Have you ever been so burnt out from work (or life) that just trying to feel empathy or trying to engage with others seems like a tall order?
The hamster wheel of burnout can leave us feeling stuck and weary, withdrawn, and even unable to fully function.
That’s why it’s so important to address burnout when it happens and to take preventative measures, like setting boundaries, to keep it from happening in the first place.
And I know just the person to help us do that!
Dr. Sasha Shillcutt is a doctor, professor, international speaker, author of the book Between Grit and Grace, and CEO/founder of Brave Enough.
Dr. Shillcutt’s mission is to inspire and empower women to discover their confidence, step into the arena, and be their authentic selves—all day, every day—at home and at work.
And she happens to know a thing or two about burnout too.
Having experienced the pain of a severe career and life burnout (ya know, the kind where you just want to quit everything), she’s got some great tips for those who are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted – and she’s sharing them on the podcast.
WHAT IS BURNOUT
Okay, let’s back this train up for a sec.
Before we get into some of Dr. Shillcutt’s tips for addressing burnout, we first need to understand what burnout is (and what it isn’t).
Burnout is very different from being stressed out or having anxiety or depression. Burnout is a dysfunction in your mental and physical state that has a few common symptoms:
- You depersonalize yourself and others. Translation: you lose empathy and have a difficult time caring about anything or anyone.
- You feel complete emotional exhaustion. You’re disengaged and struggling to have the energy to feel emotions.
- You’re cynical.
People experiencing burnout aren’t the stressed-out or hyper-focused people who are over engaging and over-functioning.
They’re the people who are disengaged, struggling to even smile at you in the hallway.
They’re past the frazzled stage.
Their brain is telling their body to shut down and save energy, so they crash.
They’re withdrawn from people and work. They stop doing the things they enjoy, like working out or going for walks.
They may feel numb and disengaged from their family. They may seem angry because they’re cynical, but they’re actually completely burnt out and not sure how to ask for help.
Burnout can happen as the result of taking on too much at work or too much at home. Experiencing trauma or loss can also lead to burnout.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BURNOUT
If you’re experiencing burnout, the first thing you should do, according to Dr. Shillcutt, is to spend some routine time with yourself.
Before you roll your eyes at that idea, hear me out.
If you had the flu or some other sickness, people wouldn’t think twice about you taking some time off. Experiencing burnout is just as urgent and dangerous to your health.
So make sure you spend some time alone. Your life isn’t going to suddenly get better and your to-do list isn’t going to get any shorter, but you will start to take your own wellness pulse and you’ll be able to see where you’re overcommitted, what you may need to get rid of, and how to add back in things that help you rest and bring joy.
It’s kinda like taking your vitals.
And it’s so important to do. Otherwise, burnout will keep progressing and can develop into anxiety or depression, and can affect your relationships too.
A quick note here: it’s easy to think that just taking a vacation will solve the problem, but vacation isn’t your prescription for burnout. Being around a ton of people, and constantly planning and moving isn’t what your body needs right now.
You need to have time with yourself every day (not just for the five days you’ve scheduled vacation). Having that time, even if it’s just 30 minutes a day, can really help you take care of your health.
You can’t do that scrolling through social media, running errands, or planning get-togethers.
HOW TO PREVENT BURNOUT
In addition to having that daily personal time, there are also some things we can work on now to help us prevent burnout in the first place.
Boundaries are a big one.
Everyone’s boundaries are going to look different depending on what you know tends to burn you out, and what you need.
Dr. Shillcutt shared that she loves to work and communicate with others, but it can also stress her out quickly. So she sets boundaries around email and text messages. When she closes her computer for the day, she makes sure she doesn’t start working on her phone.
If someone texts her at night and needs help with a work task, she doesn’t respond until the next workday.
She’s even moved her email app off the home screen of her phone, so she’s not tempted to check it constantly.
In the Dooley house, Matt and I have tried to create device boundaries too. We set times when we turn off our devices or we don’t have our phones in the room.
Otherwise, you can easily find yourself sautéing food or at dinner with family and trying to text at the same time and you end up not actually being present or doing either task well.
I think the goal is really to align the way you live with the priorities you would list. Of course, this is always a work in progress. We can say family time is a priority, for example, but then the device or the phone or the chimes, notifications, and emails start to leak into that time and we can easily become half-present.
Another good way to prevent burnout is learning to delegate. We often have it in our minds that we’re the only person who can do a specific task, and so we end up taking on a lot of things and can easily become overwhelmed.
And while it may be true that only you can do a certain task BEST, that doesn’t mean you SHOULD be doing it.
Try to follow the 80% rule. If you know someone else who can do a task 80% as well as you can, let them do it! 80% is good enough.
Yes, you might be able to clean your kids’ rooms and make them look spotless, but if your kid can do it 80% as well, the 20% difference doesn’t matter in the long run.
If you’re feeling stuck and weary, or you think you’re starting to experience burnout, make sure you tune in to this episode to hear more tips from Dr. Sasha Shillcutt.
- What burnout really looks like
- How burnout can affect you physically and emotionally
- The first steps to take if you’re experiencing burnout
- Ways you can prevent burnout
- How to set boundaries in your work and personal life
- Strategies for how to talk to your boss about burnout
- How to delegate tasks that “only you can do”
Once you’ve listened to the episode, let us know in the comments: what is one thing you can do today to lessen your stress or set some boundaries?
And if you want to learn more from Dr. Sasha Shillcutt, visit her at becomebraveenough.com.