Feeling blah, frustrated or cynical about your job that you once loved? Snapping at family members or coworkers? Does every day feel like an uphill trudge and no amount of caffeine or sleep seems to help? Feeling mentally and physically exhausted, unmotivated, pessimistic, and frustrated are classic signs of burnout—which can occur from the ongoing stress of having too many demands placed on your time or attention and too few resources to deal with it. If it’s not addressed, burnout can seriously harm your health, happiness, relationships and job performance.
The good news is that you can make changes to restore the balance you need. Even better, you don’t have to completely overhaul your life—small changes can shift your outlook and your energy. When you’re stretched thin, here are a few tips to help take the pressure off, restore and reinvigorate you:
Take time to make an inventory. List all of the situations that cause you to feel stressed, depleted, anxious, worried, frustrated, and/or helpless. Rank them in order of most to least stressful–this will give you an idea of where to initially focus your efforts on making changes.
Reset your priorities. Spend quiet time figuring out what’s really important to you. It’s a great way to whittle down that overwhelming to-do list and establish a healthier work/life balance. For example, do your kids really need to be shuttled to several organized activities every weekend? Do you really need to head up one more committee? Paring things down to what’s essential—and saying “no” to all the rest– can help you carve out more unstructured, restorative activities, like exploring a nearby trail at a leisurely pace with family or friends, for example.
Tune into your true interests and skills. You may need a job that’s less demanding (or perhaps more stimulating) and that is a better match for you. For starters, explore changing positions within your company. Switching from accounting to product development, for example, might provide new stimulation to reinvigorate you.
Request support. At work, you could ask for a flexible work schedule. Or see if you can swap certain aspects of your job with a coworker. At home, make sure the family calendar reflects the division of daily chores right down to who folds the laundry so it doesn’t always fall on you!
Recharge your batteries. Make self-care a priority. Take short breaks throughout the day to just sit quietly or step outside—even just a few minutes in nature can be restorative. Make space for those activities and people that boost, rather than drain, your spirits. And get regular exercise!
Hang out with like-minded people. Sharing humor and venting frustrations with people you trust helps lighten the load when you feel overwhelmed.
Change your scenery. Feeling stuck in a rut can be de-motivating! Some ideas: Walk through a completely different neighborhood, shop at a specialty foods grocery store, or browse an unexplored section of the bookstore. Fresh input can help shift your perspective and counteract emotional exhaustion.
Learn something new. Sign up for an online or community course to improve your tech skills, learn a new language, or how to cook a new cuisine. Mastering something new can reignite your confidence–and your outlook.
Disconnect from digital devices. As much as possible, turn off your iPad, computer, and smartphone—or set a time limit for their use. Put your phone in a drawer when you get home so it’s out of sight, out of mind. Pare down your contact list by disconnecting from people you don’t know very well. And remember, not every text message has to be answered on the spot. Take a pause and postpone your response.
Unplug from work by engaging in activities. Resist the temptation to sit on the couch and snack your way through a TV series all evening. Cooking with your partner or playing a game of Scrabble with your teen, for example, can get your mind off work and increase your energy.
If, despite your efforts to make changes, you have lingering exhaustion, moodiness or a feeling of hopelessness, your burnout may be something more serious, like depression. See your doctor for an evaluation.