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Understanding and combating burnout: a guide to self-care

Burnout is a serious issue that can creep up on us, often unrecognized until it significantly impacts our lives. While not a formal medical diagnosis, the World Health Organization defines burnout as characterized by feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from work, negativity or cynicism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

The impact of burnout can extend beyond work, affecting our personal lives and vice versa. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope, stressed, anxious, and more.

Taking care of yourself: the antidote to burnout

Whether you’re already experiencing burnout or just starting to feel its effects, the key to recovery is prioritizing self-care. Don’t be fooled by the overused nature of the term – self-care is essential for maintaining a happy and healthy life.

Here are 5 ways to prevent or reduce burnout (remember, seek professional help if you suspect depression or severe anxiety):

1 – Reduce your guilt
A busy life often involves caring for others, leading to guilt when prioritizing your own needs. Remember the airplane safety instructions: put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others. Taking care of yourself allows you to be a more stable, productive, and positive force in the lives of those around you. Be open with loved ones about your feelings and self-care plans; they’ll likely be supportive.

2- Identify what you can control
Dedicate even 15 minutes before bed to write down your worries. Divide a page into “Things I Can Control” and “Things I Can’t Control.” List your stressors under each heading. Next to controllable issues, write down actionable steps to address them. For uncontrollable issues, reframe your perspective or brainstorm ways to mentally manage them (e.g., talking to a friend or researching the issue). Seeing your worries on paper can clarify your thinking and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

3 – Treat yourself (deservedly!)
While a week-long Caribbean escape might not be feasible, schedule something to look forward to. Consider a relaxing spa day, a massage, a swim, or a sauna session. Disconnect from your phone and focus on slowing down.

4 – Fuel your body, fuel your mind
The connection between physical and mental health is undeniable. Aim for two liters of water daily (invest in a stylish water bottle if it helps!). Stock your pantry with healthy snacks, or try a “dry month” (setting time-bound challenges makes them less daunting). Meal prep with a focus on nutritional balance – many online resources can help you create a plan.

5 – Move your body, take breaks
Step away from your desk for 10-20 minutes for lunch, ideally getting fresh air and a walk. This can boost your afternoon productivity and allow you to process your work. Get up and stretch your legs at least hourly, and aim to elevate your heart rate daily (even 5-10 minutes of jumping jacks or jogging on the spot to great music can do wonders!).

Remember, you deserve to prioritize your well-being. By incorporating these self-care practices into your life, you’ll be more fulfilled, productive, and less susceptible to burnout. Take care of yourself – it benefits not only you, but also those around you.

Additional resources

  • The Carer Wellbeing Fund may offer grants to adult carers in Gateshead.
  • The Young Carer Wellbeing Fund is available to young carers.

About the author

Lily, a freelance writer and mental health advocate, is passionate about supporting well-being. Her volunteer experience at care homes fostered her appreciation for dedicated caregivers. When not writing, Lily enjoys reading and exploring the countryside with her dog Griffin.

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