With the sun beating down and the triple-digit temperatures we’ve been experiencing lately, I thought this month it would be appropriate to discuss the topic of burns.
This type of burn, however, is not caused by the sun, and unfortunately doesn’t go away after a few days. The type of burn I’m referring to is burnout.
I am getting burned out by these above-average temperatures, but instead of talking about the weather, let’s discuss burnout and what we can do about it.
What exactly is burnout? According to the academic journal Frontiers in Psychology (2019), burnout is “a psychological syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and reduced personal accomplishment.”
Although burnout is most commonly caused by prolonged or repeated stressors in the workplace, it can also happen in other environments such as the home (e.g., parenting, caretaking, relationships). Long working hours, balancing too many tasks, loss of control, conflicting goals and various work, home or relationship-related pressures are some of the main offenders contributing to burnout. I would add living and working through a pandemic to this list as well.
Some of these underlying stressors may not be entirely clear or visible to someone experiencing burnout. In fact, someone may not even realize that they are burned out. If you are feeling exhausted, cynical, or without purpose, it may be time to take an inventory of your life to help determine if you’re burned out and where it’s coming from. Once you’ve identified what’s causing your burnout, you’ll be able to focus your efforts better in combating it.
So, you’ve identified you’re burned out. Now what? Recently, I attended a conference and one of the topics discussed was self-care. I have to be honest here; I feel the term “self-care” is overused nowadays.
So, when this topic came up, I didn’t really think I’d have much to gain from this session. I was wrong. I actually picked up something that really resonated with me — something that I feel needs more attention: self-care in the form of rest.
Rest. The kind of rest I’m talking about isn’t a break or a vacation, or even going to bed earlier. This kind of rest is about doing restorative activities that help to re-energize you and those areas in your life that feel exhausted and depleted (in other words, burnout).
According to Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, there are seven key areas of rest — mental, emotional, physical, social, sensory, creative and spiritual. She has written in-depth about each of these types of rest in her book “Sacred Rest.” I will briefly define each type of rest below and how you can incorporate it into your own life.
Mental resting means quieting your mind to slow racing thoughts. This can be done through intentional resting, mindfulness, meditation, delegating and even scheduling yourself a “do-nothing” day.
Emotional resting consists of being our authentic selves instead of trying to please or put others first. Take into account your own needs and be real and open in how you interact with others.
Physical rest is done by restoring the physical body to help it function properly. This includes passive and active rest. Passive rest includes getting enough sleep while active rest includes activities such as yoga or going for a walk.
Social rest as a concept may seem counter intuitive, but instead of removing yourself from social situations, you actually put yourself into social situations with positive people. The key here is positivity. Don’t force yourself to be more social unless it’s with people who don’t demand anything from you and bring only positive energy to you. Don’t feel badly about saying no to, or removing yourself from, negative social invitations or interactions.
Sensory rest helps reduce overstimulation from our environment. We are often in a sensory overload state, using at least one of our senses at all times. Taking time to give each of our senses a break is crucial. Try blocking out blue light (or light in general) to give your eyes a break. Listen to calming music or enjoy a few minutes of complete silence to help your ears rest.
Creative rest is one you may not be familiar with or even think about as a form of rest. To rest creatively, you allow yourself to be inspired. Inspiration leads to creativity. You’ve heard the phrase “Stop and smell the roses,” right? This is an excellent example of creative rest. Stop and embrace the beauty around you, in any form.
Spiritual rest. This type of rest isn’t necessarily about being involved an organized religion, it’s more about connecting with your purpose in life. This may be a connection to a higher power, the universe, God, etc., but really it’s about feeling a sense of belonging to something greater and finding your place in it. There are many activities that can contribute to spiritual rest, including genealogy, healing and other spiritual practices, crying (this helps release emotion and can be very healing) and connecting with like-minded individuals that share the same values.
I would recommend adding these seven types of rest to your burnout tool kit. You don’t have to do all seven at once; try incorporating a couple of new practices into areas of your life that may need rest. From there, you can begin to add more and more restful practices into your life and be on your way to overcoming burnout.