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It’s officially Autumn. The buzz of summer has waned and the world around us is inviting us to slow down and go in.

As we begin to come down from the “summer high”, some of us might notice a deeper fatigue that we didn’t realize we were carrying. This is common for me since I tend to burn the candle at both ends from March through August. Despite my well-established self-care practices and self-awareness, it has taken me years to recognize this pattern and put practices in place to mitigate it. I have a feeling that I am not alone.

Let’s talk about the ‘B’ word: Burnout

In the world where work-life boundaries can be nebulous and elusive, the chance of experiencing burnout is high. It often creeps up on us and suddenly we feel like we are in a cloudy abyss and can’t find our way out.

We start asking ourselves questions like

  • Am I depressed or sick?
  • Do I just need a vacation?
  • Maybe I need a life change?

At times, our experience may need medical attention and it’s important to recognize that. Other times, we are in the depths of burnout, and we just can’t see it.

What is burnout and what are its symptoms?

According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, burnout is defined as “physical, emotional or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.”

Symptoms of burnout can include: 

  • Fatigue that you can’t seem to shake
  • Anxiety about work performance
  • Overwhelm over formerly achievable tasks
  • Feeling dissatisfied with your work
  • Change in diet or sleep patterns
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling unmotivated
  • Decreased productivity

The good news is that once we recognize burnout, we are on our way to turning it around. We can put practices in place that can help us prevent it in the future. What are some of those practices?

Steps to bounce back stronger 

  • Take a much-needed vacation and completely unplug
  • Step away and attend a retreat, conference or summit that feeds your personally or professionally
  • Establish a daily routine and stick to it
  • Time block short breaks in your day to regroup
  • Incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation or prayer into your day
  • Seek out an ongoing support system like a mentor, coach, therapist or professional group
  • Take care of your physical self: Eat well, exercise and set the stage for sound sleep
  • Volunteer in your community: Find a passion project
  • Delegate the more unexciting parts of your daily business and personal life
  • Think forward! Plan your vacations for next year
  • Take a class or workshop
  • Make a list of what lights your fire

It is important to remember that burnout is never failure, despite how it feels. We simply got out of balance and need to find our way back. The key to avoiding burnout is establishing habits that sustain us and creating a schedule that supports work-life balance so that we can thrive in a holistic way despite the outside demands and circumstances.

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