After waking in a cold sweat, you go to Dr. Google searching for some advice. This waking feeling panicked isn’t new. In fact, you find yourself on the edge of tears multiple times a week. You’re afraid of the answer, but you’re feeling overwhelmed enough to finally reach out and ask me what to do when you’re feeling burned out with your life.
I want you to know, darling, that I see you. Not only are you juggling a full-time job, you’re managing the crazy busy schedules of your two kids, too. Oh, and lest we forget all the worrying about your aging parents. You’re tired all the time, going to bed after 11 PM most nights and waking to a 5 AM alarm.
And darling, I know that you are surviving on a mix of adrenaline and caffeine. When did you last eat a good meal? Because I know you’re an excellent mom. Which means you’re ensuring your kiddos (and your mom) are eating nutritious, balanced meals. Yet, if you are honest with me, you eat a lot of comfort foods and pick at your kid’s leftovers for dinner.
You secretly long for a romantic night out but can barely remember the last time you two went out alone. Now, when was the last time you had sex?
I see you, because I used to BE you. I was always rushing from here to there. Surviving from one crisis to the next. Constantly wondering if anyone else was going to notice that I was drowning in a sea of obligations.
So, what to do if you’re feeling burned out? First, darling, take a big deep slow breath. I’m guessing it’s been a long time since you allowed yourself to really breathe. In fact, take at least three deep breaths.
Now, I want you listen closely because before I give you some tips to ease the stress, I want to deliver some real truth about what to do when you’re feeling burned out.
You are going to have to make peace with the fact that it is impossible for the average human to accomplish as many things in a week as you are demanding of yourself each day. Yes, I know that you have a lot of responsibilities. Yes, I know that you deeply want more in your life. And yes, my darling, I know that you are not average, but extraordinary.
All of that said, my dear, doesn’t negate the fact that you are pushing yourself to the brink without a whit of margin. Your mental and physical health cannot sustain this pace of overwork, care-giving of others, and neglecting yourself in order to keep up with the demands on your time.
Now that I’ve said my peace about the inability for anyone to maintain the pace of demands, let’s dig into some real, concrete ways to ease the stress.
What to Do When You’re Feeling Burned Out: Six Practical Tips to Ease the Pressure
One – Do a Brain Dump
When asked what to do when you’re feeling burned out, the first thing you need to do is take a hard look at everything you’ve piled on your plate. Don’t just think about it, get it out of your head and onto paper.
My favorite method for a brain dump is to use index cards so they’re easy to organize afterwards. (You can use paper or a spreadsheet if you prefer.) Grab a pen and set a timer for five minutes. Then, write down every single thought that comes to your mind.
When the timer goes off, take a little breather. Grab a glass of water. Come back to the dozens and dozens of things you need to do and begin to organize them into logical areas of your life. (Such as errands, work, side-hustle, children, parents, household, etc.)
Two – Be Honest and Realistic with Yourself
After organizing into areas of your life, take a good look at what’s been plaguing your mind. Note anything that has a deadline, like dates to fill out the college financial aid forms for your teenager. When looking for what to do when you’re feeling burned out, it’s important to admit what’s outside your control. (Like wishing my mother-in-law had protein in her fridge instead of mostly pastries.)
Is everything here really that important? It’s critical to notice things that don’t matter, like obsessing over Instagram posts from the “it girl” from high school. Where are you letting fear of missing out get in the way? Where are you judging yourself too harshly? What do you not really even want to do?
Ease up on yourself, ok, darling?
Buried within the mountains of worries outside your control, things that don’t matter, and unrealistic expectations are real gems. You’ll probably have traces of your big dreams and goals, scattered like pieces of confetti throughout those must dos and have tos. Set those aside in another place for later.
Right now, we’re all about triaging you so that you aren’t in tears every Thursday night.
Three – Delete, Delete, Delete
Now that you’ve really looked at what’s been pushing you to the edge of your grasp on sanity, you need to just let some of that shit go. I say this with love, sugarplum.
Can you skip that family reunion? Do you really need to make Pinterest enviable custom invitations to your daughter’s birthday party? Do you really need to go to your co-worker’s BBQ? Can you simply decide not to wallpaper the bathroom or paint your closet? (Hello, unrealistic expectations! Hello events you don’t want to attend!) Opt out of these things!
Are there tasks you’ve been putting off for weeks and months? Do you really want to do them? Are they on your list simply because you think you “should” do them? Decide not to do them and delete those, too.
Yes, this also means that there will be some things that sound enticing that you need to just say no to. Darling, you are finite resource and you can’t do it all. Your sanity is worth more than that. Delete even more off your list.
Bonus points for tearing up those cards! Doesn’t it feel good to knock some things off your list by choosing not to do them?
Four – Defer Some things
Remember those traces of your big goals and dreams? You’re so focused on survival that you don’t have a smidge of energy for them right this moment. So, rather than adding it to the list each week, and then feeling frustrated because you never find the time to work on those goals, defer it.
Not forever. Just for a little while. I like to choose dates like winter solstice or first day of fall. Things that are on my calendar, but aren’t big holidays like Christmas.
Deferring is not the same as procrastination. Rather, deferring allows you to better manage your time and the expectations you put on yourself.
The mind is a powerful thing. When wondering what to do when you’re feeling burned out with your life, deciding a future date to begin a project eases the stress. Your mind (and heart) will know that you aren’t ignoring your desires, you’re planning for them.
Five – Allow Others to Help
I’m the first the admit that there are lots of things I think I do the best. Like load the dishwasher and fold the towels just so. Yet, there are times JB does the dishes or folds some laundry.
You have got to be willing to let others help you, even if they don’t do things exactly the way you do. Your mother-in-law can bathe the kids when she visits. Allow your oldest child to make dinner once a week.(It helps you and teaches him a great life skill.) That amazing husband of yours can do the grocery shopping, even if he brings home Cheetos or other things you wouldn’t buy. Allow loved ones to feel useful.
When you feel overwhelmed, delegation is your ally!
Be creative! You may not be able to delegate stuff at work, for example, but are there are single tasks you loathe but a co-worker loves? Talk to your manager about options for swapping out duties.
Hiring someone to help can be a great stress reliever, especially when you’re feeling burned out. Hire someone to clean the house or mow the lawn. Hire someone to cook for you (also known as your supermarket deli).
You can also get support by hiring a coach or therapist. Their role is to be of service to you. To help you find ways to let go of the stresses of daily living. They can help guide you towards solid ideas and solutions to manage your life differently.
The hardest thing about asking for help is admitting you need help. Well, that and having to let go of some of the control. Darling, you deserve more than feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Six – Grab Your Calendar
Last, but not least, I want you to grab your calendar. When you want to know what to do when you’re feeling burned out, it’s critical that you create real margin in your life.
I want you to schedule a mental health day within the next month. This is not a day to accomplish more on your list or go on a school field trip with your kids. You are in desperate need for some fun and rest. Go to the movies or meet a girlfriend for lunch. You can stave off always feeling burned out by resting, playing, and caring for yourself. This is part of your triage.
Now, you need to ensure that you regularly relieve the pressure by taking an hour a week to better manage your life. Block out the time on your calendar like you would any other important appointment, like doctor’s appointments. This is time for you to do a fresh brain dump, get clear on what you most desire, and remind yourself to let go of what doesn’t really matter.
It can feel impractical to set aside an hour a week just to think and plan, but the truth is you need the time to continue to combat overwhelm and burnout.
Darling, surviving from one moment to the next is no way to live. Life is more than an endless to do list. You deserve to live a daily life that feels loving and nourishing. That’s impossible to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. You deserve more than asking what to do when you’re feeling burned out with you life.
In fact, you deserve to realize those big dreams and goals of yours. When you are feeling burned out, those dreams get pushed aside. It’s time to say no to that and yes to creating a life you love.
Are you wondering what to do when you’re feeling burned out?
Do you desperately need support around your crazy-busy life?
Are you seeking practical advice? Someone to talk through potential pitfalls and solutions?
I have space for two new clients this summer. You can find details about packages and pricing here.
Drop me an email at: debra AT debrasmouse.com and we’ll schedule a call to see if we’re a good fit.
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