Three Steps to Prevent Burnout

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Congratulations! You’ve found the section of my blog where we are going to get very real. I wholeheartedly promise to highlight my deepest regrets, failures, mistakes, and saddest of times. 

Why would I do this? Because it is in these times where transformation happens; it is here where our souls grow in ways we never thought possible. I’ll start small, of course; after all, I don’t want to scare you. I merely want to share with you some of the valuable lessons I’ve learned and some of my most treasured experiences, in the hopes that some of my stories may help you in the future. 

I also want to remind you that although we as individuals of a specific culture create images on the web of what our lives are like, often using only beautiful pictures, carefully edited words, and strategically chosen brands, there is a very real side to each and everyone one of us. Every single one of us will fail, lash out, cry heavily, say things we don’t mean, and feel defeat many times throughout our lives. The goal of this section in my blog is to help all of us accept that this is normal, and this is where the beauty lies, this is the truth, this is where real change and growth happens.

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BURNOUT is REAL! My 3 Very Simple Tips to Avoid (or correct) Burnout 

I have a tendency to overload myself in life. I work too hard and create so many unrealistic goals that would never, ever be possible in a million years. Since as far back as I can remember I’ve been working at least 2 jobs at a time, studying something or other, attempting to exercise, and trying desperately to take care of myself (and I wonder why I get headaches or feel exhausted!). Needless to say, I have burnt the candle at both ends and have nothing left to burn. I had an intense breakdown the other night where I cried my eyes out in front of my wonderful, loving, and ever-patient roommate. What about? I had no idea. I just knew that every other sentence ended in: “I’m just so exhausted.” 

After spending some time journaling to follow my massive waterworks, I realized that something had to change. I had started in a situation that I absolutely loved: I’m a practicing acupuncturist and, in my totally biased opinion, there is no better job out there. I have an extremely loving support network, I live in a beautiful area, and I have so many wonderful ideas for the future. The problem? I often had no energy to enjoy any of it. 

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I realized I was beginning to feel burnout. If you’re not familiar with burnout, the term is used to describe fatigue, high stress, and impossible standards that are specifically related to your job. The major downside of this, in addition to the toll it plays on your overall health, is that many people begin to dislike their jobs. 

Burnout was originally referred to as an issue affecting medical health professionals, but today, with our high-stress, high-speed lifestyle in any first-world nation, it can be seen in almost every profession. Imagine my immense panic when I started to feel burnout in my acupuncture job? Literally, I love acupuncture. I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Since my cognizant, rested mind knows this, I knew I NEEDED to do something to make sure my fire for the medicine kept alight. 

Following is my attempt to reverse the burnout I’ve been experiencing in myself, and hopefully help prevent it in some of you! 

1 - Have at least 2 days off a week. 

If you’re lucky enough and it’s financially accessible to you, I highly recommend taking 3 days off. Operating on 1 day off is literally impossible. That day ends up being everything but a day off. It is spent doing laundry, grocery shopping, meal prepping, exercising, doing bookwork, and trying to prepare for the week ahead. There is absolutely no way around it. You need (I need) one full day to do nothing. NOTHING! Or at least whatever comes up, be it hiking, Netflixing, reading, or sleeping. Trust me, adding extra jobs, working overtime, or offering to cover coworker’s shifts may seem like a wonderful idea at the time but this is not sustainable over time, and what good will the extra money be? You’ll be too tired to do anything with it! 

2 - Schedule in lunch breaks. 

Lunch breaks, doesn’t that sound so simple? Well, let me tell you when it’s NOT so simple…when you’re fresh out of graduate school and you feel like you need to cater to your every patient’s optimal schedule or they won’t see you, they’ll find someone else, and you’ll never make a dime. It would probably be better to just call your whole degree a wash, declare bankruptcy, and hide under a rock. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. It is EXTREMELY difficult to advocate for yourself when you own your own business. More often than not, your needs get pushed behind those of your clients. Once again, this is a completely unsustainable lifestyle. You are NOT a better person if you put everyone else’s needs before yours, you are just a more tired person with a whole bunch of resentment. When you begin to skip things like lunch, I’ll tell you what happens. You send the message to your body that you are not important. So not only will you get moody, light headed, irritable, and over tired from lack of nutrition, you will also begin to lower your self worth and importance. This leads you to become short and frustrated with those around you, and you won’t be able to show up in a present way for your clients, patients, colleagues, and loved ones. Here’s hoping you have a job that schedules this time in for you, but if not and you are a small business owner- please, please, please make this a priority for yourself. Even if you work from home, make a healthy lunch every day, eat it without distractions and optimally take half an hour to get out of your place of work to change up the scenery a bit. Things that especially help me regroup are: short walks, deep breathing, yoga poses, meditation, and journaling.

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3 - Make “me time” a priority

Get it in your head that your “me time” is just as important as a business meeting with the head of the company. Schedule in time for whatever makes you tick. For me, it is meditation, yoga, and/or getting outside. I find that my days are so much more pleasant (and I am more pleasant) when I do these things for myself. This all circles back to the idea that we have to show our “innerselves” that we are our number one priority in life. And, as an added bonus: when we take time away from work, it will be that much more enjoyable to come back to it later feeling refreshed. I have an abundant history of using so many excuses on the reg: “I’m too tired”, “there’s not enough time”, “if I cut out my yoga, I can schedule one more patient on that day.” No, no, no, honestly you can make an excuse every single day of your life to avoid “me time”, it gets pushed aside SO OFTEN. Just think, you wouldn’t miss a meeting with your boss would you? By missing out on your quality time with yourself,  you rob yourself of your importance and you will start to skimp in other areas of your life. This is simply crucial, you need to know that you are taking care of yourself, it gives you grounding, stability, and confidence. So, start blocking off time in your day to do something that brings you joy. If you don’t start looking out for yourself, who will? It is nobody’s job other than your own.

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Take it from me, burnout, even at the early stages is no fun. Please don’t let yourself get there, look out for yourself from day 1. Make yourself your biggest and best priority in life, and everyone else will respect and honor you. It is so easy to pick out the people who take care of themselves in a crowd, be one of those radiant, shining humans who everyone wants to be like. 

Mad love to all you hard working souls,

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