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Beating Burnout

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In ordinary times, we Bobcats can feel stressed by the time December rolls around. But 2020 has most definitely not been an ordinary time. Because of COVID-19, we’ve been trapped in our homes. We’ve been taking care of family members who’ve fallen ill. A lot of us have been looking for new jobs and juggling totally unexpected childcare situations. And on top of that, we’re also cramming for finals.

This year, we’re not just stressed. Many of us are completely burned out.

What is burnout?

Burnout is what happens when you’ve been feeling stressed for so long that you forget what it feels like not to be stressed.

When you’re suffering from burnout, you feel like you have nothing left to give. You can have trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping and headaches. Instead of feeling like you have too much to do, you may feel like you simply can’t get anything done. And more than that, you may feel like you don’t want to get any of it done. When you’re burned out, suddenly you no longer care about the things you’ve been putting so much effort into.

How to Un-Burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, so you can’t change it instantly either. But by being aware of what you’re feeling and building new habits into your routine little by little, you can make a real difference.

Here are a few things you can do to reconnect with your life:

Do What You Can to Establish Boundaries

Among the many problems that came with 2020, one big one is that there are no boundaries anymore. Instead of work, school and your kids all being separate parts of your life, now they’re all pushed together because you’re taking your online classes at the same kitchen table where your kids are taking their online classes. Instead of focusing on work when we’re at work and school when we’re at school, we end up worrying about everything – including getting sick – all the time.

You can’t just wave a magic want and get your boundaries back.

But you can try small steps to take back a little control.

One step is to find your own space where you can focus on your coursework or your job. It doesn’t have to be big or private. It could just be a particular spot on the couch. But knowing that it’s yours will help you focus.

It can also help to set up a schedule of the time you’re going to dedicate to certain tasks, and after you’ve completed that time, move on and try not to worry about that task until the next time it appears on your schedule.

Sleep, Exercise and Mini-Meditations

You can also help ease mental burnout by treating your body better. Even just a bit of exercise – say, a daily 10-minute walk around the block – can leave you feeling refreshed and focused. So can keeping a consistent sleep schedule

Meditation can help too.

“Meditation” can be an intimidating word, but don’t worry, you don’t have to stand on one foot or bend over backward. It’s really just about taking some time to clear and refocus your mind.

You can start with a basic breathing exercise. Simply count to four as you take a deep breath, hold it for four seconds, and then exhale for four seconds. Repeat this cycle until you feel yourself starting to relax. 

Step Offline for a Minute

As this year has gotten even more stressful, we’ve all started living online even more – either to finish class assignments, Zoom for work, read the latest news for a bit of hope or just scroll Instagram for a bit of distraction.

Either way, scratching that itch to be online can actually make us even more stressed out. Whether the news is good or bad, it starts our brains spinning. And even when we think we’re mindlessly tending our feeds, we can be seeing pictures of other peoples’ lives that make us feel worse about what we’re going through at that moment.

Instead of walking into that trap, pick a time in the evening that you want to unplug. When it comes, put your phone and laptop in a drawer for the rest of the night. 

Find Gratitude

Once burnout sets in, it can sometimes start to feel like nothing good is happening for us.

But we all have things to be grateful for. Try jotting down three things you’re grateful for every day. It might be hard at first. But after a few days, it won’t be so hard to see everything that’s going right.

Things Won’t Just Get Better; They’ll Get Much Better 

Because the truth is that no matter how overwhelming life is now, a lot of things are going right.

2020 isn’t forever. In fact, there are only a couple of weeks left of it. Things will start to get better. Vaccines will become available. Your kids’ schools will go back to a regular schedule. Employers will start hiring. You’ll be able see your friends and family again. It’s only a matter of time.

And when that day comes, you will be in a much better position. Because instead of just keeping your head above water during 2020, you dug deep, beat burnout and kept pushing your education forward.

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