Recovering from burnout when you can’t take a leave

I feel like my posting schedule has never been that chaotic (well, okay, it used to be even worse in 2015 I must admit!), however, I have so much on the go right now that I have decided to take it easy. No, no, I am not rambling about life for no reason because today, I would like to talk about burnout. In the past 5 years, I have been through 2 of them, and let me tell you it never gets easier (contrary to some weird stuff you may find here on the internet). As a 22-year-old being the same time a student, a small-business owner, a translator, a research intern, and a Ph.D. candidate, I swear life can get hectic. And, above all, I swear a great organization is no solution to everything. I am what I consider to be an organization freak and sometimes, it just makes the burnout harder as you start feeling guilt running all over you in addition to the actual burnout, so STOP. It was a little loud, sorry but please, stop. Today, I will share my story with you, trying to structure it in a way it can be useful to at least one of you. Ready?

My (false) limiting beliefs about burnout

  • You can’t suffer from burnout in school.
  • You are too young to suffer from burnout.
  • Burnout is just in your head, aka you are being lazy/undisciplined.
  • It is not the right time, let’s deal with it later.

Well, okay, I had so many more of them, but those are my little “favorites”. Let’s face it together, that is bullshit, and the sign I was definitely burnt out. I would never feel that way in a regular mental space, so that is the first trigger warning. There is no way you can have that type of ideas and not suffer from the problem you are convincing yourself you possibly can’t be suffering from. Now that we have figured out that burnout was there, and that there was no such thing as “great timing” or “burnout-friendly” situations, let’s see how we can actually recover from it without stopping work. Yes, yes, and yes again, you should at all costs stop work if you can. However, entrepreneurs like me and so many other people in so many fields just can’t. It is unfair, I agree, but it is, unfortunately, a problem for a lot of us. That is the reason why we will see now how to recover little by little.

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Actual steps to a “less burnt out state”

(because unfortunately, we can’t all take a leave – please do if you can, you are LEGITIMATE to do so, do not let burnout or a boss tell the contrary).

When possible, put one (or more) of your activities on pause.

Write all the reasons why taking a break is legitimate. And believe it.

Tell someone at work. You need to feel supported.

(If not possible – self-employed or toxic work environment –, please tell a friend)

See a doctor, even if it is just to feel listened to and be acknowledged.

Try a non-triggering new activity.

(No, not something to be a perfectionist about, I see you!)

Write all the reasons why you are a great person outside of work.

Write all the reasons why you are a great professional –burnout should never make you think the contrary.

When things seem to go worse, see how you can change your path.

(I am not saying you should change jobs because 1- it is wrong timing and 2- it is easier said than done. However, you can slowly start looking at trainings or schools? It will either help you see you love your job or set you on the right path for later fulfillment).

I am obviously no medical doctor, and I am not urging you to recover by yourself only by any means. I am a true believer in the help of doctors here, however I am fully aware we do not all have the luxury (it should not be one, but it is unfortunately) to see one and take a leave. These are my own tips and the ones that got me out of three twice. I deeply hope they will help you if you come to face a similar situation.

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