5 Ways to Prevent the Burnout From Destroying You
It’s harder than it sounds
Have you ever wanted to make a deadline so badly that you sacrificed your sanity to do it? Every writer’s been there. Heck, I was there the other month. I spent the whole month editing and revising my manuscript just so I could submit the first 10,000 words to a publication.
A few things happened as a result:
- I met my deadline.
- I didn’t feel like I’d actually edited my manuscript all that well thanks to all the rushing and lack of breaks. I basically just settled for good enough.
- It was rejected, but that’s unfortunately just how it goes in the writing world.
- I lost my mind, but not ’cause of the rejection. No, all credit goes to the burnout.
Writing for a month straight is easy thanks to the daily writing habit that I’ve built up. But editing for the same amount of time? That broke me in ways I wasn’t ready for.
I spent a whole month scrutinizing every line, every paragraph I’d written in a 300-page book. That didn’t just hurt my mental state, it essentially swapped it out for someone else’s. Someone far more cranky and cynical.
It’s Called Burnout and It Sucks
I’m sure everyone’s heard of burnout by now, but hearing about it and experiencing it are two totally different things. Burnout is the anxious, stressed-out state you arrive at when you spend too much time trying to be perfect.
When you burn out, you enter a state of stress and cynicism that leaves you exhausted. It takes everything you love about what you do and turns them into negatives. It makes you believe that you’re nothing more than a fraud or an imposter.
The trickiest thing about burnout is that it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a sudden shift in the way you think. It’s gradual and quiet. You won’t know you’re experiencing it until it’s too late.
So how do you combat it? There are quite a few ways to answer that.
1. Do Anything Else
Burnout is draining because it occurs after thinking about nothing but work for way too long. That kind of mindset might seem productive, but it gets toxic real fast.
That’s why breaks are so important. The whole reason behind their name is that they break up your schedule so that you don’t work for like 9 hours straight and drive yourself insane.
Unfortunately, a person on the verge of burning out doesn’t believe in breaks. They don’t think they can afford them or deserve them. Breaks become optional when in reality, they’re necessary. If you believe otherwise, you’ll probably end up in the hospital sooner or later.
If you’re not confident about taking breaks, then just make them short. You can easily take a five minute break every twenty-five minutes or so, which is part of the Pomodoro Method. Look into different ways of managing your time, because I guarantee that people have already outlined a method that works for you.
2. Get More Sleep
When I was burnt out of my mind, I couldn’t wait for bed every night. Not that sleep was ever great. I woke up at 3:00 AM plenty of times that month.
The worst part was that I’d still be somewhat tired when I woke up, but it never stopped me from hopping onto my laptop first thing in the morning.
If you can manage your sleep schedule better than I did, it’ll help a lot with burnout. Most people don’t let themselves sleep because they’d rather work until it’s done. Don’t do that. Rest whenever you’re tired, or you’ll just become cranky. You don’t do good work when you’re cranky and exhausted, trust me.
Get plenty of sleep so that you can wake up refreshed the next day. And try not to work first thing in the morning. Stretch, read, meditate, or just do whatever will get you all jazzed up for the day instead.
And the best part? If you’re still tired from working in the middle of the day, take a nap. As long as you keep naps to about thirty minutes, they can actually help regain concentration and reduce anxiety. But any longer than that and you’re just going to bed, so be careful.
3. Get Some Exercise
Working tends to mean sitting at a desk all day for some people. It certainly does for me. That’s why I’ve started working out in addition to cycling in my spare time. I needed a fun activity that would get my legs moving and the blood pumping.
Exercise doesn’t just grow muscles, it’s also great for mental health. It tends to have the following benefits:
- Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Makes people more energetic.
- Boosts positivity.
- Improves memory.
Basically, exercise is like magic. There’s a reason why so many people do it consistently. You don’t even have to do a full-on workout to reap the benefits. Just going for a walk, doing squats, push-ups or whatever you choose to do is enough as long as you do it consistently.
Doctors recommend at least ten minutes of exercise a day, which will go by in a flash. You’ll eventually want to surpass that goal after a few days of hitting it consistently. Instead of exercising to stay active, you’ll exercise because you like doing it.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Everyone thinks they know what meditating is, but it’s both simpler and more complex than you think. In this case, mindful meditation can help your frazzled mind make sense of all the stress it’s under.
Mindfulness means being exactly where you are without judgment. It can honestly be done at any time, anywhere. Just sit and observe your thoughts go by without latching on to any of them.
Mindful meditation can be done using breathing techniques, listening to audio, or just by sitting still and staring at a wall or something. It’s easy to do and it has a whole lot of benefits. Mainly, it’ll improve your focus and your mental state.
Meditation can last as little as five minutes, which makes it the perfect way to take a break from work. Just sit, try some breathing exercises, and watch as you let go of the anxiety clinging to you.
5. Remember Where the Pressure Comes From
Burnout is like Imposter Syndrome’s gross relative that tags along wherever they go. If you encounter one of them, the other isn’t too far behind.
Imagine having to write a single chapter of a book over and over again. You’re always making small adjustments to push it toward the “perfect” version of itself.
You start to realize that editing the chapter into oblivion might be making it worse. Now not only are you tired from editing the chapter, but you also think you’re a fraud for letting it get that bad.
The thing about that entire situation is that all of the criticism is coming from you. Your inner critic is telling you that you suck before you can even ask anyone else. It’s a trap that we all find ourselves in, sooner or later.
You need to remember that no one will trash your work as much as you. Don’t tire yourself out chasing perfection, because you’ll drive yourself insane long before reaching it.
Burnout is a terrifying beast. It’ll stalk you until you give it a chance to pounce. It’s your duty to prevent it from getting that far. So take care of yourself and your mental health. You never know what will be the last straw if you don’t.
Kesten E. Harris is an author with four books and counting under his name. When he's not publishing those, he's writing self improvement articles.