You know the feeling. You are so exhausted your eyes are burning. Finding your keys is a struggle, you’ve snapped at your kids, your partner, and your best friend. Perhaps you don’t feel well and deciding what to make for dinner makes you cry. You’re burned out. What’s next?
Catch it Early
The most effective strategy to managing burnout is to avoid it all together. While that’s not likely, what you can do is learn what burnout looks like for you, so you can catch it early. I polled women who follow my blog to tell me what burnout looks like to them, and their answers were varied but also very similar. They named crying, illness, irritability, anxiety, avoidance, withdrawal, negative self-talk as indicators. The interesting thing is, those who responded all knew what burnout looked like to them. You probably do, too. The difficult part is not in the knowing, it’s in the acknowledging. As one reader put it, “We just keep our heads down and keep trudging ahead. Admitting that you’re burned out is the first step in fixing it, in my opinion.” I agree. When you feel the burn coming, see it and say it.
Put Yourself First
When I was a younger mom, I believed unequivocally that putting my kids first wasn’t just my duty, it was my calling. What I had to learn is that putting myself first meant I was putting my kids first. I had to learn to put on my own oxygen mask before I could put on theirs. You simply cannot do or be all the things if you don’t fill up your own cup. And burnout? It’s an empty cup. So take that walk, go to the gym, read that book, write that book, call your girlfriend, go on a date, say no. Put yourself on your own priority list.
Settle Your Priorities
Have you ever taken the time to sit down, put pen to paper, and write down where your priorities lie? It’s an interesting exercise in having a heart-to-heart with yourself about where you are spending your time. It’s hard to align your time with your priorities if you haven’t taken the time to outline them specifically. Knowing what’s important to you and where you want to spend your energies will make it simpler (not necessarily easier) to divvy up your time and say no to requests that don’t back up what’s important to you.
We don’t have ultimate control over our time, schedules, or energy. I am willing to wager we have more than we think we do. Taking some time to reflect on what burnout feels like to you, putting yourself first, and deciding what deserves your attention will go a long way in helping you avoid burnout the next time it comes around. And when that time comes, grant yourself grace. In the end, there isn’t a one of us who doesn’t want to do well, you included. Fill your cup back up with what works for you, and carry on.