In the first part of this series on creative burnout, we discussed prevention techniques. It's important to learn to identify situations before they lead to burnout, and put measures in place to slow down, calm down, and listen to your stress levels. Are they balanced? Do you have enough pressure to keep you moving, but not too much that you're about to crack?
In an ideal world, we would be able to deal with burnout triggers before they get out of hand. Most of us, though, will suffer burnout at some stage, no matter how much yoga and meditation we do. Occasionally life deals us every opportunity we've ever wanted in the same month.
How do you identify burnout?
The most obvious sign is tiredness. You may have a sense of being unable to overcome this tiredness simply by resting. Your body, mind, and soul feel drained. Unfairly, this seems to be the time that insomnia pays a visit.
You might start snapping at people for very little reason. You may feel that everyone wants a piece of you and you can no longer give. Sometimes this leads to an anger with yourself for putting yourself in this position, or for being unable to say "no".
Your health also points to signs of burnout. Your body usually tries to stop you, or slow you down for a few days, by making you sick. How often have you come down with a cold or flu when you're stressed?
Depression, panic/anxiety attacks, and paranoia are some of the more serious signs of burnout, and if you have reached this stage you should see your health care practitioner and arrange for some time off with some urgency.
How to help yourself recover
Ideally, you need a good vacation, a change of scenery, new sounds, smells, sights, a different temperature – but in the real world, our vacation time rarely falls into the same period that burnout hits. Try to give yourself as much of a break as you can with the resources and time you have available to you.
Your body's telling you it's time to give something up so that you can survive. Listen. Perhaps you need to give yourself permission to listen to your body. Maybe it feels too indulgent. It's not. This is your health you're dealing with.
If you’re suffering from insomnia, you’re probably dozing off just as your alarm goes off in the morning. You may find you need to reset your body’s clock over a week or two. If you work, arrange for a series of half-days off. Go to bed an hour or two later than you usually would, even if you’re tired. Sleep in for the first few mornings, and gradually realign your sleeping and waking times to fit in with your work life.
Create your own Zen space (whatever is “Zen” for you) – as large as an entire garden or as small as a pot plant holder. Create a cocoon environment with beautiful colours, textures, smells. Go for a swim and float around in the water. Allow the buoyancy of the water to hold you up. Relax your body completely. Have a massage. Use aromatherapy oils or incense. Have a hot bath or shower with candles and essential oils.
Get a good workout to keep your serotonin levels up. Have a day where you alternate mediation and relaxation with a varied workout: walking, yoga, kickboxing, dancing.
Put on your oldest dance music and move your body while you sing along. You’ll be giggling in no time, and laughter is a great stress reliever.
This article was first published on BellaOnline in January 2006. © Elsa Neal
For more help recovering from burnout try
From Burned Out to Fired Up : A Woman's Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life by Leslie Godwin