Top 10: Total Burnout

Yellow Dwarf Star Flower.
Wilmot, WI. 2019.

You know the feeling. The moment when you realize your body has been cycling through perpetual aches, your mind has been run ragged, and your joy all but siphoned bone dry. That particular feeling where exhaustion and helplessness join to breed an overwhelming sense of defeat, abandoning you to sheer apathy. Intermittent burnout is simply the price we pay for overextending our emotional, intellectual, and temporal resources.

As a collective, we asked for this. Modern society demands constant accessibility, steady communication, and non-stop quality production. The professional and social repercussions for failures at these levels are immediately obvious, and can become quite painful.

As is the case with most negative affect, burnout can be experienced on a broad spectrum of intensity. It can range from feelings of under-appreciation to a full blown existential melt-down. It is important to recognize the warning signs of burnout so that you may heal yourself properly and spare yourself unnecessary torment.

In one of his Netflix specials, Tom Segura pokes fun at the more severe end of this spectrum by explaining that while he’s not suicidal, he still finds himself wondering, “How many days are there? Like, can we wrap this sh*t up?”. I have certainly related to this ‘finished’ feeling during the times in my life where I have become most disconnected from my ambition, passion, and self-worth.

Rekindling connections to our emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual realms is the quickest way to extract our dread and restore our ability to master our fate. Continue reading to identify the Top 10 ways you can resolve your total burnout.

Move your body. In their research-laden book titled Burnout, the Nagoski twins explain the importance of managing environmental stressors and the physical stress itself. While most of us have the ability to identify what stressors factor into our potential misery (toxic relationships, economic woes, etc), few of us consider the importance of managing the stress itself. Unprocessed physical stress has a lasting impact on our mental well-being. The best way to manage physical stress is by completing a ‘stress cycle’ via long-form physical activity. If running isn’t your thing… try jumping around to Daft Punk’s Harder Better Faster Stronger for a solid half hour. Trust me.

Decript the chatter. Our persistent mental feedback loops can often induce our own burnout states. If you have found yourself swimming in chaotic internal turmoil, avoid dissociating at all costs. Find a journal and allow your pen to bleed the poison from your brain. Release yourself from any judgment; holding the paper accountable for your story and allowing your mind some freedom once again. Plus, reading your previous entries can be just as cathartic; validating your experiences and allowing you to spot key trends related to your overall wellness.

Indulge in brain-food. We strive to collect experiences, acquire knowledge, and build meaningful interpersonal connections each day. In order to extend energy towards forming these outward relations, we must first lean inward. This means finding artwork, literature, and other media that fuels your soul. Only when you are full of love, passion, and excitement may you share in such joy with those around you. If you’re seeking new brain-food, Dr. Drew’s After Dark podcast strikes a unique balance of blasphemy, comedy, and wellness education that never fails to satisfy!

Get outdoors. Silence your notifications, slather on some SPF, and get your a** outside. Focus on your surroundings. Observe all of the sensations: brightness, color, form, smell, sound, texture, etc. Appreciate the stunning beauty. Avoid moving too quickly. Intrusive thoughts are bound to enter your mind. Observe those too; forgoing any decisions and any judgments. P.S. Did this insightful entry earn me a Buddha tapestry for my bedroom wall? Or, at least some kind of granola bar? #FingersCrossed

Consume some actual food. Burnout can often reduce your operations to survival mode. This means we can begin to neglect our very basic needs (ie: water, sleep, Hot Takis consumption, etc). The sick part of this is, the more we neglect our biological needs, the further we sink down the rabbit hole of misery. Take your vitamins, drink your plain water, and eat the food (Tina!). Bonus points: mix it up with a celebratory meal. Take yourself on a date and spring for the Chimichanga to rejoice being alive for f*cks sake.

Paint something. Science would suggest that if your hands are involved, your brain must be too. The more your brain is dedicated to a specific task, the less available it is to concoct another b*llshit reason to be sad. A couple other legitimate reasons to paint are to: fulfill the need to produce, dedicate meaningful time to a complex task, and use unfamiliar tools that offer less control and thus require more patience. I like to blast The Weeknd at full volume for these home-therapy sessions. If you already know this because you follow me on Instagram, sorry-not-sorry. 🙂

Get a massage. At the risk of sounding like a haunting recluse, it’s nice to be touched. It’s even better to be cared for. Manicures, pedicures, massages, and new tattoos alike allow us to experience a restored sense of self in a matter of a few hours. In this short time, we validate our existence, our individuality, and our self-worth. While it can appear incredibly vapid on the onset, it is important to invest this time. Treat yo’self!

Share quality time. Burnout can tempt us to retreat to our comfort zones. It is important to prevent this withdrawal. Once you spot the difference between the humans that like you and the humans that value you (See Top 10: Growing Pains), you must allow the latter to contribute to your restorative process. Not only will their presence reintroduce more energy, perspective, and support than you can garner on your own; they’ll also keep you present. It is key that you figuratively escape your head at this time.

Make plans. Whether a vacation, museum exploration, musical celebration, or an adventurous meal, it is imperative to have something to look forward to. This anticipation allows us to make sense of the comparatively dull moments in-between. Even if you are unable to dedicate finances to a new commitment, fantasizing a ‘someday’ list can be just as fulfilling. That way, we are delightfully prepared when the opportunities present themselves. When all else fails, Christmas planning is my go-to (even in March!).

Re-prioritize. It is extremely likely that you are aware of the specific issue that is presently burning you out. While you might not have the ability to eliminate the primary source, you are empowered to dial any shifts necessary to guide yourself towards incremental restoration. It is imperative that you stop the leak. Begin to eliminate non-essential tasks that have an imbalanced tax on your well being (ie: let the laundry sit in the dryer another night!). Add two positive, ‘selfish’ tasks to your evening routine (ie: reading a book, going on a solo walk!). Lizzo would be so proud!

In his Mindfulness Burnout Prevention, Christopher Dines explains, “it is impossible to control outcomes [and] results; although most of us have been programmed from a very young age to believe otherwise. The idea that we can perform actual ‘magic’ causes tremendous dysfunction, unnecessary suffering, and prevents the development of emotional resilience”.

This warning highlights the importance of embracing our imperfections, our failures, and ultimate lack of control of all circumstances. Only when we relinquish that power, do we lend ourselves the grace of patience and understanding. Burnout is just part of the process. Resilience is key.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light”.

J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 1999.