What is burnout? You know it if you feel it. The American Psychological Association defines it as a state of exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes. It can make every workday morning miserable, even ruining your Sunday afternoons with dread of the coming day.
The current economic reality has more people at risk of this condition. However, working harder in a desperate scramble to make ends meet hardly leaves time or extra money for therapy. What can you do? Here are six ways to fight burnout when you’ve tried everything.
1. Change Up Your Diet
Without a doubt, food can influence your mood. However, high stress levels can lead you to overindulge in the wrong choices, making you feel worse.
Chronic tension causes your body to release more cortisol — a hormone nature intended to help you prepare for a continued onslaught. As a result, you crave fatty foods laden with white flour, providing the handy energy and calories that would help you run from a bear.
However, upping your intake of certain nutrients increases your brain’s ability to respond to stress and ward off sorrow. For example, omega-3 fatty acids reduce your depression risk and improve cognitive function by staving off Alzheimer’s. The magnesium, zinc and selenium found in nuts and seeds benefit healthy mental function and help prevent the crushing migraines that sometimes accompany too much stress.
2. Move More at Work
Burnout impacts your ability to concentrate. You often can’t think of anything but your desire to be anywhere other than at your desk. However, a quick shot of exercise to your brain can help you power through that next task.
A recent systematic review in Transactional Sports Medicine shows as little as two minutes of exercise can significantly improve your ability to focus. Therefore, there’s no need to sit at your desk staring at figures that simply won’t balance — it will only make your job harder.
Instead, get up and go for a walk around the office or enjoy a quick stretch. You can even find apps featuring short, 5-minute workouts if you need a little direction. Who knows? Maybe your co-workers will join you.
3. Discover an Outside Passion
The Great Resignation saw workers stand up and request better conditions. Unfortunately, economic reality dictates you may not be able to leave your job before finding something else without facing dire consequences. One solution is to find joy elsewhere.
Indulging in positive hobbies helps you restore a sense of lost pleasure and fulfillment in your life. It can even help restore your sense of agency, which may be flagging if you feel your life is beyond your control. Maybe you can’t get your boss to see the wisdom of telecommuting, but you can nurture a seed to new life in your patio container garden.
Furthermore, your hobbies could become your ticket out of the rat race. You might get so good at your crocheted creations that you open a successful Etsy shop, replacing your current income by doing something you love.
4. Take a Break
Your best way to fight burnout might be to declare a temporary ceasefire. Research shows that employees who take vacation are more productive upon their return. They’re also healthier, happier and enjoy a greater work-life balance.
Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t make it easy. Unlike other countries, no law mandates employers to offer paid leave — not for vacations, childbirth or illness. As a result, millions of workers don’t get so much as a single paid sick day. If you fall into this category and can’t afford a full unpaid day without coming up short on rent, can you sneak out an hour early on a sunny Friday for some self-care?
5. Investigate Your Options
Burnout can make you feel helpless — as if you’re trapped in a life you didn’t choose or want. However, chances are you do have options. Instead of drowning in your sorrows this coming weekend, consider investigating what you can do to change your situation.
For example, suppose soaring housing costs have you scraping by month after weary month despite working multiple jobs. Do you have any choices other than a pricey apartment? Does someone you know have property you could build a tiny home on as an accessory dwelling unit or do you know a farmer who might be willing to rent a piece of their land? If nothing else, is there anyone in a similar situation who might want to share rent?
6. Practice Cognitive Reframing
Maybe you can’t afford the time or money for a therapist, but you can still use cognitive behavioral techniques to reframe the negative thoughts fueling your burnout.
Start by becoming mindful of your thoughts. It helps to sit in meditation for a few minutes, letting ideas flow without judging them. You could even imagine a neutral third party writing down your thoughts.
Try challenging negative ideas by preceding them with the words, “I am having the thought that….” If you catch yourself thinking, “I’m stuck in a dead-end job,” rephrase it as, “I’m having the thought that I’m stuck in a dead-end job.” Restating it this way allows you to challenge the concept. Are you genuinely stuck? What actions could you take today to find a position that better suits you?
Try Different Ways to Recover from Burnout
Burnout is at an all-time high and has gotten worse since the pandemic. Soaring inflation has more people struggling to keep pace.
However, when you’ve tried everything, you can take control with one of these six ways to fight burnout. It’s your life — do what you can to take charge and regain your sense of well-being.