If you’ve ever experienced burnout or have come close to it, you know that it is not a fun thing to go through. It drains you of your life force. Life coach and breathwork teacher Gwen Dittmar describes burnout as “a loss of inspiration and focus after a prolonged state of stress.”
In this day and age, we’re all susceptible to burnout. So in honor of Self-Care Awareness Month, we asked some experts to share what causes burnout, signs to look out for, and tips on how to avoid it.
Causes of burnout
Dittmar explains that typically burnout comes as a result of small traumas that happen either in your personal life or your professional life. In your personal life, it can be the birth of a child, a divorce, or the death of a loved one. In your professional life, it can be chronic stress, difficulty with coworkers or managers, the loss of a job, financial worries, or even perfectionism.
Signs of burnout
Burnout can look different for everyone depending on how they’re conditioned to process and deal with stress. Some common signs, Dittmar tells us, include feeling depressed, anxious, constantly overwhelmed, angry, sad, or confused. Excessive thinking, self-doubt, the inability to focus, and lack of inspiration are signs of burnout too. It can also manifest itself as physical symptoms such as digestive issues, headaches, insomnia, stress eating, and weight gain.
5 ways to avoid burnout
1. Set boundaries
Setting boundaries is one of the most important keys to avoiding burnout, Dittmar says. This includes both in your personal life and your work life. It’s okay and safe to say no to things that you don’t have time for or don’t want to do. You don’t have to provide an explanation or excuse either. This step alone will free up so much of your time so that you have the space and energy to do the things that are important to you.
2. Ask for help
“This is often a hard one for women as we don’t want to put others out and want to be praised as super women but getting help is crucial,” says Laura Albers, certified master wellness coach and owner of Albers Mind and Body Wellness. “To make this easier, keep in mind that people generally love to be of help and service. Asking someone to help you makes them feel valued, important, trusted, and of service.”
“Technology is so wonderful and yet is so toxic because it never stops,” Dittmar says. It’s way too easy to spend hours and hours a day just mindlessly scrolling instead of ticking things off your to-do list or using that time for self-care. One easy way you can stop burnout in its tracks is to unplug more often. All the texts, calls, and emails can wait.
4. Block off time for self-care
Once you set boundaries, enlist the help of others, and ditch your devices, you’ll have created space in your calendar self-care time. Block this time off in your schedule every single day, even if it’s just 20 minutes. Treat it with as much importance as you would any other appointment or obligation. Use the time to take a bath, treat yourself to a skin-enhancing sheet mask, read a book, or go for a nature walk. Do whatever makes you feel good inside and out.
5. Limit caffeine and drink more water
Although caffeine can give you that extra jolt of energy when you need it, it’s not very beneficial in the long term. “Caffeine is not nourishing our bodies,” says Kim Goeltom, certified master wellness coach and owner of Creating Legacy Wellness. “It can affect hormones, increase hot flashes, create an addiction to the caffeine itself while dehydrating our bodies.” This can lead to a cycle of overeating, going to bed late, and waking up sleep-deprived which is a recipe for burnout.
Instead, focus on hydrating your body with some good old H20. “When you hydrate, your organs, body, and mind can help you be in the flow of life,” Goeltom says. “You can think clearer, sleep better, and create more energy.”