As someone who values self-improvement and growth above almost all else, I’m no stranger to burnout. Giving your all day after day can put even the most disciplined among us in a productivity rut. Burnout saps us of not only our motivation but our will. When one’s will, or that unconscious impetus towards self-actualization, becomes drained every aspect of our life is effected.
The worst part of burnout is that it can endure for weeks or even months at a time. Because I’m no stranger to feelings of lethargy brought on by mental exhaustion, I’ve developed mechanisms for keeping burnout at bay. The most effective way of tackling it is prevention, but exercise paired with relaxation can help if you’ve slipped up and fell into the burnout rut.
One of the first things to go when one is experiencing burnout is focus. The million and one tabs open in your browser that you faithfully visit around the clock are a testament to that. Procrastination is a symptom of burnout and In my life it’s always been a sign that I’ve been too consumed in my interest. When ever I find myself avoiding the things I normally love, I know that It has to do with me being mentally fatigued.
It might appear beneficial to binge watch shows on Netflix or scroll through twitter all day but something that has helped me recover from mental fatigue quicker is staying away from more stimulation. Sleeping all day has proven more effective to getting out of a rut quicker than giving my focus to something else. Sometimes you truly just need rest. Do whatever work is necessary and then get in as much sleep as you can. You’ll have more energy before you know it. Sometimes you need to miss work.
Physical activity is another way to kick start the discipline you once relied on for getting you through bouts of low motivation. The issue with getting some physical activity in is that burnout makes it really hard to do anything beyond passive activities. However, the best way out of a rut is to break whatever cycles of lethargy you’ve nestled into.
Going for a run or doing some exercise that gets your blood pumping will help to break periods of laziness. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received on “tricking” myself into working out is setting a limit. Telling myself that I will only run 1 lap or that I will only do 20 crunches often leads me to doing more than I intended. Getting started is the hardest part. And if I only do one lap or only do 20 crunches then at least I’ve done something.
The most effective way to tackle burnout is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Burnout is most often caused by enduring extended periods of prolonged stress. Managing your stress levels is one of the best ways to avoid burnout. By committing to a sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, setting boundaries between your personal and professional life, it becomes less likely that you’ll experience burnout.
It’s easy to become consumed in what we love, especially when you’re a high achiever. But just as couples who love each other dearly need some time apart from one another so too do we need time apart from our work. Hustle culture promotes this toxic idea of productivity that many of us fall prey to. We think that every moment of our day must be filled with something. Having a schedule is important, but make sure that you pencil in some time for getting away from it all.
Burnout isn’t fun. It can rip you away from the very things that give your life meaning. The longer you take to address it the longer it seems to have a grip on you. If you find yourself still excited about you career but unable to engage with your work, you may just be experiencing burn out. This period of inactivity doesn’t have to last if you commit to just a few self-care practices.
Lilith is a blogger with an emphasis in writing and reflecting upon social agendas that effect black women. When not at her computer writing she is more than likely still at her computer, programming. On the rare occasion that Lilith isn't at her laptop you can attempt to find her exploring the Chicago food scene or attending workshops in creative writing