A few years ago I was sitting at my computer and the screen went blurry. I squinted and it came back into focus for a few moments and it went blurry again. I got up and went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. As the water dripped into the sink, I grabbed some paper towels and dried my face. I realized something was wrong.
It wasn’t until weeks later that I understood what was happening to me. I was burned out. As a child of the 80’s we didn’t talk about feelings much in my home. It’s taken years of therapy, journaling, and reading to help me start to process my thoughts and feelings.
My symptoms were low energy, listlessness, and trouble focusing. I would show up at work with mental cement boots on and by 10am I was already too tired to do anything. This kept happening day after day until I began to put habits in place that helped me navigate out of burnout.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t very self-aware when I was younger. I’ve worked hard to dig into my past stories to help me understand my stress. It’s these habits that have helped me process my thoughts and emotions, so I can avoid burnout and make a bigger impact.
Let’s look at the tools that work well for myself and my clients:
1. Self-Gratitude Journal
Gratitude is an amazing tool. Gratitude is a great practice that can release serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is the “everything is ok” chemical that releases in your brain. Dopamine is the “get up and go” chemical that our brain releases. A self-gratitude practice helps you stay balanced when you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed and lethargic.
Most of us know the power of gratitude, but we don’t make self-gratitude a regular habit. This is hard for most of my clients. We aren’t taught how to appreciate ourselves. We are often taught to do the opposite. We focus on fixing the mistakes, which can hurt our confidence if we overdo it. Perfectionism starts to take over and nothing we do fulfills us.
If you are an introvert I would like you to start by writing three things you are grateful about yourself for and why you are grateful for them. If you are an extrovert I would like you to say these out loud and record them into your phone. The why helps you infuse it into your bones. When you do this every day for at least a week you’ll begin to notice how you are finding ways to be more present and less reactionary to what is going on around you. This will help you build confidence to do more of the things that you love.
2. Daily Dance Party
When you move your body you are increasing blood flow and blood circulation to the brain and body. This helps you process your thoughts and feelings. If you stay in one place too long your brain and body stiffen. When you dance you can see things from different angles, which will help your creativity. Your body naturally dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. You stay happier and healthier. It’s a win-win for your brain and body.
Try to set up a daily song schedule that you enjoy. When you finish your one song dance party at the end of the day. Put what song and what time you will dance tomorrow. By doing this you are more likely to dance again and build the habit.
If you like a regular routine like me then try to have the dance party at the same time every day. If you get bored then it’s important to find ways to mix it up. Try listening to different songs or try to give yourself a game to play like doing a silly dance to see if you can make yourself laugh.
3. Play with your pet
Our brains are wired to enjoy our pets. Just taking two minutes to pet your dog/cat each day can release stress and help you feel more connected. This can be a great tool when you are feeling overwhelmed at work. The hard part is making the time to do it, especially when we are stressed. Many of us tend to try to get more things done instead of taking a break.
When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed make time to play with your dog/cat/lizard/hamster. This might be in the middle of the day if you work from home or when you get home. By showing them some affection you will have an easier time processing your thoughts and feelings.
If you don’t have a pet you might need to be a little more bold. Try going for a walk and see if you can find someone walking their dog and ask if they would be willing to allow you to pet them. When I walk my dog I’m always happy to let someone else pet him. They always enjoy it and you can visually see them get an energy boost from the interaction.
4. Check in with a friend
Your support network is vital to keeping your energy high, so you can focus on your important tasks/projects. If you have a close friend that you can reach out to when you are feeling stressed out then you’ll feel connected to someone else. This helps you feel safer and more calm. Our psychological safety is important to taking positive action. Sometimes outside support can help us speak up if we need to or calm us down so we don’t act rashly.
If you are an extrovert try picking one or two days a week to check in with a friend by texting them. If you are an extrovert try calling a friend. You can make this the same friend or a different one, but try to reach out at least once a week to show your friend some love. This giving nature will help you strengthen your relationships. It will also help you deepen your friendships, so when you are struggling you can reach out to them and they will be more willing to help.
Your personality type should determine how you connect with people, so you can gain energy from the interaction. Take the Career Energy Personality Quiz and find out if you are an introvert, introvert blend, extrovert or an extrovert blend, so you can learn how to create space for yourself to do the work you love.
5. Rate Your Day
It’s important that you put yourself in the captain’s seat in your career. Too often we allow past stories and other people dictate our choices. This requires making time to process your day, so you are finding ways to learn and grow.
Try the Rate Your Day Routine. It’s a simple process that you can do at the end of the day. You ask yourself:
- What did I do well today?
- What did I learn?
- How would I rate my day on a scale of 1-10?
The first two questions are common stoic philosopher questions. They help you build confidence and resilience. The last one helps you decide how you feel about your day. It’s this question that helps you put yourself back in the captain’s seat. If you are an introvert write this into your journal at the end of the day. If you are an extrovert share your answers with a family member or friend. Get the Rate Your Day Routine mini-guide right here. It's a one sheet that guides you through the process, so you can easily make your first journal entry.
You are the captain of your life. You want to decide how you feel and not let anyone else dictate your emotional state. It’s your routines that will help you grow your career, so you are continually doing more of the work that you love each week.
Have you struggled with burnout? What habit has helped you process your thoughts and emotions, so you can be aware and take care of yourself before you hit a wall.
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash.