To be upfront, there is no clear "cure" to burnout: it's something clinical, chronic and can't be solved overnight. But burnout experts agree that soothing burnout involves being really proactive in how to make time for yourself. Like, meaningful time, time that'll revive you. Making time for yourself is rejuvenating, a break from the grind that chases all of us.
Below, we've packaged a three-step plan (to be executed within 30, 60, and 90 days) outlined at the most recent Well+Good TALK for how to make that me time—with some flexibility on timing, of course. There's plenty enough to be stressed out about, no need to fanatically cross off the days on you calendar!
How to make time for yourself with a plan that actually works
1. Reflect on how you’re currently spending your time
The first step in mitigating burnout is being able to recognize what's burning you out in the first place. It's easy to assume that burnout is all about being stressed and overworked, but my love, we're all stressed and overworked. What's actually meaningful is to do some deep diving and find out the why behind what things burn you out.
"Most often it's the relationship that we have with ourselves, our version of success and what it's supposed to look like," says Naomi Hirabayashi, founder and CEO of Shine. "So I think part of the first stage is like really sitting with that, and analyzing what could be. If it's fear of failure, how can you start to then practice proving to yourself or speaking yourself in a kind way we're honoring your milestones? Or if it's a lack of control, where can you start to exercise control?"
"Start actually tracking your time," says Celeste Headlee, journalist and author of Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. "At this point, most of you probably don't know where your time is going. So just grab a notebook, And for a few weeks, two weeks or so, every couple hours, sit down and write down what you did for the 30 minutes before, and then you might be surprised. Nobody's going to see it, be as honest as you possibly can!"
Now, let's say you find out that you spend, oh, I don't know, four hours a week playing Tetris Blitz (just an example, not saying I have an appsturbation problem). What you want to start doing is giving yourself short technology break. It doesn't have to for any prescriptive time and booked in your Google calendar. This is just an experiment to see how you feel.
"Really create a mindful space where you are visualizing feeling experiencing that dopamine object withdrawals,"says Sarah Adler, PsyD, chief clinical director of Octave. "So putting your phone down and saying for 30 minutes for three days, whatever works for you, "I'm going to really sit in the discomfort and the anxiety of what it feels like to have to not touch my smartphone to not touch my devices to not kind of lean into whatever is pulling my attention by the Governor General court system."
2. Decide how you’d LIKE to be spending your time
Two months in you want to focus on intentionality. Dr. Adler suggests that once you divorce your phone and catalog what it feels like, you can make intentional decisions about what you would like to do. This manifests into a sort of values exercise; peer into your values buckets and see what things.
"And that can look like a call this kind of morbid activity where you're eulogizing yourself," says Dr. Adler. "You're imagining yourself, you're 150 years old, you're on your deathbed, and you're looking back in your life and you're saying, 'What are the things what are the categories of things that were important to me?'"
Write it all down, baby. You ain't dead yet. The next thing you want to do is replace your smartphone time with social time. Schedule that social time mindfully!
"Just like you schedule the gym, because it is probably more important for your well being than going to the gym and working out is, making sure that you're having authentic in-body social interactions," says Headlee. Or do yourself two favors and start scheduling gym dates with your friends! Whatever moves you, really.
Finally, if you want to make sure you're supported in creating this me time Hirabayashi has some potent advice: "Speak up for your needs." And we know how hard it is to talk to a boss, or a partner, or a parent and tell them you're reserving space for therapy, book club or otherwise. "We're often not socialized, particularly as women [and] women of color, to have uncomfortable situations or sit in that uncomfortableness with a boss or whatever it may be," she says. "Start to practice that."
3. Hold yourself accountable to spending your time that way
"Figure out one thing every day that you can do to balance those categories and those values, asking yourself, 'Are they out of balance, are they out of wack,'" says Dr. Adler.
Be proactive in making sure that your value buckets get a daily refill, even if it means that you won't equalize all of them at once. If you're feeling extremely alone while you're navigating a teeth grindingly hard work week, now is the perfect time to schedule a coffee date with your favorite co-worker, or a phone call with your best friend.
You can also honor yourself and your time by adding in weekly traditions. Pizza night on Fridays was my most cherished tradition for a while and I'm looking to bring that back (Pizza/Friday 2020).
"If for whatever reason, you have to say no to something, you're not saying, 'I can't,'" says Hirabayashi. "You're saying on Friday nights, I make sure I catch up with my partner, make sure I catch up my best friend, this is something that I do for myself.' And so really starting to get reassert the control that you have over your life as much as humanly possible. You start to feel the impact of it."
And when it comes down to it, it's all about giving yourself the grace and time to do nothing... and then, if you want, figuring out how to make that nothing mean something.
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