5 Ways to Beat Burnout
- Written By:Michele Ross
Constantly putting out fires or getting bogged down by the pressure to go go go at all times? If feeling burned out is your baseline, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and read this—especially if you don’t know how to dial things back, or worse, if you don’t think it’s okay to slow down.
If you think that hustling 24/7 is the ticket to success, NYC-based psychotherapist and executive health coach Daryl Appleton, Ed.D, M.Ed, CAGS, LMHC wants you to rethink your strategy. “Our culture would have us believe that if we are not hustling or constantly ‘doing,’ then we are the problem,” Dr. Appleton begins. But she wants to make one thing clear: trying to thrive all the time isn’t the answer.
“People think that they should be thriving 90 percent of the time, but I am here to tell you that cannot—and will not—work,” she continues. “When we try to thrive all the time, we start to feel what I call ‘success letdown.’ There no longer is celebration around reaching a goal, but rather an attitude that it ‘should’ be reached—and when it is, there is nothing on the other side of it but a new goal.”
Essentially, hustle culture doesn’t create a setting that encourages you to celebrate the joy of achievement or to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor. Instead, your goals become tasks on your ever-growing to-do list, eventually becoming a rat-race of sorts. Constantly trying to maintain that momentum runs the risk of losing sight of the true value of your accomplishments—and burnout, as well.
Dr. Appleton explains that there are three modes that we oscillate between: Survival: involves our responses to solve big or small obstacles/conflicts Stabilization: involves maintaining what we already have, regrouping, and dismissing things that no longer work for us Thriving: involves us making moves to chase our goals, develop, and take on the day
While it seems like we need to be in survival mode more often than not in order to have the fuel to thrive, she explains that this ratio won’t do you any favors. Instead, she argues that the people who are most well adjusted strike a better balance closer to 20 percent survival mode, 60 percent stabilization mode, and 20 percent thriving mode.
5 Ways to Beat Burnout
It’s one thing to know that fight-or-flight (survival) mode and always-on hustle (thriving) mode can lead to disappointment and burnout. However, it’s another thing completely to know how to shake yourself out of these automatic patterns and responses so you can feel more fulfilled, energized, and enlivened—by both the work that you do and the life that you’ve strived so hard to create.
Guided by Dr. Appleton’s expertise, here’s how to beat burnout and reorient your approach to achievement.
1. Observe your patterns
Naturally, you’ll need to know what your patterns and defaults are before you can begin to make progress. “The first step is to understand what it feels like when you are specifically in each of your modes,” Dr. Appleton shares. To do so, take time to pay attention to your behavioral cues, bodily sensations, and/or mental thought processes. “Many times our bodies will dictate what it needs if we don’t listen to it,” she continues. “It’s why we get sick from having too much stress or activity.”
When something doesn’t serve you—say, when your heart or thoughts race as you put out fires to meet a deadline, only to leave you fatigued and overwhelmed—you know it’s time to make necessary adjustments.
2. Set boundaries
If you’re prone to patterns typical of survival mode, Dr. Appleton recommends setting boundaries for yourself to make things more manageable and less taxing on your mind and body. “How can you put boundaries in place to move out of an undesirable place into a healthier one? Setting aside time to reflect on the micro of your behaviors can lead to a lot of macro changes,” she explains.
“Ask yourself what you need to do in the next 24 hours, and break things down into small time chunks,” Dr. Appleton continues. “Typically when I work with people in survival mode, we try to make sure basic needs are met (food, water, shower, sleep, etc.) before we try to involve ourselves in any other high order of thinking or being.” This includes not taking on more than you need to (or reasonably should, for that matter) and saying no whenever you need to restabilize.
Once you give yourself the time and space you need, Dr. Appleton wants you to allow yourself to simply be. (And if you truly lack that time and space, she suggests carving some out during “captive” periods, such as when you’re commuting, walking the dog, or even showering.) “Challenge yourself not to think of work or home and lean into the pause,” she suggests.
After you take time to breathe and be, you’ll be in a better space to take your emotional temperature and reset from there. Dr. Appleton advises asking yourself how you feel, what you need, what you’re missing, and what you already have that you’re not utilizing. Once you discover these answers, it’ll help you regroup so you can begin to make moves again—but this time, supported by more solid foundations.
Only after you’re on calmer, firmer ground, then you can check back in on your priorities and put a more sustainable game plan in place. “Allow yourself time to gather and regroup by leaning into your daily needs and expanding out,” she suggests. “Now that you have clarity from your pause and you have taken intentional time to reset and regroup, what do you need to do next?”
Before you fill up your plate and revert back to hold habits, Dr. Appleton suggests asking yourself the following regarding your top priority: “What is the first thing I need to do to make this happen?” From there, start slow and steady to make that happen, and let things unfold from there—one thing at a time.
For more tips on beating stress and achieving success, be sure to follow Dr. Appleton on Instagram.