I know, I know. Who needs another post about being burnt out on the job? Probably the most popular thing to post about right now in our post-pandemic world. But I still stand by my decision to post about this, because I don’t think we write about this enough. Yes, everyone is writing about it, but I still don’t think we’re writing about it enough. You read that right.
It’s a huge problem, especially for people working in social media. The toll of the negativity on social media can be fierce, and yet we have to keep going. Frankly, I think every person working in this industry should be guarding themselves against burn-out or I guarantee that it’s going to hit sooner rather than later. And the results could be devastating.
With such a prominent problem, I don’t think we can talk about the tools enough. The more we get them out there, the more we are likely to save a life.
So what do I do when facing burn-out?
Are You Burnt Out?
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s hard to identify if you are burnt out. I know I sometimes have trouble admitting it to myself.
I, personally, always do daily check-ins. That might seem like overkill, but I want to deal with anything that pops up early. Putting it off will only let it grow to a point where I may no longer be able to deal with it anymore. So early and often are best for me.
The state of my house is one early predictor for me. When did I last clean? How are the dishes? Am I keeping up with laundry? If all of that is at my usual levels, then I move on.
Another early indicator for me is how I feel about opening up my email inbox. If the idea of that makes me want to throw up, it’s time to analyze why. But if I’m feeling pretty okay with checking my email, I’m probably doing okay.
I then list out the current feelings I am struggling with. What are the reasons behind these feelings? Are they real or am I making up scenarios in my head? Is there anything that would make me feel better? If I’m feeling overwhelmed and like nothing can get better during this step, then I know I have to dip into my toolbox.
Your Burnt Out Toolbox
Everyone’s toolbox is going to be different but the basics of what should be in it are somewhat similar, so I’ll share what’s in mine.
Things to Do
Your first component of your component is a list of energizing things you can do. My list includes running, crocheting, playing with my daughter, reading and writing. There are other things, but you get the basic idea.
For the most part, my list includes ways to get me away from my computer. My brain can recharge and work out problems while I am doing something that makes me feel good. It’s a win-win, and I always come back to my computer with a plan that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
So if turning on your computer feels like it’s doing more harm then good, figure out what you can do without it. That might be the key to figuring out whatever is going on while you’re using it.
People Who Will Clean Your House
When I was pregnant, I set up a list of rules for visiting my daughter, and welp, it ruffled some feathers when I put those boundaries out there (as it usually does). But one that I personally loved was, “If you don’t want to clean a room in my house, right after my daughter is born is probably not the right time to visit.” I never did make anyone clean my house, but if I had needed that level of support, I know the few people who did visit would have done it and so I was comfortable with them in my home during that crazy newborn phase.
So who would clean your house if you needed it? Who would you trust to do it? Who wouldn’t bat an eye if they saw things in your home had completely fallen apart?
Write down a list of these people, but do not wait to contact them until things have fallen apart. Say something as soon as you have one of your early indicators that there is a problem. They will help you with check-ins and do those tasks that may seem overwhelming to you during the time you are burnt out. This is when you can’t be shy about leaning on others.
Little By Little, Bite By Bite
I have trouble going to exercise at times, but I went through a period where going to a yoga class was a huge stumbling block for me. During that period, I had a coach who was helping me with these stumbling blocks, and she was constantly giving me good advice. For yoga, she told me I didn’t have to do the whole process of going there, walking in the door and taking the class. All I had to do was get up early. If getting up early felt good, then I could get into my car. If that felt good… and so on and so on and so on. The whole task of going to yoga felt too overwhelming, but once I had the task in bite-sized pieces, it felt doable. Within three days, I was back on the mat doing my sun salutations.
When you’re burnt out, everything feels overwhelming. If you have a task that needs to get done and you can’t give it to anyone else, then start outlining all the steps it will take to get it done. Keep these steps as small as possible. For example, opening your laptop can completely be just one step. As you accomplish each step, check it off your list and then decide if you are ready to do the next step on your list.
If the answer is yes, yay! You are making progress.
If the answer is no, then ask yourself if you made the next step too big. Can it possibly be broken down even more to a point where you can continue? If it can’t and you’re not ready for the next step, it is okay to move onto something you are ready to do and come back to it.
Prepare for Being Burnt Out
You will notice most of these tools are lists. Have them ready BEFORE you are burnt out. The best time to get ready for being burnt out is when you are feeling well. It’s not a fun thing to prepare for, but it will help you spend less time in the burnt out phase if you are prepared beforehand.
I would even prepare a roadmap for those tasks that overwhelm you easily. It’s a huge gift to give to yourself. Your brain will not be fully functioning when you are burnt out, so work on these solutions when it is.
What do you do when you are burnt out? What is in your toolbox?