Burnout is a popular topic of discussion as of late. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Everywhere I look these days, on social media or the news, people are discussing their own experience of burnt out.
I wrote a long and oddly soothing piece about how burnout became the millennial condition: https://t.co/hGHgNX3uSE
— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) January 5, 2019
It seems like everyone is feeling utterly exhausted — and understandably so, especially if you live in a busy city like I do, here in New York City. So what’s a person to do?
Last year, taking a staycation helped ease my burnout.
2018 was major year of growth for me. In January, I quit my full-time job to be a freelance writer. Being self-employed has been tremendously rewarding. I’ve been able to work on projects I would never have the chance to if I were still on staff — and consequently, strengthened my writing muscles and the creativity part of my brain. But there’s also pitfalls, like financial instability and job insecurity.
When you don’t have a stable check coming in every two weeks, you’re always on the grind, chasing job after job to ensure you’re making enough to stay afloat. I was always overwhelmed last year, balancing several different projects at once, constantly saying yes to projects even when I shouldn’t have because I didn’t know whether that would be the last job I’d get for a while. By the time November rolled around, I was severely worn out.
Time for a Staycation
Months of ignoring the early warning signs of overworking myself only wreaked havoc on me mentally and physically. I kept getting sick and my productivity waned. It was then when I knew I had to change my work habits and make my mental and physical health a priority. I started setting rules in places to ease feeling burned out.
I stopped working on the weekends, unless I had a really pressing assignment, and it had to be something I really wanted to do and was paying well. I set a minimum rate that I would accept for various kinds of writing projects I took on. I also forced myself to stop working at 7pm most nights.
Beyond those boundaries I set for myself, I also had my first staycation with one of my best friends from middle school so we could unwind. We booked a room for the weekend before Christmas at a hotel that was accessible enough for us to get to by train but far enough from our homes that it would feel like we were on a vacation without actually leaving NYC.
It was a glorious weekend. It felt like we were off the grid even though we weren’t. We completely unplugged from social media, ordered room service for most of our meals, luxuriated in the hotel’s indoor pool, and spent the nights watching cheesy rom-coms and Harry Potter films. It was like the outside world didn’t exist. When it came time to check out, I didn’t want to leave. It was the perfect break. During this time, I was able to clock out of work and focus on myself. It also gave me time to reevaluate my work and life priorities moving forward.
Vacation vs Staycation
Since then, I’ve vowed to take regular staycations. It doesn’t always have to be as extravagant as my first, and I don’t always have to go somewhere, I can just stay at home for a day or two and do absolutely nothing. While I love vacations, and I make it a point to go somewhere at least once a year for pleasure, staycations are perfect for those times when you don’t have the time or money to go on an expensive, painstakingly-planned trip.
Whenever I have prolonged periods of feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and drained, I know it’s time for a staycation. I now know that working relentlessly without taking a proper break puts a strain not only on my body and wellbeing, but my relationships as well, since I’m not a nice person to be around when I’m really stressed.
A couple of times this year, I’ll set aside even just a day or two where I stay home, order in food, binge-watch some of my favorite shows or films I haven’t had the time to watch. And although it can be difficult at times, I try not to check social media or phone every minute. That way, I can really de-stress. Because at the end of the day, I am my biggest priority. I only have one body, and it’s only right I look after it.
Self-Care Tips to Prevent Burnout
If you’re days are increasingly feeling like a drag and you find it difficult to get anything done (for work or otherwise), chances are, you’re on the verge of burnout and deserve a proper break. I know from experience how crappy it is when you just don’t feel like yourself, but thankfully, there are plenty of ways to bounce back — a staycation being one of them. Here are my top five tips for a relaxing, stress-free staycation on a tight budget. (Pro tip: Log out of social media and turn off your phone for the day, or at the very least, put it on Do Not Disturb if you have an iPhone so only your important contacts can reach you.)
- Have a movie night with your favorite wine and comfort food. Make sure to tune into something so entertaining you completely forget about your own life.
- Have a spa day at home complete with a face mask, a luxurious soak with bath salts and a mani and pedi. Another option if it’s in budget is to buy a day pass at a local spa where you can luxuriate in a pool or hot tub for a bit.
- Go sightseeing in your neighborhood and check out free events in your area like a concert in the park or an interesting local museums offering free or cheap admission.
- Enjoy a fancy picnic. If it’s warm outside where you live, grab a blanket, some form of entertainment, and a basket with some delicious food and head to a nearby park to unwind.
Read Tamu on RESTORATION to see why our team is taking time to restore this December.
- Restorative Wellness and Yoga Retreats
- What You Should Know About Going Freelance
- The Power of the Breath: How to Breath Properly
- Self-Care Tips: How to Take a Healing Bath
- How I Healed My Anxiety with Inspiration from Life Coach Lavendaire