“Just take the day” is not always enough.
These last few weeks have been incredibly difficult for me. As much as I tried to focus on my business, I just couldn’t sit down and work. My mind was in the clouds, and in general, I felt overwhelmed.
Around the internet, you find tips on how to prevent burnout and recover from being “too productive,” but most of them say the exact same thing: just take a break.
However, resting for one day or two is not always enough. I spent the entire week doing just the bare minimum, I took a break from my side hustles, and I even went to a luxury resort for a weekend.
However, on Monday, I still couldn’t do anything.
So how do you give your mind the rest it needs when “just take a day” doesn’t work? Sometimes, your body does not need to sleep more or regulate what you eat but to restructure your life again. These tips helped me to put my mind in order again.
1. Completely delete your “productivity routine.”
My days comprised getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and then to my desk pretty much all day, every day. I even stopped using my phone while working to avoid distractions.
I did all of this because I see everywhere that “productive people are supposed to do the same thing every day and avoid all the distractions as possible.”
But being an entrepreneur is more than having an organized schedule and great executive skills: It requires cultivating creativity.
My work required me to do things differently, look at problems in a different way and show my audience a new perspective. And having an overly structured day was killing that creativity I need to do all of this.
Although structure can help with linear thinking, reducing distractions can be counterproductive to cultivating creativity. Creative people are actually more likely to be distracted due to a reduced filter of external stimuli. By letting in more noise, you expose your brain to more information.
So I stopped going through the schedule I had, and I started doing things at my own pace. Instead of writing every day in the mornings, I get up to organize clothes, see what is new on TV and talked to people outside my circle.
That helped me a lot to find a new perspective on things that I didn’t like before. For example, I started reading about cryptocurrencies, a topic that was a waste of time for me, and now I have another perspective.
Trying new things on my day helped me to get new topics to learn and write and start thinking differently.
2. Change your environment.
Another thing I did was completely change my environment.
If my routine was killing my creativity, being in the same place all the time was stressing me out.
There are many benefits to changing your environment. For example, a recently proven study done by the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal demonstrated that a change in environment improves memory retention.
For this, I started doing things I used to enjoy before the pandemic. For example, I went to the cinema with my friends to see a movie outside of my comfort zone, and I spent a whole day at the beach.
Another thing that helped me was starting to exercise outside again. Because of the pandemic, I was doing it in my living room in the beginning, but I ended up getting tired fast because I didn’t have any motivation.
3. Reframe the way you look at your job
Most of the causes that produce burnout in people can be summarized as the way we see our job:
Job burnout can result from various factors, like the inability to influence decisions that affect your job, unclear job expectations, extremes of activity, lack of social support, and work-life imbalance.
Basically, the way we are perceiving our work and not what we do directly.
So there is no point in trying to solve your exhaustion from your work by taking a break if you were to return to the same toxic environment on Monday.
You have to work on what is causing you to hate it.
Something that helped me solve this problem was writing everything I disliked right now about my job and why I wasn’t comfortable.
I discovered that many of the things I could solve only by changing certain habits in my life, such as “having a lot of things to do on Fridays.”
Another thing that helped me was writing my ideal working place. This helped me change things that I was doing wrong to start enjoying what I do again. For example, I felt that I was “writing by obligation,” which made me realize that I should start changing the topics that I liked to write about before.
4. Re-evaluate your priorities
Establishing priorities is necessary to complete everything that needs to be done, and it’s important because it allows you to give your attention to tasks that are important and urgent so that you can later focus on other tasks.
But if you spend all your time prioritizing your responsibilities, you probably will ignore more important things to your life, like your family, friends, personal time, etc.
The best way to determine if you’ve got your priorities straight is to take some time and think about all the things you do in your day. Something I did to know if my priorities were correct was to think if what I am doing today will help me who I want to be tomorrow.
That made me stop doing so many irrelevant things in the day to focus on what really mattered to me, and I began to have more space for myself.
5. Pay attention to your needs
Taking charge of your physical and emotional health is key to burnout recovery. Psychology today says the following about why satisfying our needs are so important:
Our well-being is closely tied to having our needs met. Obviously we’re going to be happier if we’re getting enough water, food, and sleep versus being thirsty, hungry, and tired. Plenty of research studies have shown that the same is true for our psychological needs, including needs for satisfying relationships, a sense of being good at what we do, and the freedom to act as we choose.
People who are good at identifying their needs are also more likely to have their psychological needs met — they enjoy better relationships, a greater sense of being good at what they do, and more freedom in their actions.
To know what my needs were, I started with what my physical body wanted. For example, I started with the basics like drinking more water, getting more rest, and eating things that I like.
When I was totally rested, I began to think about my psychological needs at work: I wanted to have fewer responsibilities, write what I liked, and stop investing in the short term because it gave me stress.
I think one of the things that helped me the most was changing the way I was doing certain things. And I would not have been able to realize that it was affecting me if I had not paid attention to those needs.
In an ideal world, reaching the point of burnout would mean you immediately take time off, clear your schedule, and dedicate your days to rest and meditate.
But most people simply can’t do that.
If you have bills to pay, family, and goals, quitting may seem impossible until you have other prospects.
The good news is that there are ways to give your mind a break when even resting doesn’t work. And identifying what those factors that have your mind overwhelmed are can help you recover without having to throw everything away.
Also, don’t pressure yourself to be too productive all the time. Sometimes trying to be too structured can kill our moments of creativity.
Resetting yourself after burnout can be a lengthy process — but by choosing to address it, you’ve already taken the first step.