HOW TO: Avoid burnout like a pro

Mitigating burnout in a year of hectic is an acquired skill. Here, we suggest some tips for reducing the chances.

Words Yasmin Singh

The line between exhaustion and burnout is fine and often confused. Exhaustion is generally quite noticeable and usually mitigated with a solid night’s slumber. The difference being is, that when you’re exhausted, you can usually still be relatively productive and a grey cloud of cynicism doesn’t hang over your head.

Burnout, on the other hand, is when disengagement takes over, your ability to be effective slips and your tolerance for any minor inconvenience is about as flexible as border restrictions in Australia. Often, you probably haven’t even realised that it’s happened. 

Things that cause burnout:

  • Work life: Could be a bad fit and the work or the workload is too much
  • Boundaries: Saying yes, or no, too much can make you feel out of control or off balance
  • Connection: a sense of community or lack of can cause you to feel isolated or overcrowded
  • A disconnect with your values: Are you doing things that make you feel inauthentic? 

You might be burnt out by one or several of these things. Knowing which one or ones is a great place to start. Regardless, if it’s something or someone in your life that is draining you, at the end of the day, it’s still up to you to make the changes. 

Things you can do to mitigate burn out:

  • Sleep. Sleep deprivation is the basis of burnout. Even if you’re getting a full night, it’s likely that it’s still not enough. Schedule a sleep-in, add an afternoon nap or pull back for a day on the couch to watch bad movies until Netflix asks you if you’re still there.
  • Plan something restorative. Do something that won’t add an extra point on your to-do list, but something you can genuinely look forward to. Some one-on-one time with a close friend can help the recovery process. 
  • Fight perfectionism. Sometimes you can get stuck in burnout when you have fear-based perfectionism. This might sound relatable if you know you’re burnt out but can’t bring yourself to slow down or prioritise your needs. Having high standards is not wrong but allowing space for flexibility and compassion is going to be very helpful in slowing down.
  • Reassess your work, social and family balance. One or all of these is likely to be off centre. Having a sense of what you want your life to look like can help you make the changes needed to getting back on track. Spending time thinking about this, writing it down or even bouncing ideas off a friend is a good way to process.
  • See a doctor or therapist. Getting professional help can be one of the most useful tools. Book a general check-up with your GP; you might be deficient in something if you haven’t been prioritising in your diet. GPs can also put you in contact with a therapist. Extra support from a therapist can sometimes be easier than lugging through it alone or avoiding friends because you don’t want to burden them. 

It takes time and effort to recover from burnout; that’s why it’s critical to pull back from what’s causing it in the first place. Burnout can present itself through both mental and/or physical symptoms, and working on yourself is not easy, especially when things are already rough. But, if you are burnt out, you probably have the sinking suspicion that you can’t keep going like this. Start small and ask for help if it feels like it’s too much.

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