Because we live in a world that is so incredibly busy and stressful, it can be easy to forget or simply not have time to take care of ourselves. In our attempt to stay on top of work and other responsibilities, we let our own happiness and well-being slide. When this happens, we can find ourselves feeling exhausted and unmotivated. Leaving this exhaustion unresolved can lead to further problems, including impacts on mental and physical health. It’s important to take a moment to recognize when we are feeling exhausted and start figuring out what to do to step out from the shadows of burnout.

Incorporate Self-Care Into Your Daily Life

One great way to help ease exhaustion is to incorporate self-care techniques into daily life. This might look like setting some time aside to explore a hobby such as a sport, crafts, photography, board games, reading, baking, hiking, and more. Self-care can include taking a hot bath, meeting up with a friend for lunch, or just sitting in bed and watching a good movie. It can look like so many things as long as you’re doing something that nurtures your physical and emotional health while keeping your mind off ruminating about your stressors. 

Meet Your Body’s Needs

Some people may overlook a crucial part of self-care, which is ensuring that you’re meeting your body’s basic needs. This means getting enough sleep (at least seven hours for adults), eating balanced meals regularly, and drinking water. This also includes getting in some kind of exercise/movement, which can be daunting for some but doesn’t have to be for long durations. This could be anything from intense cardio to gentle yoga and walks around your neighborhood, whatever makes you personally feel energized and connected. Even basic bodily needs and hygiene can be forgotten when stressors build too high tipping over to burn out. It’s always important to have a healthy body when dealing with intense mental and emotional strain. 

Take Self-Care Days

While these are great examples of what to implement in your daily life a little bit at a time, sometimes it takes more to reset from exhaustion. This is where self-care days come into play. Also known as mental health days, self-care days can be great to temporarily take a step away from stressors and reset internally. Some might consider these mental health days to be useless, with the justification that unless you’re physically ill, there’s no excuse to not be working. However, our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Being exhausted, frustrated, or unmotivated can lead to just as many setbacks in and out of the workplace as being physically unwell.

Never feel like you’re slacking off when you choose to take a day for yourself. Take these days when you can, for example on the weekends, pre-schedule a week day, or on a day when you know you don’t have to worry about any commitments or work. These days can be filled with all kinds of self-care activities, whether they are the ones mentioned earlier or just anything that will leave you refreshed. It can be difficult to set aside one day where you truly get to do what you want to without worrying about getting things done, but taking the step to set a boundary and give yourself at least one day can make all the difference.

Avoiding Burnout

When we don’t give ourselves the opportunity for self-care, we run the risk of getting burnt out. The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines burnout as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” Our bodies were not built to be able to deal with all of the stress posed by today’s society, and repeated exposure without break can lead to extreme harm to a person’s physical and mental health. Burnout manifests itself physiologically through insomnia, reduced or increased appetite, fatigue, body or headaches, poor immune function, skin irritation, and digestive issues.

Adding more self-care to your daily routine can definitely help to ease symptoms of burnout, but ultimately once it gets to that point, the best thing to do is to see how you can reduce stress in your life. This may look like talking to your employer about lessening workplace responsibilities, delegating tasks at home to others, and investigating other ways to eliminate sources of stress. Because burnout can take a heavy toll on a person’s life, it’s important to take steps to prevent it.   Plugging the holes in the dam before it bursts completely is crucial to our whole health.

Checking in on yourself allows you to avoid burnout and general exhaustion. Once you’ve checked in and realized that something is off balance, motivate yourself to implement some changes, even simple minor ones, to keep your mind and body healthy. You can use the suggestions from this article or come up with your own. In the end, you know yourself best and you know what makes you happy. Set some time aside and give yourself the chance to step away and take a break.

Photo by Anthony Tran.