Ah, Summer… The kids are away at Summer Camp, weekends are filled with backyard barbeques, outdoor concerts, late nights outside with friends… but something is different this year. Yes, we are still very much in a pandemic and feeling the exhaustion and fatigue from the last year and a half. While in years past Summer might have been a time to unwind, spend time with friends and family, vacation, this year you might notice greater difficulty in initiating plans, perhaps lacking total motivation. It is understandable that you might be experiencing burnout, or the emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged and chronic stress. Burnout is often associated with work, however it can certainly apply to all aspects of life—family, relationships, work, or recreation.
Burnout can look differently person-to-person, however there are some early warning signs that might indicate you are heading towards burnout. Are you noticing that you are increasingly irritable, or have a short fuse? Perhaps you are more forgetful, or willingly neglecting usual tasks or obligations. You might notice difficulty concentrating, general fatigue, and even disrupted sleep. Chronic, or prolonged stress, which many have experienced with the pandemic resulting in strains in finances, relationships, or job insecurity, can lead to more chronic symptoms. The irritability can turn into anger, resentfulness, withdrawal from relationships, physical illness, and an increased reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope. When you notice these behaviors worsening and have a complete inability to cope, which may lead to increased isolation, depression, feelings of emptiness, neglecting personal needs, you are likely burned out.
While preventing burnout is key, as soon as you are aware of these changes in your behavior it is critical to act and treat the source. If overloaded with family obligations, try to elicit some help from friends. Over-worked at your job, express your needs to your boss and implement some boundaries. Both of these behaviors require a degree of vulnerability, checking in with yourself to recognize your needs, and expressing it to those around you who you can trust. Vulnerability is key. Trying to think of solutions while in a complete state of exhaustion seems like an impossible task, turning to someone you can trust and rely on around you is absolutely crucial. Together, you can start brainstorming and working through solutions. Important factors to consider when treating or preventing burnout include:
- Boundary setting – It is okay to say no or set appropriate limits with people. Over-extending yourself is an easy way to burnout.
- Prioritizing your needs – Practicing self-care is a necessity. Allow yourself time each day to decompress, whether this involves mindfulness exercises to help re-center yourself, taking walks outside, or just sitting outside and breathing in fresh air. Take the time to tune into your body to check in with yourself.
- Showing yourself compassion – Monitor the way you are talking to yourself. How would you speak to or treat a child who was struggling?
- Take care of your emotional health – Check in with your therapist, share your struggles with a trusted family member or friend. We can’t always wait until we “feel better” to act, sometimes we need to get moving or get outside even when it feels almost impossible. Once we get our body moving and feel the warm sun on our face, the burnout starts to diminish and the next day might be just a little easier.