Vacation Won't Cure Burnout (But Here's What Will)

How Self Care Can Leave You Feeling Refreshed and Recharged!

It’s easy to start to feel burned out with all the hustle and bustle of the modern world. It certainly doesn’t help things that wages have been pretty stagnant over the past couple decades, even while worker productivity has gone up. It feels like we are always expected to give more and more and receive less and less in return.

In the US, we don’t even have a lot of paid time off or any sort of paid paternal or maternal leave. This leads to Americans spending more days out of the year working than our counterparts do in much of Europe. While it might seem like just taking a vacation will be the perfect cure for feeling burned out, it’s actually not the optimal solution.

While yes, having time off to recuperate and recharge is always a good thing, a vacation itself won’t stop you from feeling burned out if you just go back to your same old routine as soon as you return to the office. No, in order to efficiently cure your feelings of burnout there are some other methods that will prove more effective.

woman at her desk wondering how to cure burnout
Burnout is the feeling you get from unmanaged chronic stress.

Vacation Won’t Cure Your Burnout

They Often Introduce A New Level of Stress Into Your Life

The reason that vacation won’t cure your burnout is that vacations are often filled with unmet expectations. I mean really think about the last vacation you took and how many big or little things went wrong. Maybe the airline lost your luggage or you get a flat tire when you’re on the road. The point is that vacations often come with their own special type of stress that comes from things going off plan and unexpected emergencies. All of that can lead to the vacation being more stressful than anticipated and will mean that it won’t cure your burnout.

Another reason vacations don’t magically cure burnout is that, in the 21st century, we are always kind of connected to work. What you do on vacation matters. Since we are always available wirelessly, we often find ourselves checking work emails and worrying about the office when we are at home. And many people find it difficult to unplug on vacation because they don’t want all the work to pile up when they are gone. It kind of ruins the vacation if you have to go back to crazy difficult days of work as soon as you get back. It kind of defeats the point. But at the same time constantly checking your emails and trying to stay on top of the work while you are on vacation also defeats the point of taking the vacation in the first place.

Not to mention the added stress of getting ahead on work before vacation or scrambling to catch up when you return to the office.

You need to take proactive steps to manage your chronic stress in order to beat burnout!

If Vacation Won’t Cure Your Burnout What Will?

How Practice Self Care Can Help You Overcome Your Burnout

In order to fix your burnout, you need to take proactive steps to actually address the problems that are making you feel burnt out in the first place. And burnout isn’t exactly a medical diagnosis. It’s really just the result from chronic stress that isn’t being managed correctly. So in order to address the burnout you need to take steps to manage your stress appropriately. And one of the best ways you can manage your stress is by practicing self care routines. There are all kinds of self care that you can engage in.

Some of the obvious options are getting some good exercise in and making sure you get a good night’s sleep. There is a massive connection between physical health and mental health and I’m sure we’ve all noticed we feel mentally better after we engage in exercise. And getting a good night’s sleep can have a huge effect on your mental health throughout the day. And a third of Americans report not getting enough sleep every day. So that means there are a whole lot of you out there that could do yourselves a big favor and try to set aside the time to get a full restful night’s sleep!

You can give yourself a spa day. Trim your nails, whiten your teeth, take a hot bath, shave, do a moisturizing face mask, and clean your ears. It might sound funny but bathing is such an ingrained part of us as primates that practicing an in depth bath can be a great form of self care. I mean when you think about it even monkeys and apes spent a fair amount of time grooming. It’s just kind of hardwired into us from evolution that bathing as self care can drastically improve their mental health. In fact when I was in therapy it was one of the first things my therapist recommended. Spending more time each day on your self care and bathing routine can deal serious results for your mental health.

Another great way to practice self care is to engage in the hobbies and activities that you love. Whether it's writing, painting, reading, watching movies, or playing video games, simply taking the time to enjoy life and do the things you think are fun can be a great way to manage your stress. When you engage with something you really enjoy you enter into flow states where your mind and body are almost running on autoplot. It’s a semi meditative state that allows your mind to process all kinds of background stress.

And speaking of meditation, meditation can be another great way to engage in self care. And this one is particularly effective for your mental health and might be your best bet at addressing your feelings of burnout. Not only can meditation help you manage your stress and anxiety, it can also literally bump your IQ up a couple of points when you do it as a regular habit.

board that reads self care isn't selfish
Self care isn’t only not selfish, it’s also absolutely necessary from time to time to make sure you are feeling your best!

Music As A Self Care Tool

How Music and Music Therapy Can Help You Manage Your Chronic Stress

Another incredible way to practice self care is to listen to or play music. Engaging in music in any way can have a positive effect on your feelings of stress and anxiety because music can literally influence your heart rate and make you feel more calm. But if you want to find a way to get everything you can out of your music then you could engage in some kind of music therapy. Music therapy is the application of music by a licensed professional to help their patient address different types of ailments. And one of the things that music therapy can be most effective for is treating feelings of anxiety and stress.

And although you’ll get the most out of your music therapy by getting a licensed professional, not everybody can afford to drop the extra money on healthcare in America. But there are plenty of ways you can practice basic music therapy at home on your own. SInging, drumming, writing songs, just screwing around and improvising, there are all kinds of ways that you can use music at home to help take your mind off of your problems. Music therapy can be particularly effective at battling stress by shifting your focus elsewhere, but there is often a rhythmic structure that offers a pacing for your breathing that will help you stay relaxed. When you learn to play an instrument one of the most important things your teacher will teach you is proper breathing. Not only will you be able to play better when you are relaxed, but the relaxation helps minimize your feelings of stress and anxiety because it keeps your heart rate slow and steady.

Vacation won’t cure your burnout, but practicing self care can!

Self care is really the only effective way to cure burnout -- no matter what self care means to you.

Vacations definitely offer an opportunity for you to destress and unplug. But the issue is that in the modern world we all find it incredibly difficult to unplug and that is before the unexpected emergency stress off something going haywire on vacation. So if you really want to cure your burnout then you need to take active steps to manage your feelings of chronic stress. There are a whole variety of self care activities that you can engage in. Exercise, bathing, engaging in hobbies, meditating, getting a good night's sleep, and playing music can all be effective ways to help mitigate your stress. And you will find the effects are even more significant when you make self care part of your routine.

Anthony Stockton
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