4 Tips for Protecting Yourself To Avoid Burnout
This post is in collaboration with iHerb.
Burnout is described as chronic stress that leaves us in a state of both physical and emotional exhaustion. In my opinion, it’s what happens when we feel like we’ve lost control of what’s going on around us.
Even during the busy seasons of our lives, we can avoid burnout when we allow ourselves to feel balanced. If you can’t be in control, you can at least give yourself the illusion of control. Think about it for a second. The habits and routines we build for ourselves encourage us to feel emotionally and physically supported. We feel in control of our schedules, relationships, and responsibilities. We manage our stress in healthy ways and we run our schedules instead of letting our schedules run us. But if we’re not careful? Stress can beat us down and leave us in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion.
In my experience, honoring your time, sleep, and personal boundaries all go hand-in-hand with preventing burnout. Having routines in place helps you stay balanced and protect yourself!
1. Identify what makes you feel supported and incorporate it every single day.
When we let our schedules become overrun by other people and responsibilities, we lose control of our time. We each only have 24 hours in a day to sleep, work, take care of ourselves and our health, support our families, nurture our relationships, and whatever else is on our plates. It can be overwhelming to say the least. That’s why I think it’s important to take a few moments of everyday just to savor the things that make us feel whole.
This could be something as simple as:
- Indulging in a piece of chocolate or other treat mid-afternoon – Dark chocolate is a great choice and these bites with caramel are a perfect sweet treat.
- Taking a 20-minute walk after lunch – Stroll through a park for some fresh air!
- Making a cup of tea and reading a magazine – Recommended to me by Marina here at GenTwenty, Harney and Sons Paris tea is my go-to afternoon pick-me-up.
- Listening to a playlist of your favorite songs or a podcast – Pre-make a playlist that you can pull up at the drop of a hat.
- Eating your favorite meal – I love a savory breakfast and feel more energetic when I have one.
- Sending a handwritten note to a friend – It’s the perfect reasons to have cute stationary on hand.
- Lighting your favorite candle – Scents are tied to memories so go for something that reminds you of a happy time.
- Spritzing on your favorite perfume – If your environment smells delicious, you might as well smell nice too.
- Diffusing a calming essential oil like lavender – Lavender is known to help reduce anxiety and promote emotional wellbeing and is great, especially at night.
- Doing a mask – I use a face mask every couple of days (usually focused on hydrating like this one and this one) and a lip mask every night. Finish off with rosehip oil to lock in the moisture. Hydrated skin always makes me feel more put together.
Or it might be something that makes you feel organized like:
- Writing a to-do list or reviewing your schedule for the week – Nothing makes you feel prepared like knowing what’s on your schedule.
- Making your bed – Making your bed automatically makes your room look cleaner and can be nice to come home to.
- Watering your plants – Having plants around you can create a calming environment. Make sure to take care of your plants so they take care of you!
- Taking your vitamins – Vitamins can fill in nutritional gaps in our diets, I like taking an extra dose of Vitamin C to keep me healthy.
- Laying out your outfits for the week – Do this on Sunday so it’s one less thing you have to think about in the morning.
- Straightening up your desk – A tidy workspace is a tidy mind!
- Cleaning one room a day in your home – It’s easier to spend 15 minutes a day tidying than spending several hours on the weekend.
- Washing your sheets – Add 2-3 drops of lavender oil to a dryer sheet for great smelling laundry.
Making sure we do something small for ourselves day in and day out signals to our brains that we care about our own wellbeing. And that is a powerful feeling.
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2. Design yourself a go-to self-calming routine/ritual.
As Julie discussed in her post on creating an emergency self-care kit, bad days happen. And when they do? It’s nice to have things ready to go that help you feel clean, fed, comforted, and validated. My advice is to create a daily routine or ritual that supports your emotional health.
What makes each of us feel comforted may vary slightly but you’ll know if it’s something that works for you because you miss it when it’s not part of your day! I love taking a few minutes in the morning to sip my coffee, use under eye patches (I love keeping these in the fridge for a cooling effect), and watch a few YouTube videos. It’s calming to me and gets my brain thinking before I have to dive into work. I may not be a morning person, but those few minutes each morning help me start out the day in a fun, relaxed way.
I’m also a huge bath person and take a bath five to six times per week. This might seem excessive to some but it’s crucial for me. Usually in the evenings, I’ll put in some bubbles, bath salts (I like ones with lavender — there’s definitely a theme in my life!), and a little almond oil for soothing hydration, make myself of cup of tea (I drink 2-3 cups of this a night — it’s my absolute favorite), and turn my phone off for the hour or so I expect to be in there. I usually use this time to read or set up my computer and watch a show. This routine is part of my (almost) daily schedule and I’ve found that I’m not myself without it. A bath has come to represent time for myself. It grounds me and centers me, especially during stressful times.
Write into your schedule time for yourself every single day. Take an hour, or even half an hour, to wind down by reading a book or journaling or even watching a TV show. Whatever you end up doing, the key is that you’re using your time to focus exclusively on you (and I highly recommend putting your phone away).
3. Honor your needs.
There are things that are good for us that we don’t always want to do. Take working out for example–you pretty much always feel better after exercising. On the flip side, I bet you can relate to the feeling of wanting to just sit at home and watch Netflix instead of packing it up to go to the gym. You’ve probably spent more time bargaining with yourself saying it’s okay to skip this one day because you’ll go extra hard tomorrow. Sound familiar?
You might not want to go to the gym, but you probably need to. It’s important that we honor our long-term needs versus our of-the-moment wants. It’s especially crucial to avoid burnout to stick with our routines and take care of our health. This not only means taking our vitamins, but also doing things like going to the gym, cutting back on caffeine, and sticking to our bedtime. This definitely takes a high level of self-awareness and discipline, but if you’re checking in with yourself and practicing the fast forward method, you’ll make better decisions.
What you need and what you want are not always the same thing. You’ll find success when you learn to recognize the difference.
4. Protect your sleep.
Here at GenTwenty, it’s no secret that sleep is important to us. Sacrificing quality sleep leads to a myriad of health problems, lack of energy, and brain fog. I do my best to get eight solid hours of sleep every single night. When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m cranky. Plus, I’m 100% more likely to let my other habits slide and make poor choices. Protecting my sleep is really a no-brainer at this point.
For me, this means being in bed no later than midnight. I’ve created a nightly routine that works for me. When I stick to it, I find that I’m much happier and more motivated to reach my goals. When I’m having trouble sticking to it, I have a few fallback methods in place to help me get snoozing more quickly.
If my mind just won’t shut off, I love to diffuse some lavender oil starting about 30 minutes before bedtime. I’ll also take a melatonin pill, like this 3mg dose from Natrol, to help my body along. I’ve also recently started leaving my phone in another room. Then, I’m not tempted to reach for it when I can’t fall asleep.
Protecting yourself to avoid burnout can feel challenging, but when you protect your sleep, honor your needs, treat yourself with care, and respect your personal boundaries, it’s a little easier to maintain a level of balance that keeps us from burning out.