From the Magazine

6 Simple Steps to Help Recover From Burnout

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In this day and age, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many to-do’s on our daily checklist, no one could blame you for getting burnt out, but luckily, help is on the way! Stress-busting expert Polly Campbell, author of How to Live an Awesome Life ($5.57, Amazon), aging solutions advocate Elizabeth White, and psychologist and chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at Northern Illinois University, Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D., share four simple solutions to quash stress and invite calm in a flash. 

1. Recognize That You’re Doing a Lot 

The first step to recovering from burnout is astonishingly simple, “Polly Campbell, Simply Said” podcast host Campbell says. “Accept that what you’re feeling is real,” she urges. 

To underscore this point, make a list of what you’ve accomplished over the past few weeks. “Whether you’re caring for a parent or contributing to a work project, this helps you see just how much you do,” she says. “That’s so important, because burnout is typically marked by a sense that we’re not accomplishing anything of note. Acknowledging the meaningful things you’re putting out into the world boosts your optimism.”

2. Make Your Day Easier

“When I feel overwhelmed, I immediately simplify my daily choices,” shares Campbell. “Putting minor decisions on autopilot frees up mental space so I can start to relax.” 

For example, instead of deliberating over menus, order your usual drink in a coffee shop or salad at lunch. That way, you don’t have to think about it. “Streamlining your day like this helps declutter your mind so you can begin to reset.”

3. Connect With Pals

Burnout often makes us withdraw from social engagements, but doing so short-circuits one of the best antidotes to stress: personal connections. “My sanity, my touchstone, is my friends,” declares 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal ($14.69, Amazon) author White. “We carpool to the laundromat, help clean each others’ apartments, and schedule walks.” 

4. Find Your Feel-Good

A little “self-care hygiene” will keep you from feeling mentally and emotionally drained, assures Degges-White, Ph.D. “Taking two to three 10-minute breaks per day to, say, listen to music or take a walk is an amazingly effective way to restore your sense of vibrancy so you can give more to the people and passions you care most about.”

5. Protect Your Spirit

Saying no to tasks that drain you may seem difficult at first, but it’s worth doing. Try eliminating extraneous obligations, such as being a member of a committee that no longer brings you joy. When asked to do something that will take more time than you have to spare, consider saying, “I’d love to help, but I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention it deserves. I hope you understand.”

Promises White, “You’ll be surprised by how often people respond positively to this gentle-yet-firm affirmation.”

6. Celebrate Your Spark 

Be on the lookout for small joys in your life, urges White. Sipped a great cup of coffee? Savor it! Spied a woodpecker? Delight in it! The accumulation of gratitude improves your entire outlook, freezing out burnout, she explains. “Maybe someone compliments you on your necklace, or you have a good catchup with a neighbor — this one positive thing can change the trajectory of your day, boosting your mood and energy.”

This story originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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