How to make myself overrule my brain and body burning out? burnout?
September 2, 2011 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Feeling burnt out recently, but cannot go on a vacation or anything right now. How do I deal with this without stepping off the hamster wheel? I do have the Labor Day weekend off.

I work quite a few hours a week (small newspaper, family business) around 50 on average and am not going on a real vacation until the winter for a ski trip. I feel my body and sometimes my brain are shutting down on me, especially since it's fall allergy season now, which makes me tired. This affects my job, since I often work over 10-hour days and includes a lot of editing and formatting copy (reader and reporter submissions).
I have started going to exercise classes a couple times a week, but I mostly end up going home and vegging out on Internet when I get home late. This delays me going to sleep sometimes, keeping the cycle going. By Friday, I am barely able to get out of bed and I have to write stories occasionally on the weekend to keep up with deadline. Any tips on how to keep my burnout, health and sanity at bay when I still have to come into work? The last few days it's been hard, since I feel so tense since if I know if I stopped and relaxed, I would fall off the wheel and no longer want to work.
posted by greatalleycat to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in the same boat (I'm a copywriter and I have a lot of tasks to do every day) and I often feel crushed by the end of the day. I find that exercise (I like to walk and bike) at the beginning and end of the day help. Also, turning off the computer after 7 or whatever is helpful.

For working on weekends, I find it's useful to get the writing done by 7 or 8am on Sat and Sun. This means going to bed by 10pm, of course.

In short, exercise, and turn off the computer and tv.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:00 PM on September 2, 2011

A massage! I occasionally get them at a very expensive place, where they give you a big fluffy robe and baby you until you're done, and you can hear no outside noise whatsoever. I justify the expense by calling it a very, very, very short vacation (1 hour!) and compared to any other vacation it's a steal.
posted by sweetkid at 5:12 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Getting away from my desk out into nature has always helped me.
posted by salvia at 5:49 PM on September 2, 2011

I would highly recommend that you give Yoga a try. It will help refresh your mind and body.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 6:07 PM on September 2, 2011

Seconding KokuRyu's suggestion about turning off the computer. Even though it feels like "vegging", surfing the web keeps your brain too wired.

Try something that'll put you into another mental space. For instance: meditation, learning/playing a musical instrument, reading, a craft or hobby that requires you to use your hands.... I would also keep up with the exercise.
posted by storybored at 6:09 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get outside and just walk, the more forested the setting the better; I don't feel really recharged with anything less than a 2-hour loop. Make a point to get up early and go to bed early. Take time to prepare meals with the sort of healthy base and rich flavors you don't have time for during the week. Spend some time with people you like, but keep it low-key. If you fall asleep in a lounge chair in the afternoons this weekend, so much the better.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:11 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

My job starts early and the only way I can (barely) cope is by forcing myself to go to bed really early. Do I feel like turning off the computer by 930 (the screen light apparently messes w your sleep cycles too) and being in bed by 10? Are you freaking kidding? I hate it, but if I don't then I'm a zombie and even more p.o.'D at work. Also, if you can walk home from work or detach somehow on your way home then that is very helpful too. Ironically, even though we are all 'here', surfing the web aimlessly actually makes you wired and leaves you feeling much worse. Definitely stick with exercise and early bedtime. Not a glamourous lifestyle but keeps you from collapsing in your (and my) current job(s).
posted by bquarters at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

On bad bad days, even 10 or 20 minutes of sunshine on my face makes a huge difference.

Something I like to do now and again is go to the local aquarium (try to go on an off day or at least not any day near a holiday). I have a relaxation recording that is an hour of whale songs on my ipod. I put on my headphones, ignore anyone around me, and just watch the fish. It is awesome for relaxation.
posted by vignettist at 7:23 PM on September 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I find overnights in nearby San Francisco are quite refreshing, even though it sometimes seems silly to get a hotel room just an hour from home. Priceline / Kayak / Hotwire can be very helpful at finding rooms for cheap.
posted by wnissen at 7:35 PM on September 2, 2011

"I know if I stopped and relaxed, I would fall off the wheel and no longer want to work."
I'm curious if this is something you fear would happen, or something you have actually experienced - because I get that fear, but have not had that experience.

For the past 4 years I have worked about 50-60 hours a week with children with disabilities (directly or completing paperwork), so I get the burnout feeling. I feel like I have little energy and less money. So, on specified evenings, I allow myself internet time guilt free. I see it less as procrastination and more as a proactive measure where, I get my "fix", and then I'm good for 12 hours. So, I can check out makeup websites, add and delete things from my Amazon shopping cart, and read MeFi till my eyes bleed...and the next morning I am ready to go, super serious, on-task. It works for me because it incurs no extra expense and gets the job done, although I suspect massages etc. as described above would work wonders as well.

In college, I talked to this counselor who advised I "schedule in some joy"; at the time, I was very skeptical but recently, I see the value of this more and more. I balk at "touchy-feely" kinds of stuff, but oddly have have found that taking time for "me" - a bath, a sick day, ice cream for dinner - has unanticipated, enormous value for your emotional health. Having opportunities to make choices about what to do with your time can definitely impact how you feel about your life (have seen this referred to as degree of "agency" elsewhere). Maybe the opportunities you have for this are limited?

I am in grad school as well (while working full time) and do find myself frequently searching for some motivational....mantra? I have the advantage of working in a human services profession so on rough mornings I try to remind myself that "it's worth it", "the kids deserve me at my best", I'm doing it "for the kids", and even "when I get [X degree] I will make [Y more money]" (allow me to enjoy this delusion, please...). Perhaps you can find an analog in your own profession? If you don't have a passion for what you do, it can be so hard to be productive.

This is a great question and I wish I had more to add. I feel like I never have time or energy to exercise but when I do, I find that I feel less worried/anxious/burnt-out, as others have noted - so now that's a goal for me!
posted by shortskirtlongjacket at 7:49 PM on September 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I find if I get into a rut where I feel tired all the time, I need to do one or more of the following:

- get some computer-free time (read, practice music, ANYTHING but the computer. Nope, "mindless" surfing isn't on either).
- well, said this already, but read. practice music, or whatever you like doing. maybe it's knitting.
- spend some time with family OTHER than the crazy business you're in. You DO have some family that isn't part of the crazy business, right?
- I know this gets a bad rap, but if I'm mentally exhausted, TV is almost like sleep. UNLIKE internet surfing, it's a borderline trance state sometimes, which is why you shouldn't spend your whole life doing it. But if you're shredded, spending a day watching movies or some stupid show marathon can be revitalizing. Or at least you'll get so tired of it you'll beg to go back to work.
- exercise is great too. Especially if it's your brain that's tired, not your mind. Working your body helps make you tired so you can sleep better.

As a survivor of a crazy family business, I have to ask - are you tired and overworked because you're getting somewhere with a business, or are you tired and working for peanuts because, hey, the family business? Did that for 25 years. Finally stopped. It felt really good. I work harder than ever, but now I'm getting someplace. If that's you, you should try it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:24 PM on September 2, 2011

Clean the house; change the bed; get your paperwork that needs seeing to in ONE pile; buy your favourite food/drink.

The next day, wake up, go back to sleep; wake up drift in and out of sleep. When you do finally get up, you have a clean house to wake up to, no bits of paper screaming for your attention, and a house full of good things to eat. Then sit in the garden and watch telly, but stay off the computer!

I find this works best for me. Waking up to a day of no obligation and a day where I can please myself seems to dispel pent up stress.
posted by stenoboy at 1:41 AM on September 3, 2011

Response by poster: Haha, need to get some cleaning done, stenoboy, a good idea. BTW, I work for a family-owned business, but not a member of the family. What I meant by it is everyone does multiple things and there's a lot to do. I'll try to use this advice this weekend, but I have to write stories and do a newsletter for the club I'm in.
posted by greatalleycat at 11:14 AM on September 3, 2011

Yoga yoga yoga! A lot of studios will let you do the first class free or super cheap. So good for your mind and body and for feeling relaxed.
posted by at 5:40 PM on September 3, 2011

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