Using Self Care to Combat Clinical Burnout

By Mikayla Cowen, BA, MSW (In Progress)

With summer officially starting soon, it is the perfect time to combat feelings of burnout utilizing self-care practices. Burnout can be defined as a state of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion that leaves people with an array of clinical symptoms. Burnout is typically a result of being stretched too thin in your occupation or not managing stress at work, but symptoms of burnout can develop from every-day life stressors and responsibilities just as easily. 

Symptoms of clinical burnout can include things like constantly feeling lethargic or tired, irritability and/or cynicism, indifference toward work or other life responsibilities, compassion fatigue (particularly present in the helping professions or care-givers), and an inability to focus on tasks at hand. Burnout sometimes begins to consume us before we even realize it is happening, but when we set aside the time to care for ourselves, it can make handling our occupations and responsibilities at least a little bit easier. Here are some ways to practice self-care and mitigate burnout:

Care for yourself physically

  • Make sure to take time outside. This could look like going for a walk, having a picnic, or just sitting on the porch.
  • Practice healthy sleeping habits. Set a nighttime routine to help wind down, put away electronics before trying to sleep, limit caffeine in the evenings.
  • Move your body and be sure to drink plenty of water.

Take care of yourself mentally

  • Take mental health days when they are available. We all need some time to recuperate and rejuvenate our minds. 
  • Practice mindfulness tools such as breathing exercises, meditation and yoga, and grounding techniques in order to stay present with yourself and your environment.
  • Set boundaries and practice saying no. Cultivate a healthy work life balance and make time for your own interests and hobbies.

Take care of yourself emotionally

  • Prioritize time with friends and family, stay social and connected with people who bring you happiness, and seek support when needed.
  • Give yourself permission to feel joy and laughter even when you are stressed.
  • Allow your feelings to be felt as they come or set aside time to process them utilizing strategies like journaling or going to therapy.

Burnout can impact anyone at any time and it often makes us feel like we don’t have the time or capacity for anything other than our immediate responsibilities and required tasks. Viewing self-care as a responsibility and prioritizing it can help to ensure that symptoms of burnout don’t take over.

Mikayla is an intern at the Center for Mindfulness and CBT. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Truman State University in 2019 and is currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work at University of Missouri – St. Louis. She specializes in treating adults and adolescents with anxiety, OCD, and trauma through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Mindfulness. She is currently accepting new clients at a reduced intern rate. You can learn more or inquire about working with her by clicking here.