Whether the cause is school work, your office job, your kids, or your side hustle, we’ve all experienced some level of burnout. Some days, it feels like your mounting pile of tasks leaves you brain fried. You feel overwhelmed to the point where you feel paralyzed, and you can’t even begin to tackle the to-do list because your brain is moving a mile a minute and you don’t have the energy to slow it down.
Luckily, there are ways to deal with burnout, ranging from five-minute quick-fixes to more substantial, long-term solutions.
Five Minute Hacks
Feeling the symptoms of burnout right now but don’t have time to take a break? Here are some quick ways to make you feel less brain fried in a pinch.
- Stand up, stretch, and grab some water. While you might love to pour just one more cup of coffee to make you feel less tired, coffee actually raises your cortisol level, leaving you even more stressed. Take a second to breathe deeply and get your blood flowing with some simple stretches. Some ice water will give you a healthy reboot and will keep your fatigue caused by dehydration at bay.
- Take five minutes to try a deep breathing exercise. Deep breathing exercises help you calm your physical and mental states, bringing you back to a peaceful and level-headed mindset. There are plenty of meditations available on YouTube and apps like Insight Timer are free. With Insight Timer, you can sort what you’re looking for by time, type, female or male speaker voice, and more!
- Spend a few minutes outside. If you work from home, this is really easy to schedule into your day. If you work from the office, just say you’ll be back in a moment, you need to grab something from your car. Fresh air can do wonders to help you clear your mind and give you a wake-up call when you feel exhausted. When you go, do not bring your phone with you. This is not the time to scroll through social media! Use this time to just focus on putting one foot in front of the other, not the tasks waiting for you back in the office.
Buckle-Down and Focus Up
Sometimes deadlines are simply non-negotiable and out of your control. If you know the only way out is through, here is a helpful technique to organize your day at work productively while still maintaining your mental health.
- Write out and pair down your to-do list. Take the time to write out everything you have to do today. It can be a stream of consciousness, a list of bullet points: whatever way your mind needs to process the tasks ahead of you.
- Now examine your list. Does everything on there have to happen today, or are these self-imposed deadlines? Remove anything that does not absolutely have to happen in the next 24 hours.
- Now select the most important tasks; they need to happen first. Having an understanding of your priorities will guide you on where you need to start. As the most important tasks get checked off the list and are no longer hanging over your head, you’ll feel calmer.
- Break the big to-dos into bite-size tasks. Instead of “write 5 page report,” jot down…
- Do research for the paper,
- Write out an outline for the paper,
- Write the first page, and so on.
It’s important to start small so you can give yourself the satisfaction of completing a task more often. And smaller tasks look much more manageable than one giant to-do.
Staying organized is essential in combating chronic stress and burn out. If you spend more time planning, you won’t waste the time you would have spent spiraling and feeling directionless.
Ask for Help
As much as we hate to admit it, we can’t be superwoman all the time. It’s impossible to do it all on your own, so sometimes you have to admit that you need help.
And that’s okay!
- Ask for help at work. If you’re on a team, don’t be afraid to admit that you need some help getting your portion of the project done. Your team will be grateful that you asked for help early on, rather than delaying the project because you couldn’t hit your deadlines due to pride.
- Ask for help at home. If you have your plate full at work, you might feel like no one can help you, even when they ask what they can do on your behalf. Just because your work is the cause of your stress doesn’t mean that your friends and family can’t help you outside the office! If you have a huge presentation coming up and a friend asks what she can do, don’t be afraid to ask her to bring you leftovers, pick up the kids, or run some errands. While she can’t help with the presentation, she can help you achieve a better work life balance by taking care of some life tasks!
- Ask for a listening ear. When you’re recovering from burnout, sometimes you just need to cry and vent. Having someone to listen, hug, and affirm your feelings can be extremely cathartic. They don’t need to come up with solutions, they just need to nod and say, “That sucks.” In return, make sure you’re there for them when they need to vent, too!
Feeling Better? Time to Evaluate
The physical and emotional toll of experiencing burnout and being brain fried is not something you can just keep bouncing back from. If you always feel exhausted and every day feels like a bad day, these tips can only go so far. They’re helpful in putting out fires, but you can’t just jump from one emergency to the next.
Take a look at what causes you consistent stress.
Why does it cause you stress? Is it because…
- You don’t have enough time to get it done properly?
- You don’t enjoy the task so you procrastinate?
- You haven’t set boundaries between your work and home life?
Figure out the source of that stress and come up with a long-term action plan on how you can better handle it.
And if you just don’t see that stress ever going away? If work is the source of that stress, maybe it’s time to find a new job. Think about what will bring you long-term satisfaction and joy, and pursue it.
You deserve to live a life you love.
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.