If this blog post title has you scratching your head – good! Let’s talk about the concept of burnout, the signs that you may have it, and (most importantly) how to use it to create radical change in your life. This topic seems especially relevant as we all have had heightened stress, anxiety, time at home, etc. due to the pandemic; and consequently, a diminishing work-life balance.
So with that in mind, let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
- 1 What Exactly is Burnout?
- 2 How to Determine if You Have Burnout
- 3 My Experience with Burnout
- 4 Tips for Making the Best of the Burnout
What Exactly is Burnout?
Merriam-Webster defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” and the WHO takes this a step further by characterizing burnout into “three dimensions”:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
Sounds fun – right? American culture in particular encourages us to work as hard as possible, hustle whenever possible, and take as few breaks as possible lest you “fall behind”. Thus, when everyone is striving for this ideal, it’s easy to feel like you will fall behind your peers if you stop pushing yourself and choose to rest for even one day.
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell that you are approaching burnout until it smacks you in the face (like mine did)! This is why I think it’s so important to check in with yourself often, make time to rest, and find non-work-related activities that bring you joy. But, more on that later…
How to Determine if You Have Burnout
Burnout can look different for everyone, but if you’ve been experiencing the following symptoms for a noticeable amount of time, it’s likely that you may be experiencing burnout.
Here are some of the most common signs of burnout :
- Viewing your job as increasingly frustrating, stressful, and perhaps even a hopeless endeavor
- Distancing yourself from and feeling numb about your efforts
- Physical symptoms such as chronic headaches, stomachaches, and muscle pain (for instance, I get lower back pain when I take on a lot of stress)
- Emotional exhaustion that can manifest as feeling constantly drained, tired, and running on a short fuse
- Difficulty with concentrating, feelings of creativity, and accomplishing even basic tasks
- Lacking satisfaction with your achievements (in other words, nothing ever feels good enough or fulfilling)
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or further numb yourself
- Increased insomnia and restless sleep
Do any of these symptoms resonate with you? If so, it may be time to check in with yourself and make a change for the better!
My Experience with Burnout
Before we get into the tips for using burnout to inspire change, I want to share more about my experience with it this past year.
For those of you who are new to the blog, here’s a quick summary: In August 2020, I decided to leave the comfort of my relatively stable life and move out to Los Angeles in order to pursue my lifelong passion of acting. (I know, I know – so many jokes to be made about this cliché!)
Despite moving in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, this move ended up being an overall positive one that has welcomed a ton of lessons, growth, opportunity, and abundance.
However, due to the fast-paced nature of the entertainment industry out here, those increased opportunities ultimately led to me feeling out of control of my day-to-day life. Just to give you an idea of how it can work: an audition could come in with up to a week’s notice…or less than 24-hours (especially in the commercial world, which moves SUPER fast). As you can imagine, this often threw me into a state of “scrambling” and trying to rearrange my day to accommodate the audition/callback; or even avoiding making plans with friends “just in case”.
Add to this a consistent workload from my marketing business, my choice to immerse myself in acting classes for most of spring and summer 2021, and that “hustle mindset” which I alluded to earlier, and you’ve got a perfect burnout-storm brewing.
Ultimately, since the entertainment business is made of far more rejection than wins/bookings, the volume of my auditions + my marketing work + my class obligations led me to feeling a lot of the symptoms that I listed above. I found myself saying “yes” to every opportunity from a lack mindset, which led to me overworking myself without even realizing it.
I felt exhausted all the time, my emotions were all over the place, and the littlest things would mess up my mood. I was sleeping like absolute crap, and I started to feel hopeless every time I’d have auditions come in because my brain started self-sabotaging by saying “what’s the point?”
A few weeks ago, I finally had a low point that snapped me out of this zombie-like existence. On that day, all my emotions came crashing down on me at once – and I let them. This ended up being such a cathartic and freeing thing to do. I allowed myself to cry, to let out everything I was experience, to feel so completely that I was worn out by the end of it. But, after this was all said and done, guess what?
I felt immensely better.
Reaching this point of burnout was a blessing in disguise, as it inspired me to make radical change in my life and prioritize balance.
Which leads me to the most important part of this blog post: how to make the best of your burnout and incorporate changes for your highest good.
Tips for Making the Best of the Burnout
There is obviously no one-size-fits-all solution for bouncing back from burnout, but I want to share some tips that I have started incorporating (and therefore can wholeheartedly vouch for). Whichever methods you choose, don’t disregard the support system that you have right in front of you! Whether that’s family, friends, or a significant other, find your soft place to land and allow yourself to be vulnerable if you need to.
In no particular order, here are some of the things that I’m incorporating into my life to improve its quality and avoid burnout in the future:
Spending Time Outdoors
I’ve spoken previously about the importance of surrounding yourself with nature whenever possible as a grounding experience. Living in California provides me with a few different outdoor outlets (hiking, going to a park, heading to the beach), but I have found that my current favorite activity is going to my local botanical gardens. The last time I went, I had numerous hummingbird and rabbit sightings, which made my inner child very joyful.
Carving Out Time for Rest (and Not Feeling Guilty About It)
As an entrepreneur in nearly every aspect of my life, I find myself taking that hustle mindset to heart far more often than is healthy. For example, I’ve had to stop myself more than once from immediately checking my email after I wake up in the morning. Tsk tsk!
On the flip side, when I dial it back on actions such as this, I start to feel guilty that I am not “doing enough”. If you find yourself thinking that way too, confront it! If your body (including your brain) is telling you that it needs to rest, it is not lazy of you to listen to it. I saw a quote about this recently that resonated: “Instead of asking yourself, ‘why am I so lazy?’, start asking ‘why does my body need so much rest right now?'”
Rest can come in many forms, and it doesn’t have to be literal sleep. Rest could be taking 15 minutes to do some yoga, it could be 5 minutes of meditation to relaxing music, it could be cozying up with a good book for a few chapters, or it could be stepping away from the computer to take a walk outside. The possibilities are endless, as long as you are giving yourself a break from the endless “to-do” list in your head.
Improving Mental Health and Seeking Therapy
I am very thankful to live in an age where mental health awareness is increasingly talked about. I grew up in a culture and household where we didn’t really acknowledge mental health (and certainly not mental health issues), so my own journey in this regard has been a beautiful experience of learning how to give myself grace and love in hard moments.
That said: after months and months of talking about it, I finally made the decision to go back to (virtual) therapy about a month ago. So far, it has been a huge help. Simply being able to speak to an unbiased third party can do wonders for helping you zoom out on what you’re feeling and work through it productively.
Sadly, I am aware that the cost of therapy can make it unfeasible – especially during this tumultuous time. I decided to give BetterHelp a try because of their monthly billing setup and their option for financial aid. You can get a free week from BetterHelp here, or seek out other online and affordable therapy options. (Note: this post is not sponsored by BetterHelp – it has just been a positive addition to my life thus far and I wanted to share it).
If therapy isn’t a route that you’re ready to take, I highly recommend finding uplifting content that resonates with you when you’re feeling low or unsure of yourself.
We are what we consume, whether tangible or digital.
Prioritizing Time with Friends and Loved Ones
This is one that is certainly easier said than done in the world we live in today – but I still think it’s crucial.
To be clear, this tip is not suggesting that you completely put your work on the back-burner, nor only make time for play. Rather, I want to encourage you to not be so wrapped up in work that you miss out on tending to the relationships in your life.
Speaking for myself: I found that I got so wrapped up in auditions (or waiting for one to come in) that I was frequently saying no to social plans, I wasn’t keeping in touch with my family as much, and that I couldn’t quite be present on the occasions that I did venture out to spend time with my friends or my partner. My mind was still wrapped up in work.
This pandemic has reminded us starkly and painfully that time is truly precious, so I truly wish for you to prioritize making time for the important people in your life. Nothing is guaranteed, and at the end of our lives we will carry in our hearts the relationships that we cultivated – not the work that we accomplished.
Engaging Your Inner Child by Finding Channels for Creativity
This last tip has admittedly been the hardest for me to incorporate into my own life, but I think it is just as important as the others!
Growing up, I was always drawn to the arts. Specifically, I absolutely adored writing and dancing (in addition to acting). Since I truly started my “adult” life after college, I realized that these creative passions were starting to fade – much to my dismay.
Thankfully, moving out here has given me an outlet for acting, and I’ve felt more free to dance when the spirit moves me. But, my writing flow definitely suffered. Additionally, I found that my passion for acting had become tainted by constantly seeking approval – whether through auditions or classes.
Thus, I’ve feared for quite some time that I “lost” my creativity. Logically, I know that’s not true – but emotionally, the fear is still there.
Which brings me to the main point of this tip: it’s so important to find creative outlets that nurture your inner child and make your soul feel alive.
When determining what this creative outlet is for you, be sure to check in with yourself and make sure it’s not rooted in seeking approval. If it is, the joy of the activity may be tainted.
As I mentioned, my main creative pursuits are acting, dancing, and writing (which all tie into performance, honestly). So going forward, I owe it to myself to explore these passions in ways that allow me to feel free from judgment. My goal is to explore my creativity for myself – and I encourage you to do the same!
I hope that these tips prove to be helpful to you on your journey with beating burnout. I’m excited to continue finding ways to incorporate them into my own life.
P.S. At the time of writing this, my phone just chimed with a next-day audition notification. But instead of dropping everything to do it, I am going to fit it into what I already have planned for my day. 🙂
Overall, I have realized that burnout can truly be a blessing in disguise: it’s your body telling you it needs a break, a change, a course shift.
You just have to be ready to listen to it – and take action!