Exhausted: Burnout and Mindfulness
I was working full-time in an inpatient psychiatric facility, finishing up a master’s degree, and doing a part-time counseling internship. I was always exhausted (physically and mentally). I could never remember if I had eaten that day or not and I felt trapped.
I was 26 and completely burnt out.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress (Psychology Today). Burnout at work creeps in when we:
Work at jobs where we don’t feel supported
Work long hours (even on days off/after hours)
Have poor work-life balance
Feel out of control or powerless at work
Work towards goals we don’t agree with
And burnout is real, ya’ll. Deloitte conducted a survey where 77% of the folks reported experiencing burnout at their current jobs. 64% said that they frequently felt stressed or frustrated at their current job. Further, statistics show that many Americans are more stressed now than we have been in the past two years (APA).
How do you know you’re burnt out (or heading towards it)?
Signs of Burnout:
You feel exhausted before the day even gets started
You’re having difficulty caring about the work that you do
Trying to focus takes A LOT of effort
Body aches (remember, mind and body are connected!)
Feeling helpless, trapped, and/or unmotivated
You’ve started taking a bunch of time off work
Isolating and withdrawing from others and responsibilities
The thing about burnout is that it’s insidious. We don’t notice the daily events and tasks that add up to our becoming burnt out because we’re stressed about the future/past. But what if we took a mindful approach to burnout and job-related stress?
Mindfulness and Burnout
Over the past few years, mindfulness has really become popular. Mindfulness includes practices that bring our focus and attention to the present moment. Mindfulness practices can help lessen stress and anxiety which can help increase job satisfaction (Bullock, 2017).
These practices can also help bring awareness to our present feelings, build self-awareness, and help us remain calm. All of this adds up to recipe for stress-relief and burnout prevention.
Here are some quick mindfulness practices to add to your day that may help manage and prevent symptoms of burnout:
Body Scan: Take a moment to scan parts of your body, noticing where you may feel tension, checking in with temperature differences, and feeling the sensation of breath moving throughout your body. When practiced, body scan can help us become more aware of when we are feeling stress in the body so that we can address it. Here is a 5-minute body scan to get you started.
Schedule Self Check-Ins: Even with a busy schedule, make 5 minutes to ask yourself check-in questions. Checking in can help you bring your focus to your present feelings that are telling you, “We need to slow down!” Choose some check-in questions from this list that work for you and check-in at least 3 times per day.
Mindfulness Meditation: Meditation can help you bring awareness to your body and emotions and pulls focus away from stress and anxiety. The best thing about it is there are tons of meditations on wellness apps as well as on free video sites. Here is a 10 minute meditation for Self-Soothing from Calm.
1 Minute of Breath-Work: Take a minute to practice your breathing. “But Brie, I breathe all the time!” I know, but this is more intentional and encourages you to hold space for yourself. Try the 4-7-8 method for deep breathing. Place a hand over your chest or on your belly (if that’s comfortable) and inhale for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds, and exhale slowly for 8 seconds. Notice how your body feels as you do this.
The catch with mindfulness skills is that you have to practice them consistently so that they work. If you try to practice these skills as you are experiencing high stress or anxiety, they probably won’t work very well. But, if you have practiced them and figured out which skills work for you, you stand a better chance of calming anxiety/stress and preventing burnout.