11 Lessons from Burnout

The one positive thing to come from going through a tough period is personal growth.

It doesn’t feel positive when you’re going through it of course, but you come out the other side realising how much you’ve learnt and the knowledge you’ve gained.

Not just about yourself, but about the world too.

Getting through Burnout alive was one of these periods of huge growth for me, and it’s only been recently that I’ve looked back and realised Wow – I’ve come a long way!

This post is all about the lessons I learnt through Burnout recovery and making it through to the other side of some challenging times.

Lesson 1: The hardest thing in the world is to do nothing – but you can learn

Have you tried doing nothing? Of course you haven’t, you’re in the middle of Burnout and it wasn’t lazing on the couch reading poetry that got you there, was it?

This was one of the hardest lessons for me but I learnt that it’s a skill, just like riding a bike or singing. At first, you’re going to be terrible, but with practise, you will get the hang of it.

And after a while you might even enjoy it too.

Lesson 2: No, you don’t need to ‘just do this one thing really quick’

This was once my most used phrase any my most common thought – I’ll just do this one thing quickly before I do this other thing…

Two hours later I’d be running around doing something completely unrelated to this one quick thing, unsure how I’d even started doing that thing in the first place.

Rushing anything leads to poor productivity and low-quality output, so slow down, do it right and then move on.

And make sure you allow yourself enough time to do something without rushing, otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for stress and failure.

Lesson 3: The number of browser tabs you have open is directly proportional to how many hours sleep you need to catch up on

This is no joke. Ask my husband – he would regularly check to see how many tabs I had open on my laptop and if it was any more than 2 or 3 I was in trouble.

There were times I had over 20 open, and they’d stay open for days or weeks, just sitting there making me exhausted every time I looked at them and thought I really need to remember X or buy Z.

If you need to remember something, write it in your notepad or on a piece of paper, don’t just leave it open on your screen for days or weeks on end – clear browser, clear mind.

Lesson 4: Your brain will try to trick you into doing work, over and over again

It takes us humans an awfully long time to learn some lessons.

See Lesson one – an object in motion prefers to stay in motion, so trying to relax and rest when you’re wound up tighter than an espresso drinking toddler it’s going to be easy to relapse.

And relapse you will – and that’s ok. It’s not easy to always remember that you can’t take on more work/responsibility when this has been your default for so long.

I made a rule for myself that I would not commit to anything without thinking it over for 24 hours first. That way, if I found myself getting overly excited about something that was going to end up draining me I had an out.

This wasn’t always easy, but it worked! And I still use it to this day to make sure I’m thinking things through and not getting swept up in the excitement and over-committing myself.

Lesson 5: You need an accountability buddy

You can’t do this on your own.

You need a partner or friend to look out for you and to call you out on your BS if you start getting ahead of yourself, thinking it’s OK to commit to X, Y or Z.

Your mind will play tricks on you (see Lesson 4) so rather than thinking it won’t happen to you, prepare for it. If you don’t, you may end up hitting rock bottom all over again, which is not where you want to be.

Lesson 6: Switching off your phone and going outside for a walk instantly improves everything

Honestly, we should all do more of this.

It does wonders for the days you’re ‘in your head’, just feeling negative or replaying something you said or did over and over.

Switch off, get around green things, and don’t come home until you’ve felt the weight lift off your shoulders.

Lesson 7: Podcasts act as a circuit breaker for your brain

Smartphones do contribute to Burnout in my opinion, but they can also be an awesome tool to help you recover.

I had a pretty bad time sleeping when I was burnt out, but listening to podcasts I loved helped me reframe my insomnia and kept me from laying awake for hours stewing over not being able to get to sleep.

Find the podcasts that make you laugh, inform you or help you in some way – there are literally thousands to choose from and you can cue them up to listen all night if needed.

But, as I found, after a short listen I was more able to drift off to sleep than if I’d just laid there thinking.

Lesson 8: Your home needs to be a sanctuary

If your home isn’t a place of rest what is?

You don’t have to spend money on fancy candles, but take the time to organise a few spots in your home just for you – maybe that means a big declutter or reshuffle of your bedroom to help you feel calmer.

Maybe it’s picking some greenery from the garden for your kitchen. Or just running yourself a bath and reading a book. Take some time and effort for you and you will reap the relaxation later.

Lesson 9: You don’t have all the answers, and you probably never will

Try not to over analyse how you got here, or replay key moments over and over in your head.

This is hard I know, but you have to let it go.

Yes, processing is helpful, wallowing is not.

Accept you mightn’t ever figure it all out, and that’s okay. Know you’ll recover and that’s all that really matters.

Lesson 10: Regret is a fools game – focus on the now

As with above, you can’t change the past by rehashing it or obsessing over your past actions.

Focus on what you can do in this moment to help you recover, and then do that.

This was so helpful to me and often took my mind off any negativity I was feeling and redirected my energy into far more positive actions.

Lesson 11: Multitasking doesn’t work

Don’t do it.

We’ve been so conditioned to feel like failures if we can’t multitask, but it’s a crock – it doesn’t actually save us time and only leads to stress, poor performance and the shortening of our attention spans.

I was so messed up by constant multitasking that I’d be forever in the middle of 10 things and not remember why I was doing any of them… and then five minutes later I’d be distracted by something else. It was exhausting!

Start one thing, and finish it. Then, and only then move on to the next thing. (I know some multitasking is unavoidable – like brushing your teeth in the shower, or reading while you eat – but other things like errands, chores or things that require concentration – single task those!)

This lesson was hard for me, but after working at it I’m far less distracted, and my attention span is a lot longer than it used to be – and it takes me far less time to do things that it used to when I was multitasking! Who would’ve thought!

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So there are my 11 lessons.

If you’re in the middle of Burnout right now, these are where you can focus your energy, along with reading my post ‘11 Ways to Recover from Burnout‘ (I have a thing for 11 it seems).

I hope they are helpful in your recovery!