Feeling burned out before 2020 has even begun? 5 steps to true, lasting restoration

Oh, it’s that time of year, all right. There are Christmas tree needles in every nook and cranny of my house; my poor husband Brian has done 97 loads of dishes and gone to the grocery store 48 times in the span of a week; I’ve been hustling to hit year-end goals in my business. Even my three fur babies seem to have a holiday hangover. It all feels like a LOT.

I bet you’re feeling similarly — exhausted, mentally and physically, and just ready to rest. But 2020 is on the horizon, which brings with it a whole new set of goals and challenges. If we ignore this feeling of exhaustion, we risk true burnout before the new year even gets started.

I’ve seen lots of posts around the internet about rest lately, and for good reason. Taking a rest to recharge is so important, especially when you have big goals ahead at work and in life.

I have one problem with these posts, though — sleeping (or just zoning out on the couch) as an antidote to burnout often isn’t practical, or even that helpful. If you’re like me, you can’t just put your to-do list aside and sleep for a few days. Even if you did, would that really help your burnout? Probably not… in fact, it might ratchet up your anxiety, as avoidance often does. So here’s my advice instead:

Restoration should be your focus, not just rest.

Let me nerd out for a moment with you. Here’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “restorative”:

re·​stor·​ative | \ ri-ˈstȯr-ə-tiv (noun)
something that serves to restore to consciousness, vigor, or health

Sure, sometimes a boat-load of sleep or a Netflix binge will fit that definition. But they don’t always restore you fully, and they’re often not practical, especially at year-end. So open your mind up to a fuller view of “restorative rest” with my five steps to true restoration below.

1. Define “restorative” for yourself.

Start by understanding what is restorative for you, specifically. For some of my clients, change and variety are as good as rest — seriously! — so simply having the ability to shift gears throughout the day and not work on the same task monotonously feels refreshing. For others, cooking and meal prep bring a much-needed sense of peace and ease to their week.

For me, I feel most restored with a combination of hydration (90 oz. of water per day), some movement daily (even just stretching bedside for 5 minutes or a dog walk), meditation (again, just 5 minutes can do the trick) and, ideally, 30 min of reading (usually books on leadership/business). If I manage to do all of the above, I feel like I can tackle most anything that comes my way. I feel truly restored.

What is restorative for you? Think through all of the activities (and non-activities) you enjoy the most. What brings you energy (vs. sapping it)? What brings a sense of presence and fulfillment to your day? What small things make a big difference to you?

Other things to consider if you’re drawing a blank:

  • getting a full 8+ hours of sleep

  • creating a priority/must-do list

  • giving a 6-second hug to someone you love every day

  • not skipping meals/remembering to eat breakfast

  • no screen time after 7 p.m. (including email and social media!)

  • reading your kids a bedtime story

  • taking a warm bath

  • taking a cold shower (yes, seriously — this has myriad benefits, including higher energy levels, better immune response and stimulation of the beneficial vagus nerve)

  • etc.

One word of caution — ensure the activities (or non-activities) you choose as you define “restorative” for yourself are small, realistic, and doable daily. More on creating daily habits below.

2. Make restoration a daily habit.

Take your list of restorative activities (and non-activities) from #1 above and turn them into daily habits. Start by choosing just one or two; you can always add on from there.

Studies show that keeping just one small promise to yourself every day boosts self-confidence, well-being and happiness.

Here’s how to make these habits stick:

  • write them down.

  • make them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. You know, SMART.

  • keep track of them — check them off as you do them daily. Use a notebook or an online tracker app like Habit List.

  • make them your number one priority — above all else.

  • remember your “why” — these restorative habits will allow you to get everything else done with sanity, so they’re critical!

3. Schedule time for restoration.

You won’t magically begin slotting in restorative activities (and non-activities) in your life just because you know what they are. Just as you schedule meetings, doctor’s appointments, important to-dos at work, and your kid’s gymnastics meets, put your daily habits in your calendar. This is how to turn restoration from “nice-to-have” into your #1 priority.

Every Monday, after I create my weekly schedule and review my calendar, I slot in my daily restorative habits. Check out my post on how to do this in the simplest way possible.

4. Make presence your chief goal.

No matter the restorative habit you’re trying to build or the goal you’re trying to achieve, presence should be your ultimate focus. Place your attention squarely on the activity you’re doing. Worrying about the future or thinking about the past will just sap precious energy from you right now.

This applies not only to the big things you’re doing, but also to all of life’s little moments. As Eckhart Tolle, one of my favorite thinkers, says: “For example, [when] you wash your hands, feel the water. Smell the soap. Becoming acutely conscious of sense perception means looking, hearing, touching. It brings you into the present moment.”

Presence helps calm our swirling minds, sharpens our focus, improves our abilities, restores our energy, and allows us to truly experience and enjoy our lives. Honor each moment rather than always treating what you’re doing as a means to some other end.

5. Get some extra help.

Finally, enlist others in your quest for restoration. Here are some amazing retreats, courses, books and other resources for you to consider:

  • take an online Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course led by fellow coach and dear friend Ashley Nelson over at Inseus. Hop over and sign up for the January session today!

  • book a retreat focused on making everyday habits and rituals special, co-led by an incredible soul and friend Hannah at Tribe Life Events.

  • binge-listen to episodes of the Hurry Slowly podcast, focused on how the simple act of slowing down can have a massive impact in your life.

  • read A New Earth — Eckhart Tolle’s best book, in my opinion, focused on presence

  • read Mindful Work — a book on bringing mindfulness into your workday

  • and, of course, hire a coach, who can help you create goals (both restorative and otherwise) and get you on your path to achieving them!

Which of these steps are you lacking? Which have you tried? Let me know in comments below!

Working with an executive coach – especially one trained by an ICF-accredited institution – can be transformative and restorative. Haven Coaching helps you go from feeling adrift to finding your path.

If you think executive coaching could be right for you, book a no-risk, free 20 minute consultation by clicking here.

Still have questions? Contact me at mariel@havencoaching.com.

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