How to Cope with a Serious Case of Burnout

I’m no stranger to burnout. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the type of person who is prone to losing sight of my personal well-being because of my love for my work as a writer. I love what I do, and I love being productive. Passion and drive have helped me succeed, but at times, it has resulted in imbalance in my life—too much work and too little rest.

For me, the symptoms of burnout are crystal clear — when I crawl into bed and set my alarm, I dread the morning. My work starts to struggle, and I make mistakes I don’t usually make or miss deadlines altogether. I wish I could say that I’m great at paying attention to these signs and making changes, but I’m not. Instead, over the last six months I hit a wall. I was balancing too much at once, raising three kids and working full-time with very little help. My burnout came to a head one tearful Thursday a couple months back. After too little sleep and too much work, my mom, seeing my stress, swooped in, took my kids for the day, and sent me to bed.

Since then, I’ve been working on making some lifestyle changes to recover from my burnout. It hasn’t been easy, and I’m definitely not back at 100 percent, but here’s what I learned from hitting a wall.

Don’t power through

My biggest mistake over the past several months was believing I could just power through the exhaustion. I ignored my need for small breaks and worked through the weekends. As a result, my work suffered, my health suffered, and so did my relationships. I was consistently impatient with my kids and spending more evenings with my computer than I was with my husband.

If you can spot the signs of burnout coming, such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, or forgetfulness, don’t wait for things to become dire to get some rest. Take it from someone who knows, a personal day or even a long weekend away are totally worth it if it means avoiding serious mistakes at work.

Don’t do it all

If, like me, you’re already dealing with burnout, now is the time to start evaluating your weekly tasks and letting go of everything that isn’t essential. If you’re dealing with chronic exhaustion or depression, now is not the time to do it all.

This will look different depending on your work and your lifestyle. For me, it meant an honest conversation with my spouse about what I needed him to take on for a season, as well as hiring a virtual assistant, someone who works remotely managing some of the busywork I don’t need to do myself, like social media management and scheduling. Honestly, it also meant adjusting my priorities for a time, learning to be OK with my home being a little messier, and spending more evenings resting instead of attending church events or going out with friends.

Don’t write off self-care as a gimmick

When a concept, life self-care, becomes popular, it’s easy to dismiss it as a trend. Personally, I’ve felt some resistance to self-care routines, viewing them as self-indulgence, but the two aren’t one and the same. I’m not suggesting a weekly pedicure is the cure for burnout, but I have personally seen how a greater devotion to the things that help me feel whole has helped me return to a place of wellness.

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I started scheduling long walks into my weeks, gave myself a bedtime, and adopted a nighttime routine that involves reading, a little indulgence in the form of facial masks and some time chatting with my partner before bed. Some weeks, I am more faithful to this routine than others. Some nights, deadlines force me to break my own rules about self-care. Still, returning to these practices regularly has helped me immensely in my rebound from burnout.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Sometimes burnout is just too much work and not enough rest, but sometimes it might be a symptom of something bigger going on. For me, it was a red flag that it was time to visit my therapist for a few maintenance visits, to talk through some stress in my life, and to explore some ideas for coping with it.

Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you need during a season of burnout. It might be help from family or it might be a visit with a therapist. It’s important to remember that you aren’t the only one who benefits from caring for your needs, your relationships and your work will, too.