a day and try to jump right back at it, it might not work. I might need to really back off for awhile. So, step one is accept it. You’re burning out.

2. Let yourself rest

This is the not so easy but also very welcome step. At first, it is. When we’re close to burning out, taking a break feels really good. It’s like hard exercise. The first break feels good. Letting yourself take breaks after that initial one is harder. We start to feel discouraged, antsy, and angry. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to rest.

3. Schedule relaxation

Once we’ve caught up on our sleep and rest, both body and mind, we need to start scheduling in relaxation. I know, it sounds counterintuitive to what you’re feeling. Scheduling relaxation? But that’s just wrong! Well, maybe it feels that way but if you schedule your relaxation time, it prioritizes it. It doesn’t have to be long, twenty minutes or ten minutes there, but pencil it in. Read a book. Draw or color. Go sit outside.

4. Draw lines in the sand

You have time set aside to relax now (hopefully). What happens when someone asks you to do something? Something pops up that isn’t life-threatening but that will threaten your relaxation time? You have to say “no”. Or at the very least, draw a line in the sand. What is something you won’t give up? What is something that you’re flexible about? What is something that you don’t mind shifting around? Asking yourself these questions before they’re asked of you helps get your answers ready to go. That way your decisions aren’t spur of the moment and you have a rough idea of where you stand.

5. Adjust your schedule

Maybe this means working less hours, or more. Maybe it means shifting the kinds of workouts you do. Or incorporating cross-training. This part, more than the rest, is what helps you out in the long-run. It keeps you able to be consistent. Consistency is what matters in terms of long-term progress. If you don’t adjust your schedule to adopt the idea of working for the long-run, you won’t be able to meet or sustain your goals or your life.

6. Journal accomplishments

This also helps with consistency. It gets discouraging to do less or relax, especially for Type A personalities. We feel like we are just treading water even though we’re three miles into a long swim. Designating a journal just for keeping track of what you did today or what you progress you made towards your goal puts everything into perspective. The physical act of putting pen to paper helps you realize what you have done and that you are being productive.

7. Prioritize your health

Bottom line is this, you have to prioritize your health. Get enough sleep (don’t watch TV, don’t go out as much). Eat well (no excuses, don’t binge on bad). Love yourself (no pity parties). Take care of yourself. We need maintenance just like everything else. A little bit more rest here and there is necessary for recovery. Your health is your life. Literally. Take care of it if it’s still in your power. Take care of yourself. Prioritize your health and act like it does matter to you.

2 thoughts on “Burning Out or Backing Off”

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