Dr. Jenna Renfroe
5 Tips for Burnout
A common presenting issue for my clients (especially across leaders within the members of the armed forces that I work with) is BURNOUT. Sometimes people do not have a name for what they are facing or experiencing and instead describe a collective group of experiences, a sense of cognitive overload, or symptoms of anxiety, depression, numbness, irritability, fatigue, etc. Often, people do not recognize this collective syndrome of burnout. And I can assure you, as a mental health professional and a member of the “helper” community, I go through my own periods of burnout. The following 5 tips are part of the recipe for moving out of a stage of burnout. I try to counsel folks that the time it takes to get out of burnout can sometimes be proportional to the amount of time it took you to “get into” burnout, so bear in mind it’s sometimes a journey, not a destination.
This is the obvious one right? Burnout comes from overdoing, overthinking, overworking, overfeeling…. Etc. The remedy to that is rest. Its also often part of the conundrum: there’s not time to rest, there a cost to rest, I can’t afford to take time off, I don’t have PTO… or the deeper problem… resting makes me uncomfortable. But rest is one of the only ways out of the burnout pit. Take the time off, accept the financial hit if you can… a stretch of time that is not filled with doing, thinking, working, producing, etc. to simply allow your mind and body to “be” or “flow” is really necessary.
Refuel means to intentionally do things that “fill your cup.” You need to bump up the frequency and duration of time spent engaging in these activities if you are in a phase of burnout. This may look different for different people. Refueling might mean getting back into some yoga or stretching and eating more healthily. It might mean spending more intentional time with family or close friends. It might mean seeing the movie you’ve really wanted to see or reading that book. It might mean spiritual expression, praying, getting to church, getting to therapy, and allowing someone else to pour into YOU.
3) Get Creative.
Often when we get to a stage of burnout, its partly because we have been overusing our analytical or problem-solving parts of the brain. This can lead to a hyperfunctioning of these systems, where we are applying analysis and problem-solving all the time in all areas of our life, instead of just during the workday, for example. One of the ways to undo this is to create more balance by essentially flexing the more creative muscles of our brain and activating different neural circuits that pertain to free thought, creativity, and something known in neuroscience as “the default mode network.” By engaging in creative activity or allowing ourselves time and space to have the capacity to be creative, we create a sense of psychological balance that can help to undo the agony and overdrive of burnout.
Emote means to show or demonstrate emotion. Often when folks get to a stage of burnout, their emotions are all blocked up or many times they’ve gone numb altogether. If you can connect to the emotion that you are feeling, whether indirectly or directly, you might find some energetic release that creates space for new energy and attention. To directly process or connect to the emotion underneath, I’d suggest things like therapy, journaling, self-compassion work, or meditation. To indirectly connect to your emotional space, watch a tear-jerking movie or tv show or listen to moving music, as a few examples. You might find that these external cues are just enough to open the gates of the blocked emotional energy that your body is carrying.
Another way to refuel when you are in a stage of burnout is to reconnect socially. Call or text your close friends, set up a coffee or lunch date. Social connection can go a long way when you’re feeling burned out, even though it might not be what you “feel like” doing. You need to reconnect to the rest of humankind, know that you are not alone, that others care for you, and that you are not alone in your struggle. Suffering is a part of humanity and people need each other. We were never meant to go through life alone.
If you need someone to talk to and are interested in psychotherapy, please reach out to Tailored Brain Health by emailing email@example.com or call 336-542-1800.