By Jenn Bovee, LCSW, CRADC, CCTP, CCHt EMDR Therapist, The Mental Wellness Center
It’s very likely that you know people who are experiencing devastatingly high levels of what is often referred to as “burnout.” You may even be experiencing burnout yourself. In fact, it is estimated that one-third of Americans are living with extreme stress and nearly half of Americans believe that their stress has increased over the past five years. We can attempt to talk about prevention until we are out of breath, but the reality is that many of us are exhausted, depleted, and running on chronic levels of emptiness. Which really begs the question: how do you change the script?
Many people have tried going on vacation. However, a vacation is only a brief reprieve and then it’s back to the daily grind. Perhaps you’ve attempted yoga, journaling, exercise, more sleep, less work, better boundaries, more downtime, etc. to address your burnout. Those are all good things, but what if the real answer for lessening your burnout is to cultivate more joy?
Cultivating more joy in and of itself is a rewarding task. It’s as if someone relit the light inside of you. Can you remember a time when you lost your passion for a while, but once you refound your passion, everything felt fresh and new? THAT’s what joy does. It’s how crisp and alive everything feels. In my experience, cultivating an increased amount of joy is an exceptional antidote for addressing burnout, fatigue, and even some depressive symptoms. Following are 7 ways to find more joy in your life.
- Give Yourself Permission. Many times, people don’t feel they deserve to feel joy, and therefore, they subconsciously block joyful or happy experiences. We find that talking to clients about whether they believe they are worthy of experiencing these positive emotions, feelings, and sensations goes a long way to promote these positive feelings.
- Practice Gratitude. There’s been a considerable amount of research on the healing aspects of gratitude. We know it is effective. Some start their day meditating, others end their day making a gratitude list, and some find that utilizing a gratitude app on their phone is helpful. The challenge is to find a format and philosophy of engaging in a gratitude practice that works for you.
- Develop the Art of Self-Compassion. It can sometimes feel impossible to be kind and loving to yourself. But think about how you treat your best friend? Or how you treat a small child? What would shift if you began seeing yourself the way other people see you or treating yourself as kindly as you treat other people?
- Remove Sources of Negativity: Negativity is everywhere—I’d say it’s an epidemic! I’m not even sure it’s possible to eliminate all sources of negativity. So let’s start with removing overt negative influences. For example, many of our clients expressed relief when they stopped watching the news. Others found a huge decrease in burnout when they stopped mindlessly scrolling on social media. Consider taking a social media detox or avoid interacting with people in real life who are sources of negativity.
- Connect With Nature: Being outside and enjoying nature reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, as well as the production of stress hormones. In addition to contributing to our physical wellbeing, being present in nature helps us to feel better emotionally. Connecting with nature doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, it can be just standing outside and breathing. Keep it simple and allow it to become a habit.
- Create a Self-Care Routine. How many times have you said that you were going to increase your self-care—and then it falls to the bottom of your to-do list and never happens? Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s not selfish, and it’s not necessarily just finding ways to relax. Self-care is just what it says: taking care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. People often get overwhelmed by complicating self-care and thinking it has to be a big production. The reality is that anything can be self-care and starting anywhere is better than not starting at all. Implementing self-care is easier if you keep it simple. Some simple suggestions include getting quality sleep, getting some daily exercise, saying both yes and no to yourself and others, reading a book, listening to music, plan something social—whatever appeals to you.
- Introduce More Play. How often do you intentionally play? Adults are usually so busy with work, tasks, and obligations that they lose sight of the importance of play. Engaging in laughter and fun helps to improve relationships; creates empathy, compassion, intimacy, and trust with others; helps regulate our central nervous system; triggers the release of endorphins; promotes the overall sense of well-being; helps make you more productive; and helps you to be able to better handle stressful situations. Gather some friends for a fun game night, actively play with young children in your life, or consider the unbridled playfulness of a dog in your life!
The monotony of burnout can suck all the joy out of life. But once you flip the script, you have the ability to bring unlimited joy back into your life.
For help with any relationship, or mental health issues, contact The Mental Wellness Center, Inc. at 309-807-5077 or Info@TheMentalWellnessCenter.com. Their offices are located at 205 N. Williamsburg Drive, Suite A, Bloomington, IL 61704 and 405 N. Kays Drive, Suite A, Normal IL 61761. They are invested in helping you return to—or achieve, possibly for the first time ever—a state of complete mental wellness.