Give Yourself Time to Address Burnout Before You Accelerate

Many of us have “That’s not it” syndrome — In other words, we don’t know exactly what we want, but we know what to point to and say, “That’s not it.”  When in a heightened state of stress or threat, as is the case when we experience burnout, it’s very easy to identify first with what we don’t want.

If you’re experiencing a case of “That’s not it,” take a pause to get aligned with yourself, your values, your goals, your interests/passion, etc. It’s not so much that knowing what you don’t want is a bad thing; it’s just that it’s not a full picture. That’s why it’s important to pause, reflect, articulate your wants and needs, and get more feedback. However, even your ability to pause and reflect is hindered when you’re dealing with burnout. 

So, how can you participate in a mindful pause if you don’t have the resources for meaningful reflection? Well, quite simply, it may not be possible yet. But the process to be able to do so is a bit like climbing a ladder: start on solid ground, take it rung by rung, and don’t rush the process.

Three Steps to Address Burnout

To get out of burnout so you can participate in a more meaningful pause and reflection: 

  1. Shift out of exhaustion: Instead of making a major move or change without forethought or reflection, first work to shift yourself out of a state of exhaustion. Whatever environment you’re in (sans any sort of abusive situation), focus on doing the next right thing to make your current situation as healthy as possible. Exercise, adequate sleep, mindfulness practices and other well-being commitments are a great place to start. Then, consider the bigger play.
  2. Manage your mood by completing the cycle of emotions: For some of us, burnout comes with bigger mood swings than we’re used to. Usually, it at least brings strong emotions. Emily and Amelia Nagoski, authors of Burnout — which focuses on how to heal from cycles of stress — recommend processing emotions fully to aid recovery. The good news is that there are a lot of ways to do this: exercise, breathe, laugh, dance, connect with friends, etc. When you aren’t able to complete the stress cycle, it’s important to give yourself grace and come back to it later with a clearer head. 
  3. Zoom out to find meaning: Sitting down and zooming out is a great way to manage the chaos that is so often behind burnout. That requires you to let go of the minutiae for a minute. If you can’t get specific about what you want, zoom all the way out and find your “why.” What matters most for you? Is it a connection? Service? Or a mission/goal you’re hoping to achieve? Find something bigger. It will be much easier to reflect from there. 

There are many other ways to address burnout, but these three steps can get you started. For more in this topic, check out Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

Knowing Your “That’s It!”

Well-being is more than the absence of suffering; it’s also the presence of joy! Similarly, personal fulfillment is more than avoiding what you don’t want; it’s pursuing what you do want, and that requires self-reflection. At least when done correctly, self-reflection requires energy, so before taking a proper pause, make your primary objective to leave burnout behind.