This year my life coaching clients are talking about “burnout” more than ever before. The pandemic has been rough, a real challenge on many levels. We’ve been through a lot. Most of us realize that new habits, new behavior, and new attitudes are needed to help us get through each day. No one said it is easy to move through the changing demands of today, never mind trying to predict what the future will bring. For my life coaching clients right now, it’s more than just being tired or stretched too thin. Burnout is the feeling of complete and total exhaustion due to prolonged stress.
Here’s a sampling of what I am hearing from my life coaching clients right now:
- I’m still feeling anxious about COVID
- The problems of the world are bringing me down
- I’m exhausted and the things I used to enjoy are drudgery
- I don’t feel like me
- I used to feel happy and carefree but now feel burned out in every area of my life.
- I need to change some bad habits that have crept up during COVID
- I waste time on social media but it gives me relief from my super dull days
- I am not motivated and organized the way I used to be.
Life coaching clients put their trust in me, their coach, and in my training, experience, and expertise to help them find comfort, support, and answers. We’ve all been through the wringer and there is no quick fix for burnout, but I do have some strategies that can help you face it, figure it out, and move forward.
1. Take pride in your accomplishments
You are doing it. You are making it through. It’s been a long two years, handling COVID with its new norms, masks, loss of contact, and all the anxiety that has come with it. Whatever stress or hardship has befallen you since March 2020, as a life coach I’m giving you permission: take a moment right now to congratulate yourself on getting this far. Instead of adding to your stress and deciding to give something up or take up something new as a “resolution”, why not spend the early part of 2022 reminding yourself of everything you’ve achieved to date? Detach from work when you’re not working. Rest, relax and rejuvenate whenever you can. Stop beating yourself up for your perceived shortcomings and leave the mastery of new ventures for another time.
2. Create (or resurrect) boundaries
Creating structure, such as not checking work email or taking work phone calls after certain hours — or even turning off our phones on our days off — can be a hugely helpful practice anytime we’re stressed. Email and phone checking can be rest-killers, and right now we need that rest more than ever. When work matters are constantly on our minds, we never let our thoughts wander, which squashes creativity and the “a-ha” moments that make life worth living. We fail to appreciate beauty and we are never properly present with our loved ones. Listen to your body, follow your instincts, and stick to your boundaries when it comes to what’s really important right now.
3. Seek balance
Our resting behaviors should be different from what we do at work. If we are out all day moving and talking to people, we might need quiet and stillness on the weekends or after hours. Or, if we’re in front of a screen all day, our downtime should include screen-free walks outside and human interaction. It’s all about striking the balance that helps preserve our peace.
4. Practice presence
Instead of going through your to-do list or new year’s resolutions, which can activate your stress response or sympathetic nervous system, practice being in the present moment. List everything that touches your five senses – things you can see, feel, taste, touch, smell. The birds, traffic, smells in the air, breeze through your hair. Do this for three to five minutes. Take a deep breath. This activates the rest and digest response of your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body heal from stress.
5. Reframe it
No matter how much we practice presence, do self-care, or practice yoga or meditation, there are systemic issues that drive us into these states of burnout. Many of my life coaching clients in the Washington, DC area work on these issues for a living, so are doubly burned out. For example, some work on environmental or poverty issues, yet constantly hear the doom and gloom about climate change and increasing inequality. It’s a double whammy that can make us want to work harder, yet simultaneously feel we’re fighting a losing battle.
Remember, in order to be effective in our lives, we need to work with what we can control, and release the things we cannot. Studies show that when we look for meaning in adversity, even adversity can enrich our lives. But there is a limit to what any one person can do. So next time you feel defeated, turn the stressor around and ask, ‘How can I make this work to my advantage?’; ‘Can I find something positive in the negativity?’; ‘What can I overcome or manage in this situation?’; or, ‘What can I let go?’
6. Create new habits
When a life coaching client begins to talk about their “bad” habits, I open a discussion on who they want to be. Your habits may have become part of your identity that you accept even though you don’t like it. Changing habits begins with a life coaching conversation where we look hard at how you are now and how you want to be. By developing and practicing a new habit, you are taking steps to eliminate the old one.
One of the biggest causes of burnout? Not living a life of alignment! When you’re living out of alignment, you’re going through the motions. You’re unfulfilled. You’re totally depleted of the kind of energy that motivates you and you’re not operating at your highest frequency.
Putting your energy and focus on taking action is achievable with the little, intentional steps I can teach you through life coaching. You have the ability to become the person who hops out of bed in the morning, who faces work with enthusiasm, and who creates a new schedule with new interests.
Making changes takes practice. The more you do it, the greater the repetition, the closer it will become to being a habit.