What to Do if You're Feeling Burnt Out

If your teams are feeling burnt out, there’s a good chance that you, as leadership and HR, are too. That’s why we are going to share some suggestions around what to do if you’re feeling burnt out. And if you aren't in HR or leadership, this is for you too. Finding a balance between work, commitments, and rest, isn’t easy, but it can help you prevent more serious fatigue down the road.

Practice restorative rest

Truly the best way to prevent and recover from burnout is rest, but not just any kind of rest. When you’re burnt out and exhausted at the end of a long day, the number one thing you probably want to do is sit on the couch and do nothing. Something to keep in mind is that using technology like tv, mindlessly scrolling on your phone, or other numbing habits used to deal with fatigue from the day isn’t actually very restorative.

This is because one of the big causes of burnout for many is the large amounts of time spent on screens. The light from devices like phones and laptops stimulates your brain to stay alert and suppresses melatonin production, which is the hormone that helps you sleep. Instead, try to do an activity that helps you come back to the present and be more mindful, like getting lost in a hobby, some gentle yoga, reading, or taking a bath. Or, if you are watching some TV, try to end it an hour before you want to go to sleep.

Spend time outside [every day]

We recognize that as we’re writing this it could be grey and raining or even snowing where you are. In general though, spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to counter long days spent inside under artificial light. Daylight helps support serotonin production, which supports a better mood. It also helps to regulate hormones that regulate your energy levels. Plus, even if it’s grey outside, spending time in nature has been shown to be incredibly rejuvenating and to reduce stress levels.

Simple tasks like getting outside every day is one of the things we have our Wellness Challenge participants do that we hear makes the biggest difference.

“The challenges were great, you covered everything that was relevant and important to me and most of my team I’m sure! It created a bonding environment as well as a motivating factor to get outside, to better ourselves, to put down our devices more often.” - Challenge participant at Happy Planet/Earth’s Own.

Eat blood sugar balancing meals

When you eat a meal that is either too high in carbohydrates or doesn’t contain enough protein, fat and fiber to slow down the release of those carbohydrates into your bloodstream, you will end up with a spike and then a dip in your blood sugar levels. By contrast, when your blood sugar is balanced, you’ll have more steady energy levels throughout the day. We go over this in depth in our virtual lunch & learns and our Wellness Challenge, but try aiming for a palm of protein, 2 thumbs of healthy fats, and half your plate a variety of veggies for fiber, at every meal.

It can be incredibly difficult to make healthier choices when you are tired and crave something quick, easy, and comforting. This is why it’s so important to plan ahead to have meals and snacks ready to go when the week gets away from you. We share some tips forMove more and choose the right form of exercise for you meal planning in this article. A blood sugar balancing meal is the difference between feeling clear-headed, productive and focused, and feeling foggy and unable to focus. 

Move more but choose the right form of exercise

Working out might be the last thing you want to do when you’re burnt out, but the research supports getting regular physical activity to improve energy levels and reduce fatigue. You don’t need to commit to long workouts either. Even short bouts of movement like walking carry a number of health benefits. There was another study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health that found that a 20 minute yoga session can improve brain function after a class.

Intense forms of exercise tend to stimulate the stress hormones in your body. With proper rest, this can give you more energy and make you more resilient to stress overall. The main issue we see in our practice is when you are already burnt out and are not resting properly, regular intensive exercise practices or prolonged exercise can actually lead to too much stress in the body and contribute to fatigue.

If you feel exhausted after you workout, have poor workout recovery and have a hard time focusing, that may be your cue to incorporate more rest days, to shorten your workouts, or to mix in different forms of more restorative movement during the week. 

Establish and commit to your boundaries

We know, this one isn’t easy. The unfortunate reality is that no one will respect your boundaries if you don’t clearly establish them yourself. Steering clear of burnout requires time offline, quality sleep, and time to recharge. Making time for these things has to be a priority over consistently answering late night emails or texts and saying yes to last minute requests. We know that there are exceptions to this but you’d be surprised what you have control over.

Some of the things that can help include:

  1. Establishing your priorities first (professional and personal)
  2. Clearly communicating expectations up front
  3. Saying no when appropriate
  4. Delegating when appropriate
  5. Actually taking time off and being “off” when you’re off
  6. Using technology or an accountability buddy when needed

For more tips on how boundaries can be set in a professional setting, we love this article in Forbes. In our experience, as you become better at setting boundaries and making those known, it also sets the tone for your teams and gives them permission to create boundaries that preserve their mental well-being and work more effectively, which of course benefits the organization.

What to do if you're feeling burnout out

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