The Burnout Kickstart Program: Step 2

You’ve completed step 1, and you should be feeling like you have more insight into your current situation. You knew you were struggling already, but unless we sit down and specifically think about it, we don’t know exactly why. The exercises should have helped you understand more about:

  • How burnt-out you are.
  • How burnout is affect your day-to-day life.
  • Your fears about the process of trying to manage burnout.
  • Your hopes, and what you look forward to achieving by the end of this program and beyond.
  • Your needs in each moment, and how you can fulfill those needs.
  • Your state of health, through seeing your GP and assessing your symptoms in the context of your overall wellbeing.

But you’ve probably realised that this greater understanding doesn’t really change the way you feel. It certainly doesn’t solve your problems! Self-reflection and insight is a critical first step that helps to build the foundation of the changes you’ll start to make soon. But right now, you probably feel overwhelmed. Maybe you feel defeated. Maybe you feel like a failure, or weak. Maybe you feel like just giving up. And a lot of you have felt like that for a long time. And unfortunately, that puts our mind in a really difficult state.

When you’ve been struggling so much for a long period of time, your mind needs a chance to recover before moving onto later steps of recovery. Burnout management only works when we do the right things at the right time.

Let’s take a look at how stress relates to our goals in Step 2, and how that will help you prepare for the next steps in burnout management.

Task: using your planner

For this task, you will be using your planner to examine your commitments for the week ahead, and making adjustments to reduce demands upon you and to free up time to help your mind recover.

It doesn’t matter what type of planner you have. It may be a paper planner, a digital planner, or just a printed weekly calendar from online.

First of all, you need to make sure that all your commitments are actually in your planner. We want to get an accurate representation of how much of your time is committed. As well as your commitments scheduled into specific time-slots, you will need to consider commitments that you need to complete this week – things that might exist on a ‘to-do list’.

Secondly, I want you to assess each item and determine whether it is absolutely essential. This step is critical to get right. All those commitments wouldn’t be there unless you had good reasons for feeling they are important. And you’re probably the kind of person who likes to keep their commitments and not let people down, so you will resist removing anything. But remember, this is one of the many reasons you’ve ended up in this situation. Right now, the priority is getting you better, and to achieve that you will need to do things differently. And sometimes those ‘different’ things will feel uncomfortable.

So, anything that is not absolutely essential, you’re going to cancel.

Did you get through your whole planner and to-do-list and not remove a single thing?

Go back and repeat the process. If you can’t reduce the demands upon you, you’re not going to achieve the changes and improvements you want. Remember back to those hopes and dreams you listed in Step 1 – those things you’d love to achieve by the end of this program. Do you still want those things? Imagine your life if you could get there! Those reasons are why you have to be ruthless as you eliminate all the unnecessary demands upon your time and energy.

Thirdly, once you’ve finished removing everything that isn’t essential (ie the demands upon you), we’re going to schedule in some dedicated time slots that will help to increase the opportunities you have to recover (ie the resources you have).

I want you to schedule in at least one time-slot dedicated to something that’s fun, or brings you happiness or contentment. If you can’t think of anything that feels fun right now, that’s fine – that’s normal when you’re burnt-out! But think back to things you found fun or fulfilling in the past, and those feelings will return as you progress along this recovery journey.

What activity you choose to schedule will be unique to you. It could be art, sport, fishing, reading, bushwalking, a quiet cup of tea, a bath, watching a movie… anything!

You may even have time to schedule in more than one of these time-slots, but don’t do that until you’ve scheduled time for step 4…

Fourthly, you need to schedule time to specifically focus on burnout recovery. You need at least two of these time-slots scheduled for the week ahead. During this time, you will complete the modules of this program. If you have additional time available, instead of rushing through this program faster, I encourage you to schedule that time for something that helps you to relax and reduce stress, such as meditation, time in nature, exercise, or getting a massage. These activities differ slightly from those in the previous part, in that the focus is on relaxation and stress reduction, as opposed to fun and happiness.

In summary, before moving on, you need to:

  1. Have an accurate planner and to-do-list to clarify your commitments for the coming week.
  2. Cancel all non-essential demands upon your time and energy.
  3. Schedule at least one block of time for an activity which brings you fun, happiness, or fulfillment.
  4. Schedule at least two blocks of time to focus on burnout recovery or relaxation and stress reduction.

Acknowledging emotions

In addition to reducing those demands, I want you to continue to work through your current struggles, because that provides the foundation for identifying exactly what areas need to be addressed specifically.

Task: journal your current situation

Set aside at least 20 minutes to sit quietly with your journal and write about your current situation. Make sure you’re somewhere you won’t be interrupted.

This does not need to be an organised structured analysis, but rather an opportunity to write anything and everything that comes to mind. Write about all the problems you have, the things that are creating stress, the way you feel about them, and anything else that enters your mind as you write. The more freely you write, the more helpful this will be.

If you’re concerned about someone else finding this and reading it afterwards, then you may choose to write it on separate sheets of paper instead of in your journal, and then destroying it afterwards. Keeping a record of it isn’t the purpose, but rather the process of allowing your mind to acknowledge all that is going on for you right now.

Don’t forget, as I mentioned in the previous video, that you may need to give yourself some time to recover emotionally from this step, and debriefing with a friend can be helpful. If it causes any significant distress, seek timely professional advice and support.

And remember, that this is hard, but you will get there. You’re taking these steps, and you’re putting one foot in front of the other on this journey.

Try a simple mindfulness meditation if you feel overwhelmed in the coming day.

Task Summary

  • Use your planner.
  • Journal your current situation.
  • If you haven’t booked your doctor’s appointment from Step 1 yet, now is the time to do it!
  • Continue to take note of your needs in each moment, and how you can address them.

Don’t rush on to the next step.

Take your time. Allow yourself to respond to the step 2 exercises. Giving yourself time to process things can provide new insights and understanding.

Wait until the time you’ve scheduled in your planner to next work on this program, and then move on to Step 3.