Burnout is that horrible state between depression and exhaustion, that seems to hit us very suddenly and linger. It’s like running into a brick wall, and it happens to all of us at some point. You work and you work, and no matter how well you do, one day – boom! Burnout. The irony of it all is, the harder we work and and better results we produce, the rougher we fall.
When we get slammed with burnout, we suddenly feel that the effort, time and skill that we put into our work are significantly disproportionate to the reward. Imagine having to work one extra hour each day for the same pay. Ok, maybe you can deal with it for a while. How about two extra hours? How about working for free for a while? Maybe throw a few daily insults in there as well? At what point will you stop and say “To hell with it all. It’s simply not worth it. I’m walking away.”
That’s how every person experiencing burnout feels. The worst part is, most of the time we can’t actually walk away from it all. We have jobs and responsibilities, so we feel trapped, enslaved.
However, there IS a way to get out of this rut.
The biggest problem with burnout is that it’s self-feeding. We work too hard, and feel underpaid, unappreciated, used even. So we force ourselves to work even harder, thinking that increasing the quality and quantity of what we produce must change things for the better. But we’re exhausted. As we work more, we exhaust ourselves further, and with every new push of effort we get slammed with even more negative energy, as we’re still not getting the reward that we ultimately seek.
It’s quicksand. You need to get out, and you CAN, without quitting your job.
Here’re eight ways to deal with burnout that worked for me
Full disclosure, I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist. I’m just a human being dealing with the stress of 2020, and these are the things that helped me get out of my burnout.
The first and the most effective step in dealing with burnout is also the most difficult one.
1. Force yourself to stop working
I know, I know, I said without losing your job. “Stop working” doesn’t mean quit your job and go live under a bridge. What I mean is, analyze your work day, and cast out every single item that isn’t absolutely essential. At first, you’ll hold on to all of them for dear life. “Of course I can’t skip that weekly staff meeting.” “No way can I not answer work e-mails after dinner.” “I simply can’t NOT release YouTube videos every week. My audience will freak out.” You can, and they won’t.
Decide what can stay and what can go by testing it. Sit out every other meeting, politely excusing yourself, and see if anything at all in the universe will change, other than you having an extra bit of energy. That heap of e-mails – you’re not paid to go through them after hours. Look at them in the morning, and if they compete with your actual work, bring it up with your boss and ask him/her which task they would rather have you perform. Your audience will still be there if you don’t show your face on YouTube for a month or even longer. Jesse Driftwood, who became famous by making DAILY short films of Instagram for several years in a row, just took 7 weeks off publishing anything at all on Instagram or YouTube, and nothing happened to him or his channels. He’s back in full swing, making absolutely amazing short videos with his new crew. Check him out by the way, instead of reading those e-mails.
YOU, need to actively force yourself to take time NOT to work every day. It’s harder than it sounds.
For me, I spent the last year and a half filming and producing professional art tutorials every week. Never missed a publication date. I was a on a roll. Burnout hit me as always, like a brick wall. No one particular incident occurred to cause it, I just started waking up feeling crappier and crappier every day and dragging my feet. A simple act of forcing myself to stop producing highly detailed tutorial videos every week, and instead spend more time on my art community and on my private students, changed my life instantly. And guess what, my YouTube watch-time hours and subscriber count did not come to a screeching holt. Literally, nothing changed. I just feel like I can breathe again, and my audience actually has opportunity to get personal feedback from me now.
2. Keep company of positive and happy people
This is difficult to do when you’re feeling down. We tend to hide from people all together. We don’t want to bring our friends and family down with our misery. Today, in the middle of a pandemic, it’s especially difficult because of social distancing, and because of the very obvious lack of happy people. Let’s face it, we’re all under tremendous amount of stress.
However, this step is expremely important. You NEED to find positive company and keep it. Think about all the times that a friend, a family member, or a colleague were not feeling so hot and you kept them entertained and cheered them on. Did you feel like they were dragging you down in any way? Probably not. You were probably glad to help out becasue you cared about this individual. And, if you had the opposite experience, you probably just distanced yourself.
Give people a chance. Let THEM decide if they’re up for being your positive company. It’s not up to you to make that decision for them, to spare them or otherwise. Reach out. Say hello. Start to mingle.
Now, while our strange 2020 lockdown lifestyle makes things a little bit difficult for social interaction, we do have the internet. Join a forum, or a group, or a community. Find like-minded people, who are all on the same journey. What are you into? Do you like diamond painting? Or motorcycle repair? Maybe you’re into scrapbooking or training dogs? Whatever it is, I assure you, there’s an online community out there that suits your passion or hobby. Spend at least half an hour a day there. It’s positive fuel.
In my private community TALM, we start every week with “Feel Good Monday,” where members share one thing that they are thankful for, hopeful about, or happy about that day. Some of these are very small things, like being thankful that the rain had stopped; some are larger, like celebrating a daughter’s graduation. I cannot avoid smiling and genuinely feeling good for the rest of the day after reading a whole thread of comments, all glowing with positivity. Not everyone shares, but enough people do to light up many other people’s days.
Find your light.
Laughter is the best healer. I know, it’s 2020. There’s very little to be happy about, but humor isn’t dead. If you watch tv or movies, or YouTube, make sure to watch comedy. I kid you not, you will feel a million times better if you spend at least an hour every day laughing, even if it’s at the dumbest things. The very act of laughing has healing powers.
4. Say at least one positive thing every day, and mean it
This ties in heavily with 2 and 3, but it’s more specific. Just like with my Feel Good Monday tradition, saying one positive thing about YOUR life is extremely important…