When we are burnt out, it’s normal to want to do nothing. At the peak of burnout, our body finally reaches a point where it simply gives up, or at least wants to. This can manifest as a weakened immune system, procrastination, lethargy, depression, or just having no desire to get out of bed in the mornings. Overcoming burnout from this stage can feel like an impossible task.
The key in these harder moments is to start with mini moments of self-care, eventually working your way up to longer practices. For example, only a couple minutes of meditation a day can kick start your healing journey. The best part about meditation is you can start with as little a dose (say ten deep breaths), or as long of a dose as you need.
If the idea of meditating for twenty minutes a day sounds like too much right now, give yourself permission to begin with as little as one minute a day, then you can add another minute each week. When we are really burned out, sometimes sixty seconds of mental energy is all we can start with, but ten weeks later you can eventually work your way up to ten minutes. The best part of it is your body will appreciate the slow progression.
The key to healing from burnout is to take off the pressure, and to let go of any ideas that you need to heal yourself all of a sudden. When we are burned out our body is often processing months, and sometimes years of exhaustion, so remember to be gentle with yourself.
Here are three short meditation exercises I like to try when I just don’t feel like doing anything:
- Morning breathing
As soon as I wake up in the morning, before I touch my phone or do anything else, I lay in bed and I take ten slow deep breaths. I emphasized slow because when you have a busy day or lots to get to it can be easy to just rush these breaths. Deep breathing helps to quell our body’s stress response, and doing so in the morning can set a positive and mindful tone for the rest of our day. This simple practice has become a daily habit for me.
- Midday mindful walk
Sometimes sitting on the meditation cushion can be hard when we are experiencing anxiety or a racing mind. My advice may be contrary to other meditation teachers, but I would say don’t force it—work your way there. Instead try to switch to a movement based mindfulness exercise in times like these.
Most of us have spent a lot of time behind a screen the past few months, and less time being as active as usual due to different local restrictions and lockdowns. I’ve made it a habit to take an afternoon walk for at least ten minutes around lunch time or a bit later in the afternoon. Taking regular breaks is so important to maintaining our mental health—it also makes us more productive. Mindful walking is relatively simple, it means just focusing on your steps on the ground. Try to really tap into feeling each part of your foot, from the heel, to the sole, to the toe, make contact with the surface. It’s best to take time to do this walk without any distractions like your phone or a phone call so you replenish your mental and emotional energy during this time.
- Evening gratitude practice
This is my second meditation practice that happens in bed, so it doesn’t require too much movement or effort when you’re feeling burnt out. The practice involves taking ten mindful and relaxed deep breaths, and then listing three things you are grateful for. This can be people in your life, things that happened in your day, your pet, or pretty much anything. The practice is a short one, but it can work wonders on our state of mind. All the practices shared, but especially this one, can be a great maintenance practice to keep burnout at bay once you’ve recovered.
Remember to be gentle with yourself, and be kind to your body which is doing its best to help you heal every minute of everyday. Happy meditating!