Feeling Burned Out? Burrell Behavioral Health Therapist Offers Tips to Combatting Burnout

Portrait of Ty Thornton
Ty Thornton, Burrell Behavioral Health (Photo courtesy of Ty Thornton)

Does your work and your hobby overlap? Many artists and creators find this to be the case. They draw at work, and they draw for pleasure. They animate at work, and they animate for pleasure. They script stories for work, and they write stories for pleasure. You may even find yourself in one of these scenarios.

Being in this position may make one feel burned out, or at the very least fear being burned out. Since this is an issue that many people face at one point or another, we at InBetween417 sat down with Ty Thornton, a therapist with Burrell Behavioral Health, to gain a better understanding of what burnout is and how one can treat or prevent burnout.

What is burnout?

According to Thornton, burnout was a term coined in the 70s to describe severe high stress in the helping profession. Today, however, burnout is used to describe people in all professions, including creative fields, who feel exhausted and unmotivated.

“I think a lot of times there’s that exhaustion, but also then you notice that motivation starts to decrease,” says Thornton. “When you get to that place where maybe you’re avoiding, or you just can’t get that energy or motivation up to do tasks…those kind of things, those are big kind of red flags that burnout is probably happening.”

Thornton also mentions other indications that burnout is setting in such as feeling emotionally drained, feeling cynical, feeling grumpy, avoiding peers and coworkers, feeling numb, reduced performance, and feeling a sense of dread.

Tips for Treating and Preventing Burnout

Treating and preventing burnout is all about managing stress. Thornton provides several strategies for doing just that.

Be proactive

Thornton suggests having a planner. She explains that not scheduling the things you have to do can lead to stress, and high levels of stress can lead to burnout. So, planning and time management are ways individuals can start to manage their stress.

Using a Planner
Using a planner.

Manage Expectations

“I think sometimes our expectations are unrealistic,” says Thornton. “There are only so many hours in a day or only so much time before the next project…Like it’s probably not reasonable to procrastinate and push it off and push it off.” Setting reasonable deadlines and expectations can help to reduce stress “because again, that procrastination leads to stress which leads to burnout.”

Use Regular Self-Care

Thornton explains how self-care looks different for everybody, and does not necessarily have to be something extravagant. She says, “For some people self care is hobbies. For some people it could be exercise, pampering yourself, [or] just taking alone time to read or relax.”

Thornton also expresses that self-care should be regular. “We should be doing something small daily and probably some bigger things a few times a week. That doesn’t necessarily mean a vacation, but somewhere in between a bubble bath and a vacation.”

Take Breaks

Taking breaks includes taking days off for mental health, but it also includes taking breaks while working on large projects. “Be able to give yourself the time to kind of relax and recharge, and then come back at it,” says Thornton.

Delegate Tasks

“If there is just too much on your plate,” says Thornton, “assigning it to somebody else or asking for that help.” She continues on to add, “If you’re on a good team, there’s going to be somebody else that will pitch in…so if you can ask for help and delegate, do it.”

Set Boundaries

Thornton emphasizes the importance of learning how to say no. She says, “That’s hard with high achieving people. That sometimes we think we can just go do it all and take it all on. And yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And then we find ourselves stressed [and] overwhelmed, [which] leads to burnout. So, not taking on more than we can handle, being reasonable about that with ourselves and our expectations” can help us to manage our stress level.

Make Habit of Relaxation Exercises

Relaxation exercises, deep breathing, visualization, guided imagery, meditation, and mindfulness are all techniques that Thornton suggests people make into habits. She explains that “all of [these] are techniques that can help people while [they’re] stressed, and then also even when you’re…developing good habits and being proactive to avoid stress.”

Maintain Good Physical Health

“Good physical health is kind of that foundation for good mental health,” says Thornton. “So, making sure you you’re getting enough sleep, that your nutrition is in check, water, regular physical activity, all those things are important to be healthy. To be able to take on the stress that life and jobs and school and all that brings us.”

Nutritious Food
Nutritious Food

Have Gratitude

Thornton notes that gratitude is a current “buzzword” and large area of current research. She explains that gratitude is “a great way to help adjust our mindset and focus on it, especially when we have stressful jobs and lives.” She continues on to say, “We tend to naturally focus on how stressful [something] is, how much [it] sucks, whatever it is. So, just kind of taking stock of what is going well and what we do have to be grateful for can really change our mindset and perspective.

How do you manage your stress? How do you work through or prevent burnout when it comes to your creative life? Comment below.

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