If you’re feeling burned out, you may have considered meditation. Or maybe you’ve done breathing exercises or squeezed a nap into your day. The problem with these “tried and true” stress-relief strategies is that they often don’t help, and they can do more harm than good, says Arin N. Reeves, author of In Charge: The Energy Management Guide for Badass Women Who Are Tired of Being Tired.
Reeves compares burnout to being on a lake in a canoe that is leaking. Once you notice the hole, you start scooping out the water. You spend hours scooping. Then your friends tell you, “You look tired. You need to exercise more. You need to eat better. You need to go home and get more rest,” Reeves says. “But it’s so that you can get back in that canoe tomorrow and keep scooping up that water.”
The problem with a lot of self-care strategies is that they start in the middle. They don’t question whether you should be in a canoe that has a hole in it. They assume that you’ll keep doing what you’re doing and working the way you’re working. Self-care strategies don’t work because you will wake up the next day and be tired again.
“It doesn’t matter how much you sleep, it doesn’t matter how much you take care of yourself, burnout won’t go away because the burnout is the air that you’re breathing every day,” Reeves says. “Self-help strategies are not helping us by asking, Is what I’m doing sustainable?”