The past year has been a lot to digest and take on for all of us. The word “burnout” has been tossed around a lot in the media recently as it is not uncommon for people to report feeling helpless, exhausted, and detached from life. Burnout is a real condition that leads to severe exhaustion, both physically and mentally, and can zap feelings of joy and happiness out of your life and relationships. This month, we want to explain how you can regain a sense of balance and positivity in your life if you are experiencing burnout, plus how you can work to prevent yourself from reaching your burnout point again in the future. Here are our physiotherapy team’s top 10 tips for dealing with burnout.

1) Know the Symptoms

The first step to avoiding burnout is recognizing when you are already burnt out. Although often intertwined and confused for one another, burnout is different from stress. Burnout can be categorized as feeling exhausted, isolated, disengaged, blunted emotionally, losing motivation, and a general detachment from life. Check out the table below outlining the different symptoms of burnout vs. stress to make sure you know which you may be experiencing. This is an important first step to managing your symptoms as there can be different treatment plans and directions for dealing with stress vs. dealing with burnout. Remember that, as with most conditions, knowing the symptoms of burnout will help you catch yourself slipping into burnout territory early on and in the future as well.

Some Symptoms of StressSome Symptoms of Burnout
Feeling over-engaged and having “too much”Feeling disengaged and having “not enough”
Overreactive emotionsBlunted emotions
Feelings of urgency and hyperactivityFeelings of helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of energyLoss of motivation, ideals, and hopes

2) Stay Active

Since lack of energy and low mood are a common part of feeling burnt out, making exercise a priority is essential. We know it might be the last thing you want to be doing but staying physically active helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body. This, in turn, then helps your heart work more efficiently and provides you with more energy throughout the day. Regular exercise is also great for boosting your mood and combatting feelings of hopelessness as it provides an outlet for increasing your feelings of productivity and motivation. Instead of focusing on your negative thoughts, channel your energy into focusing on how your body is moving and feeling while exercising. This will not only help you feel more connected to your body and optimize your physical activity, but it will also give you something more productive and positive to think about.

3) Eat a Balanced Diet

What you put in your body has a huge impact on your mood and energy levels as well. Make sure you are nourishing your body properly so that you have the right amount of fuel to tackle daily tasks. Try minimizing your sugar intake that, although feel great and comforting in the moment, will quickly lead to a mood and energy crash. Avoid nicotine if you can, stay properly hydrated, drink alcohol in moderation, and reduce your caffeine intake to have more control over your mood.

4) Get Good Sleep

Not getting enough quality sleep is one of the main culprits of burnout so you want to try to get the best sleep you possibly can. Practice good sleeping habits by sticking to a schedule and avoiding caffeine and screen time before bed. Getting plenty of sleep helps combat the exhaustion of burnout and helps reduce your negative or irrational thoughts. This will help you stay calm, cool, and alert in stressful situations. Going back to tip #2, staying active and exercising regularly will also help you get a good night’s sleep so they can go hand-in-hand.

5) Ask for Help

There is no shame in asking those around you for help when you are feeling burnt out. It is an important step to feeling better again so reach out to your friends, family, and/or therapist for support or even just as a mood booster. When you’re burnt out, your problems may feel impossible to solve and it can be difficult to find the energy to help yourself. However, you have a lot more control than you may think and reaching out to others is a great first step. Even just having someone who is a good listener, not necessarily someone who will have the answers to “solve” your stressors, is huge.

6) Take Breaks

You can feel burnt out from a variety of areas in your life. Anyone who feels overworked and undervalued can experience burnout, whether it be from work, family, friends, lifestyle, or any other stressor for you. Even your personality and what you do with your free time can be contributing factors to your burnout. Whether it is work, relationships, the news, technology, or anything else that is the cause of your burnout, make sure you allow yourself breaks. Take regular work breaks throughout the day to break up tasks or go for a walk, turn off your TV, uninstall apps, or take technology breaks when you feel yourself becoming burnt out.

7) Find a Hobby

Speaking of free time and taking breaks, finding a fun hobby and getting creative is a powerful antidote when it comes to burnout. Pick an old hobby back up again or try something new to nourish your creative side. Try to pick hobbies that are not related in any way to the trigger of your burnout so that you don’t end up carrying over stress into this space. This is especially true if work is your trigger, try to find a hobby completely unrelated to work and do not try to turn your hobby into a job before assessing your needs.

8) Perform a Job Analysis

Since work is often the reason for people’s burnout, it is important to take a step back and perform a job analysis. Take note of what is clearly expected and not expected of you so that you can remind yourself what is truly important to your role and what you are unnecessarily stressing out about. Talk to your boss or coworkers if your workload is too much and find ways to deal with competing demands. There are plenty of small mood boosters you can add to your routine that will bring that much more joy into your workday. When was the last time you took some time off of work? If you can, really try to optimize your vacation or sick days because you deserve time away from work to focus on yourself.

9) Re-evaluate Your Priorities

After performing your job analysis try to reframe the way you look at work and where you get value out of life. If you want to find some value in your work, try to focus on your role in helping others and the areas of your work that you enjoy the most. Even if this is just catching up with coworkers, sometimes examining where you find value and changing your attitude can help you regain a sense of value and purpose. That being said, there is a lot of societal pressure telling you that in order to be happy you need to love what you do for work. It can be damaging to think that your work role defines you and you need to be in love with your job all the time to be happy. Sometimes work is simply a way to make money and you can find your value elsewhere.

10) Learn to Manage Stress

Although stress and burnout are different, it is common for stress to contribute to your burnout. Do you know how to properly manage your stress levels? What tactics do you have in your toolbox for managing your stress? Do you know how to recognize when you are beginning to feel stress? What are your warning signs, and do you have ways to manage them before they grow bigger? There are plenty of ways you can help keep your stress manageable and everyone will have different methods. The point is that you are prepared for stress and know how to manage it. Here at LiveWell Health & Physiotherapy, our practitioners can help you determine which tactics are best for you and we can even recommend some of your services including our massage therapy and acupuncture to help you cope.

We hope this blog helps you better understand what the signs of burnout are, how you can pull yourself out of being burnt out, and ways to prevent reaching your burnout point in the future. Remember that the past year brought new challenges to everyone’s lives and so try not to be too hard on yourself while still staying realistic with your boundaries. If you need more help identifying if you are experiencing burnout, our physiotherapy teams in Kitchener (Lancaster and Driftwood), Baden, or Waterloo are here to help you diagnose symptoms and create a treatment plan to help you get back to your normal.

Want more lifestyle advice on how to improve your overall health and wellness? Contact our Livewell Health and Physiotherapy Kitchener (Lancaster and Driftwood), Baden, or Waterloo teams to get more information and book your next appointment. You can also reach out to us by email or social media and one of our team members would be more than happy to answer any of your questions! All of our practitioners have more tips and expert guidance to help improve the overall quality of your life.