Recovering From Burnout: 7 Remedies for a Tired Heart
Updated: Oct 16, 2020
This month, I ran into an obstacle that all new entrepreneurs inevitably encounter: recovering from burnout. After a busy and successful month of launching Conscious Growth Communications in September and working 15+ hour-days, I found myself completely drained by the time October rolled around. As is true for all burnouts, mine came at a HIGHLY inconvenient time. I was just beginning to get new client referrals, working on my first batch of deliverables, and feeling the pressure to execute all of my many, many ideas. No matter how hard I tried to persevere through this exhaustion, I just could not find the motivation to be the Super Woman I felt like in the previous month.
Day to day errands like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and even showering began to seem daunting. Simple things like getting dinner with friends or going to my brother’s baseball games exhausted me. And keeping up with the demands of my new business felt impossible.
This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered burnout. As a millennial, exhaustion has become an old familiar friend. To deal with the seemingly never-ending cycle of burnout in college, I picked up various coping mechanisms, some healthy, some not so much. Having a glass of wine would temporarily make the stress fade away. Blowing off all my responsibilities would temporarily make me feel less overwhelmed. Taking copious naps would temporarily turn off the chaos of my constantly running mind. After growing tired of always feeling tired, I started analyzing why I felt this way so often. I realized that the things I was doing were just short term solutions, for a long term problem.
The thing I’ve always come back to time and time again when recovering from burnout is spiritual and emotional self-care habits. No amount of wine or naps can fix my problems if my spirit is not content because everything you do stems from your heart. If my soul is tired and my mental health is suffering, I always know it's time to take a break and recharge with some of my favorite burnout remedies.
The thought of taking time off when experiencing burnout can be unnerving. In a world that places such great value on productivity, taking time for your emotional health may seem selfish. I’m here to tell you, it’s not selfish. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so you need to take care of your own wellbeing before you can be of service to others. Recognizing your unique signs, unplugging, and finding self-care remedies that work for you will help you recover from burnout faster and elongate the period between burnouts.
Identifying Signs of Burnout
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It tends to happen when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the demands of day-to-day life.
I used to view occupational burnout as an issue reserved for the workaholic, high-status, high-income professionals in high-pressure industries like finance, science, law, and medicine. But when I really started to feel the effects of burnout as an entrepreneur, I realized that it doesn’t discriminate based on your career. If you’re a teacher you can experience burnout. If you’re in the service industry you can experience burnout. And as I have learned, if you are a communications professional, you can experience burnout. Experiencing burnout is nothing to be ashamed of and you’re not alone.
A 2018 study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. Burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and typically have 13% lower confidence in their job performance. And the scariest part? Burned-out employees are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room. So not only are we feeling more overwhelmed and burned out than ever, but it’s negatively impacting our job performance, self-esteem, and overall health. Identifying the symptoms of burnout may seem straight-forward, but sometimes it can be difficult to recognize when we need to take a step back.
Common signs of burnout include:
Mental and physical exhaustion
Loss of motivation
Inability to honor commitments & obligations
Moodiness and impatience
Unhealthy eating patterns (eating too much or too little)
Feeling unappreciated, hopeless and pessimistic
Job performance inefficiency
Disturbed sleep patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
Lowered immunity and physical health problems
Unsurprisingly these symptoms are very similar to those of depression. Research shows that burnout and depression symptoms tend to cluster together and develop in tandem. If you’re depressed you’re more likely to experience burnout and vice versa. Taking care of your mental health is the first step to recovering from burnout. Burnout is not a necessary evil of being a part of the workforce, no matter how hard corporate America tries to normalize it. It is not normal to sacrifice your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing for a job. You are worthy of stability, peace, comfort, joy, and happiness.
What Causes Burnout?
When it comes to identifying underlying causes of burnout, people often point to unmanageable workloads, a perceived lack of control, an unsupportive community, and unfulfilling work as contributing factors. While I do think these things can amplify it, I think the true cause of burnout for many of us is a misconception about our value in relation to productivity.
The idea that we have to be producing at all times in order to be a valued member of society is ingrained in us implicitly and explicitly at every institutional level. Toxic productivity has somehow turned into some kind of sick competition of “who can overwork themselves the most.” Born out of capitalism, this phenomenon exists to benefit the rich and exploit the working class. We’re told that people who don’t work traditional 40 hours/week jobs are lazy, undriven moochers. The “hustle” has been glorified to an extent that forces us to neglect our physical and emotional wellbeing in the name of results.
Well, I’m tired. I am burned out. I am tired of believing my worth is rooted in my productivity. I’m tired of being expected to keep up with the state of our world while simultaneously building a career, maintaining healthy relationships, and caring for my health. I’m tired of feeling guilt and shame for the days I take off. I’m just tired.
If you’ve read this far, maybe you’re tired too. Well, I’d like to tell you that that’s okay and your feelings are valid. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and exhausted from day-to-day life. It doesn’t make you weak or ungrateful, it just makes you human.
What Happened When I Unplugged?
"Only when I . . . was forced by one too many episodes of burnout did I begin to see work as an irreplaceable part of my life, but not the whole of my life. And only then did I begin to focus on what I could uniquely do instead of trying to do everything—thus beginning to be far more effective as a worker." -Gloria Steinem, activist, politician, badass
Being connected 24/7 isn’t healthy for anyone. Because I have an online business, a large portion of my life is spent online. I used to think I was one of those people that was immune to the emotional burnout of social media, but as a highly sensitive and empathetic person, constantly seeing atrocities, injustices, and pain across my timeline is emotionally draining. Since starting my business, I’ve learned that taking a step back and unplugging from the digital world is essential for my well being.
As the owner of a start-up company, taking any time off seemed completely unfeasible at first. Between finances, marketing, social media, client relations, and administrative operations, the thought of taking a break seemed catastrophic to me. So when I failed to listen to the physical signs my body was giving me to slow down and tried to maintain my momentum, I hit a wall. After burning the candle at both ends for two months straight, my mind, body, and soul were exhausted. So, I took a step back from Conscious Growth and social media. And believe it or not, the world didn’t end.
I think it’s important to remember that “work” doesn’t have to just be profitable activities. Work can be personal development, exercise, and spiritual growth. Just because you’re not producing something that is economically valuable, it does not mean that it doesn’t have value. During this much-needed break, I’ve had the opportunity to work on other areas of my life. I was able to recharge, refocus, and redirect my energy into more healthy and fulfilling outlets. I took this time to practice a lot of self-care habits and personal development that’s allowed me to reconnect with myself and find inspiration and motivation for my personal and professional life.
I didn’t stop professionally working altogether because well, I have bills to pay, but I did take a break from the marketing aspects of Conscious Growth. And believe it or not, my business actually grew more in the past two weeks than it did in its first month. I didn’t post on social media for almost 2 weeks, however, I ended up gaining 52 followers by engaging with local accounts and people that I wanted to work with or found inspiring. I submitted my first batch of deliverables for a client and received my first official payment. I acquired two new clients that align with my values that I’m extremely excited to work with. I also came up with a new idea for Conscious Growth that I’m so excited to share with you all!
But first, here are the 7 self-care habits I practiced during my break that helped me recover from burnout:
7 Remedies for Recovering From Burnout
Writing is always my go-to habit when I need to release any emotional energy or work through roadblocks. If I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed I pick up my notebook and a pen and start writing. This type of writing is so therapeutic because it helps you organize your thoughts and name your feelings. When I’m journaling, I don’t write formal sentences, have perfect paragraph structure, or even follow a coherent flow. I just let the words pour out of my pen as they come to me. The benefits of journaling are endless and if you don’t already, try to incorporate a journaling practice into your daily routine for at least 10 minutes every day.
2. Connect to Your Spiritual Source
Spirituality is very important to me when it comes to recovering from burnout. I think it’s important to distinguish the difference between spirituality and religion here. Spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than our physical selves, while religion is an institution of faith. Religion may be a major part of your spirituality, but spirituality doesn’t require religion.
Connecting to a spiritual source can help you get in touch with your core beliefs and values. It can offer a sense of security, peace, and comfort in your life. You can connect to your spiritual source through nature, places of worship, art, books, or any other activities that you feel connect you to your spirit. Benefits of spirituality include:
Deeper connections with others
Peace with suffering, death, and the human condition
Compassion and empathy for others
Feeling of interconnectedness with the universe
Feeling of gratefulness and transcendence
Seeking happiness beyond material possessions and external validation
Finding meaning and purpose
A desire to improve humanity
For me, spirituality means watching church sermons, getting into nature, and prayer. My relationship with God gives me the strength, peace, and will to pursue a fulfilled and purpose driven life. No matter what your personal beliefs are, having some type of higher power or connecting to your spirit will help you recover from burnout and recenter yourself.
3. Get Creative
Whenever I’m feeling burned out, getting creative and turning to art is one of my favorite ways to recharge. When we’re kids, there’s a big emphasis on fun and play. As we get older, our priorities shift, and creativity is often seen as a privilege rather than a necessity. The ability to create is absolutely a privilege that can only be done properly outside of the confines of survival mode, but it is very much a necessity to our wellbeing.
Creativity allows me to communicate and express myself on my own terms. It is a form of stress-relief for me that lets my brain wander rather than be consumed by to-do lists, anxiety, and guilt. Luckily, in my chosen career field I get to exercise my creativity muscles all the time, but I also like to find time to create just for fun. I’ve always loved art, so drawing, painting, crafts, and coloring are therapeutic for me. For you, you may feel most creative on a football field or a baseball diamond. Maybe you feel creative in the recording studio. Wherever you feel the freest to express yourself and escape from the stresses of daily life, that’s where you should direct your creativity for emotional healing.
4. Spend Time with Others
As humans, we require connection. No seriously, studies show that a lack of social relationships can lead to an increased risk of death. So we’ll literally die without connection. On the flip side, quality social connections can strengthen immunity, decrease symptoms of anxiety & depression, improve self-esteem, and even lengthen our life span.
When I start to feel burnout creeping in, I tend to isolate myself and neglect my personal relationships. I cancel all of my plans with friends, bail on social engagement, and move client meetings to Zoom calls. This is not a healthy coping mechanism, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you just really need some “me-time”. While alone time is also vital to recharging, spending time with people and honoring your commitments is an impactful way to recover from burnout and build some self-discipline even when being social is the last thing you want to do. For me, this means scheduling time to spend with loved ones and making a conscious effort to surround myself with people (safely of course, because we ARE still in a global pandemic.) You can incorporate connection into your self-care routine by:
Scheduling monthly dinners, lunches, or happy hours with close friends
Planning a date night for you and your partner
Joining a new club or signing up for a class (yoga, bible study group, book club, pottery class, etc.)
Write a letter to an old friend or family member (there’s just something about snail mail that rocks)
Eating lunch in a communal space (park, food court, food market, etc.)
I know burnout makes us want to crawl in a hole and be alone until it passes, but we’re really just extending our emotional spiral. Don’t bail on that lunch with your bestie, you’ll thank yourself later.
5. Be of Service
There’s an old saying from Bengali philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore, that I always keep in mind when I’m experiencing burnout:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” -Rabindranath Tagore
When we experience burnout, our perception of service is clouded. We view it as a burden or an obligation when in reality, it’s a blessing. If you’re feeling burned out, reframe your perception of service. Think of it as a gift to be able to give to others. Inspiring and helping others is one of the fastest ways I’ve found to recover from burnout because it creates feelings of purpose, gratitude, and empathy. Some of my favorite ways to serve are:
Donating clothes and items I no longer need
Helping a family member with a task
Lending a listening ear to a friend
Giving away my spare change
Random acts of kindness
Now that being said, sometimes burnout results from giving too much to others and depleting yourself. Service is only valuable if you have the bandwidth to give. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: You can’t pour from an empty cup. If you think you have the emotional capacity to be of service to others, this tip may benefit you but, if that doesn’t feel right, take a step back and be of service to yourself so that you can recover and be of service to others in a healthier way.
6. Practice Grace
One thing that always hinders me from healing from burnout is guilt. It’s a vicious cycle: I start to feel burned out. I take a break. I feel guilty for not being economically productive. I overwork myself to make up for the lost time. I start to feel burned out.
Guilt and shame are powerful emotions that tend to control our lives if we let them. Sometimes, when I finally find the power to take a step back and recharge, the break is not relaxing or peaceful. It’s a shame spiral that paralyzes me into inaction. This completely undermines the purpose of taking a break and leads me to more frequent burnouts because I never truly recovered from the first one.
A word that has changed every area of my life is grace. Showing yourself grace means giving yourself the kindness, patience, and forgiveness you so easily extend to others. Now, whenever I feel guilty for taking a step back from work, my social life, or just life in general, I ask myself, “How would I respond to my best friend if she was in the same situation?” Would I berate her, label her as lazy and weak, and make her feel guilty for prioritizing her wellbeing? Never! So why would I do it to myself?
Showing yourself grace is the highest form of self-love in my opinion. Be kind to yourself. You deserve peace and joy too.
7. Work on a Passion Project
Passion projects are a big buzzword right now, but I still think they’re hugely underrated. Doing activities for the sole purpose of enjoyment is one of my favorite “Eff You”s to the system. A passion project is an activity that helps you connect more to yourself and what you enjoy.
Example of passion projects can be:
Starting a blog
Starting a YouTube channel
Learning a new language
My latest passion project is graphic design. I’ve always loved design and art, but I chose the content marketing route in college so I don’t consider it part of my scope of work. During my burnout break, I started dabbling in graphic design. Dabbling turned into an obsession and before I knew it, I had created over 30 designs. Most of these designs were related to growth, kindness, advocacy, and empowerment, things I’m also passionate about.
I uploaded the designs to a print site because I wanted a few for my laptop, but then I realized that maybe other people would enjoy them too. And thus, my latest business idea was born: The Conscious Growth Shop.
Yes, my very own store! By diving into my passion project, I ended up unintentionally finding something viable for my business. This was a fantastic reminder that sometimes the best ideas aren’t born out of pressure, but out of freedom.
I currently have 23 different sticker designs and have also created T-Shirts, hoodies, hats, journals, and coffee mugs. Here’s a sneak peek at one of my favorite stickers:
I’m in the process of finishing up my Shopify store and plan on launching the Conscious Growth Shop in early November. I really hope you guys enjoy my products and can find some inspiration from them! I’ll be sending a special discount code to the #ConsciousCreative community subscribers, so if you haven’t already, sign up below for the latest updates.
Your Worth Isn’t Rooted In Your Productivity
Burnout is a very real and very valid experience. No one is immune to its grip and no one is more or less deserving of feeling it. If you’re experiencing burnout, please take care of yourself and consider using some of these remedies to help you recharge. Your worth is not rooted in your productivity and you are still valuable even when you’re not producing.
If you have any questions about burnout or just need a listening ear, please feel free to reach out to me. Subscribe to the Conscious Growth newsletter to get the latest updates on my newest passion project, the Conscious Growth Shop, and more content about digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and wellness!