Believing in your own super-self can lead you to take on too much. Before you know it, you've over-committed, overextended, overloaded, and overwhelmed. Welcome to self-induced burnout. What is a hero to do? I'll tell you how I made my comeback.
First, let's get clear about what burnout is.
Burnout starts out as a small snowball of work stress and anxiety that your ego pushes down a steep dark hill. On the way down, that stress and anxiety only get bigger. It can creep into your life at a snail's pace at first, building up over the years.
You add more to your plate and push off the things that are important to your sense of self. Give it a few years, and you'll have one or several breaking points. And you may find yourself in a state of dire need, left in a frantic, debilitating depression and state of angst. That's burnout.
This is how it was for me at least. It hurt to give up my eccentric and creative habits. I told myself it was for a good cause. I thought I was providing a stable lifestyle for the family. I thought I was maturing.
So I added more work to my plate and left less and less room for my true self. This became the new normal, and the diminishing returns continued to grow like a creeping fog.
Here's how I bounced back.
1. Start by admitting to yourself that you're burned out.
Many professionals struggle to acknowledge or admit they're suffering. We tend to double and triple down on the work. It's easier to hide in the work than to admit we're not quite the game changing, super heroes we hoped we would be.
Consciously compromising your own integrity is toxic to your wellbeing. Take these moments seriously, and look for other ways to achieve your goals.
2. Have candid conversations with key people you trust.
Trusted relationships play a key role in recovery. Let those you trust know what's going on in your life. Be brave and vulnerable enough to ask for more grace and help from others. You need to create a positive social force field around your life.
3. Take an inventory on where you're spending your time, energy and attention.
Where are you pouring your time, energy, and attention? What are doing that stresses you out? Make a list and immediately fire the bottom 15 percent from your life.
Work isn't the only stressor. Even your entertainment habits can also be adding to the problem. Scary movies, video games, difficult relationships, and a barge of notifications on your phone, all of these can be adding stress to your life.
4. Put up rigorous, razor-wire boundaries.
Being vague or indirect while polite to others is rude to yourself.
If you have doormats for boundaries, everyone will walk on them. Putting up weak boundaries is how other more assertive people monopolized your time and attention in the first place.
I politely and firmly said no--often. No. I don't have time or resources to fit that into my schedule. No. I don't want to do that. I'm not interested.
Put an iron curtain boundary at your home life. Turn off your phone or remove the battery if you must. Leave work devices at work, or securely in the trunk of your car if you're struggling with boundary issues with your employer. Get aggressive to make changes that will matter.
5. Create breathing room.
Enforcing strong boundaries create these pockets of time and attention, but you must use it appropriately. Use that time to create breathing room, recovery from your stress and anxiety. Hit the gym, do some yoga, lift some weights, go to a golf course, talk to a therapist, whatever relaxes you.
Filling all the empty spaces with stuff and busy work is exactly what created the no-win scenario and burned you out in the first place. Leave more room for oxygen and imagination in your life.
6. Get help.
Amateur or do-it-yourself therapy isn't enough. You'll benefit more from outside, professional help. For me, therapy is amazingly helpful.
In the jungle of distractions and overwhelm you need to use the power of "no" to hack away to a sustainable lifestyle. Overwhelm and burnout comes from oversubscribing. I don't care what the commercials say, you can't do it all.
You have to make trade-offs and make more room to enjoy your life. Find the things that light you up, and add value to your life, and make more room for them.