Every day is a bad day. You’re already exhausted before the day starts, and it’s a herculean task to get out of bed and go to work. When you do get there, you can’t muster the energy and motivation to be productive, and your coworkers are constantly grating on your nerves even when they’re not doing anything.
If you can relate to everything mentioned above, you are burned out. Stress is essential to people’s survival, but too much of it will impair your physical and mental health. Burnout happens when a person is overwhelmingly stressed all the time. When left untreated, this condition can cause changes to your body and rewire your brain in bad ways.
Work is often the root of burnout. Having no control over things that affect your job, unclear expectations, an oppressive work environment, a monotonous and chaotic routine, lack of social support, and no work-life balance—all these contribute to the gradual process of getting burned out.
Recognizing the early signs of burnout is usually the first step to preventing it. The next step is to manage and relieve the source(s) of your stress before you fall completely into the pit. Here are five self-care tips for busy working women to cope with stress and avoid burnout.
Stop and Reflect
When you’re in a burned-out state, everything seems to not make sense. You feel hopeless and numb. You feel suffocated and shackled, and you can’t see a way out of your situation. Don’t struggle aimlessly against all the negative thoughts and emotions. Stop and evaluate your situation. Ask yourself these questions:
- What am I feeling and thinking?
- Why do I feel and think this way?
- Where do these emotions and thoughts come from?
- When did I start feeling and thinking this way?
The first step to solving the problem is to admit that you have one. Because excessive and prolonged stress alters your physical and mental state, you won’t immediately notice that you’re burned out. By the time you realize it, you’re neck-deep in anxiety, fatigue, and demotivation. That’s why you should always take time to meditate and reflect on your thoughts and emotions.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, take a break, and walk around a nearby park or find a quiet place in the office where you can enjoy a cup of relaxing matcha tea or your favorite coffee. Getting away from the stressor, even for a brief time, will help clear some of your negative feelings and thoughts. That allows you to think better and feel calmer.
Get Help and Support
Burnout will push you to withdraw from everyone and everything around you. Things progressively get worse, but you won’t be able to look at the problem objectively and figure out a solution because you feel helpless and stuck in your situation.
Get help immediately after recognizing that you are stressed out and approaching burnout. In your worn-out state, you’re not in the right mind to face your problems and stresses alone. And you shouldn’t be facing them alone. What you need most during this time is understanding and comfort from those closest to you.
There’s the right time to be alone and the right time to surround yourself with people you like. You may feel unwilling at first, but encourage yourself to interact with your friends and coworkers. You’ll be surprised by how a pleasant chat or a listening ear can work wonders for your mood and thoughts.
Emotional support from family and friends helps, but it’s not always enough when the unrelenting stress has affected your physical and mental health. Seek help from your doctor and a professional therapist when things get too overwhelming for you.
Too much stress can sometimes trigger ailments in the mind and body. If your health is failing, tell your doctor so you can undergo the necessary medical examinations to diagnose underlying conditions and have them treated before it’s too late.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical well-being. Sometimes, burnout could be accompanied by more severe conditions. While the unrelenting stress may cause you to be cynical and exhausted, it isn’t normal to have suicidal thoughts constantly. See a mental health professional to understand what’s really ailing you and get yourself treated.
Address the Root of the Problem
American poet Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
If your job is the source of your stress, either quit and find a better position or change the way you think about your work. While leaving may be the quickest way to remedy a burnout, job hunting, and unemployment can usher in a different kind of stress.
There are other ways to deal with the problem:
1. Instead of quitting, take time off work. Check your company’s vacation policy to see if it’s possible to take a few days or weeks of paid leave. Removing yourself from the situation will help you rest, relax, and reflect so you can be in a better frame of mind to make decisions.
Stress at work can come from many things, but one common source of it is the lack of fulfillment you get from your job. If you can’t quit and find a more meaningful work right now, try to find value in what you’re currently doing.
2. Focus on the things you love and consider meaningful. For example, guiding and helping people may be your favorite parts of the job. Providing help and support to others can give your confidence and satisfaction a good boost.
Don’t make your job your life. If you can’t find meaning in your work, search for it somewhere else. Volunteer, travel, learn a new skill, start a new hobby, or look for a creative outlet. Work-life balance is vital to avoid stress and burnout.
3. Face your problem head-on. If your boss is constantly micromanaging you or a coworker is bullying you, going on a vacation or starting a new hobby won’t help. Try to understand why your manager or coworker is behaving that way. Communicate openly with them.
Don’t wait for your manager to check on you. Be proactive by giving updates and progress reports on your work. Your openness and enthusiasm may assuage their remaining doubts, make them consider their behavior, and let you do your job without intruding.
Staying silent won’t solve bullying. Call out your coworker’s bad behavior, and tell them how their actions impact your work. Tell them what you will do if they continue to push your boundaries and that you won’t tolerate their abuse.
It takes courage to stand up against a bully at work or other places, but being brave and fighting for yourself is the only way you can stop the abuse.
Take Care of Your Body and Mind
Burnout can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Some people use food, tobacco, alcohol, and drugs to cope with the stress, but falling into these vices will cause new problems, which may include serious medical conditions.
Combat stress and burnout by taking care of your body and mind in the following ways:
1. Eat healthy and nutritious foods. Avoid skipping meals and binge eating. Avoid eating too much sugary, salty, fatty, oily, and fast foods. Consume more green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, which contain high levels of vitamin C to boost your immune system.
If you’re craving sweets, go for fruits instead of junk food. Fruits can provide your body with essential nutrients and contain less sugar. Nuts and dried fruits (minus the sugar) are also excellent healthy snacking choices because they contain a balance of macronutrients, healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
2. Don’t neglect exercise. Get your regular dose of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Regular exercise strengthens your body and mind so you can face challenges and cope with daily stresses.
Combine exercise with going outdoors to experience amazing physical and mental benefits. Spending time in nature has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, treat fatigue, boost the immune system, alleviate pain, and potentially improve vision. Moreover, time outdoors can help you destress and combat depression and anxiety.
If you’re in a funk, being surrounded by natural elements can also enhance your energy, stimulate your creativity, and regain your focus.
3. Don’t miss out on a good night’s rest. Sleep helps restore your lost energy, clear mental clutter, fight against infections, and improve your general health.
Put Yourself First
Burnout can be treated, but the best cure for it is to prevent it. Don’t let work consume your life and make you forget about taking care of yourself. Chasing your dreams and goals can wait until you get yourself back to a healthy state once again.
It’s all right to say no once in a while and avoid taking too many things on your plate. Even the most accomplished people know that there should be a balance between work and personal life to truly achieve success and happiness.
Life can’t be all about working toward your goals all the time. You’ll soon get tired and demotivated if you don’t stop and take a breather. People need to rest and relax to restore their energy, focus, creativity, and motivation.
Most importantly, you need periods of rest to have time to reflect on the journey you’ve had so far and assess whether you’re still on the right track toward your dreams. Often, only when you look from afar will you be able to see a clear picture of everything. Perhaps, you’ve already sacrificed too much to get where you are, and now, it’s time to put yourself first.