Mindfulness, as a practice of maintaining awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment and accepting whatever is being experienced without judgement, has gained an increased popularity in the past decades. It’s been used in many different fields and has also proven itself being effective when addressing issues such as burnout, exhaustion, depletion, and fatigue. According to ebmedicine.net, “burnout can be prevented, treated, and even reversed with mindfulness training.”
Benefits of mindfulness for burnout and fatigue
It’s a well-known fact that mindfulness practice reduces stress, but it also helps people who’ve reached a point of burnout to experience a deeper relaxation especially when resting alone is not enough. It is too common for someone with burnout to remain fatigued even after long hours of sleep and rest. This is when mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be very effective. Another benefit of mindfulness is that it helps to regulate emotions such as frustration, shame and guilt related to the inability to be productive. It teaches you to accept your current state and develop self-compassion necessary for recovery. But more importantly, it makes you build resilience and develop neuroplasticity so that you can avoid burning out in the future.
So let’s look at the actual techniques you can use
Sofija Borojevic, a psychologist specialising in mindfulness training at the workplace and who experienced a burnout first hand, shares some great mindfulness techniques selected specially for Back to the Body project. At first glance, the tools that Sofija suggests may seem too simple to actually work. But don’t be misled by their simplicity. These steps will guide you towards deeper awareness of your mental, emotional and physical state as you recover from burnout and learn to prevent it.
Mindfulness and Fatigue
by Sofija Borojevic
How to prevent a burnout
The goal of mindfulness is to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion and mindfulness is crucial when it comes to preventing it.
First, it is important to determine what causes you to feel depleted in your life. Are you protecting yourself from something by collapsing into fatigue?
Tracking your level of energy with an energy tracking app will help you understand your patterns better.
One of the best strategies is to start by setting your alarm at a specific time. For example, setting it every day at 17h. Once the alarm goes off, the idea is to ask yourself where are you at the moment. How do you feel? What is your level of energy?
But once you have reached the point of burnout, there is much to be done!
How to deal with a burnout
Become more aware of your thoughts and release negative thought patterns.
The judgment of how productive we are every day and how much we have done influences the way we feel and interact with the situation at a given moment. When we are unsatisfied, we have fewer resources to deal with the situation at hand.
Pay attention to the thoughts you are currently thinking.
If we are assessing the situation as negative, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate our approach. For example, say, you feel useless and that the level of your performance isn’t in line with what you consider appropriate.
- Recognise the thought, e.g. “I am not enough”;
- Feel the emotion to its core;
- Let yourself sink into it;
- Let go of the defence mechanism (stopping or distracting yourself from feeling sad);
- If you feel like crying, do it;
- Sink even more – let all the pictures from your past come up;
- All the sad memories that are connected to the emotion should be experienced in the moment;
- Let yourself be absorbed in the emotions;
- Allow them to take over you;
- Focus on them;
- Let them linger;
- Take as much time as you need;
- Once the wave recedes, take a deep breath.
- Gradually get back to your surroundings.
Follow your body’s natural rhythms.
We often forget how important it is to be in tune with our natural rhythm. Some of us are more active at night, some in the morning. Now the most important thing is to be familiar with it.
Note: This can change during different life phases.
Continue to assess your energy level by setting an alarm clock at different times of the day or using one of the apps suggested above. Notice how you are feeling in the morning as opposed to the evening. As you track your energy, pay attention to your physical sensations: start by breathing deeply; feel every part of your body starting from your feet all the way up – your legs, the lower and upper part of the body, hands etc.
When you experience fatigue, lie there anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours scanning your body and observing the sensations until the haze of exhaustion completes itself.
You know the discharge process is nearing an end when you start to notice the softness, openness and aliveness in the bones, tissues and the overall energy of the body.
As you transition from lying down to sitting, focus on maintaining softness and receptivity as your ability to concentrate begins to increase. You now actually have the energy reserves to concentrate.
Let the energy you’ve stored up begin to circulate and “play.”
You may notice that the four basic actions of lying, sitting, standing and walking naturally follow each other in a soft and continuous cycle. Whatever you do, do it with gentle care focusing on the experience of relaxation as something new to your body, something that is worth your time and effort and is crucial to your wellbeing.
Stop resisting fatigue
Focus on surrendering completely to the force of gravity.
Allow the weight of your body to sink. Feel how the ground or the chair are supporting you and giving you safety to let go and relax further.
Get rid of all the usual cautions about the need to combat sleepiness.
Do not resist the haze.
Sofija Borojevic holds a Master’s degree in Work and Organizational Psychology from the University of Maastricht, Netherlands,
with a primary focus on Mindfulness. She also holds a certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Sofija offers online coaching services helping her clients achieve personal goals through mindfulness techniques and practices.