Burn Outs: How to stay healthy when you’re feeling unmotivated // stressed

When life is stress free, simple, and everything is going to plan you seem to have everything under control; you’re making healthy decisions (that work for your body), you are eating well, sleeping enough, and making it to your workout classes. BUT, then there are always these these curveballs; holidays, exams, getting sick, added stress, break ups, a few days of getting “off track” or whatever personal things you might be going through where it becomes harder to manage and balance your normal routine- the one that makes you feel your best; both mentally and physically. It seems that the healthy habits that we’ve had instilled just go out the door, we almost become a little more anxious, a little more depressed, fatigued, and we don’t feel as if we are achieving our personal best. We just aren’t showing up for ourselves. 

Our own personal will power isn’t working, we might eat poorly, we are super unmotivated to exercise, and just all around not motivated to be healthy. I also want to reiterate, “healthy” in terms of YOU, what works for your body. Some of our bodies function perfectly fine on 5 hours of sleep, working out 4 days a week, and eating a plant based diet others need 8 hours of sleep, love working out between 5-6 days a week switching it up between cardio and weight training, and might eat a diet that is primarily planted based but loves fish and organic meats. It looks different on everyone, but we all feel the same life stressors to some degree and can all relate when it comes to finding motivation to just wake up and put one foot in front of the other when we just feel unmotivated and stressed AF. 

So what do you do (or what do I do) when I feel this way?! It can be really easy to throw in the towel one day and then let it spill over to the next days and the next, becoming this vicious cycle of self-sabotaging and then you can’t shake the rut/mood you are in. For me there are some important questions that I like to ask myself during these times and things that I like to do to either drag me out of these moments or prevent them before I dive head first.

1. First, simply just ask yourself how you feel?

Our minds are constantly stimulated with everything these days, we are always pulled in all different directions, hold ourselves to a certain standard, and yet it can be difficult to just figure out what is actually going on with US; ourselves. Always being on the go, we need to sometimes, stop, breathe, and check in. Often times when I feel BURNT OUT this is how I am feeling:

  1. Anxiety / Depressed
  2. I don’t feel as if I am achieving to the best of my abilities; my creativity levels are low
  3. Lack of focus // I loose site of my personal goals 
  4. I compare myself to others
  5. I am extremely tired; especially emotionally. 
  6. I get sick!! 
  7. I don’t want to work out; either no motivation, no energy, or simply put: do not care!
  8. My appetite is off: I either do not want to eat, I want to eat everything (crave sugar) 
  9. I feel off with friends and family; out of place 

2. What motivates you to make healthy decisions?

Instead of focusing on OUTWARD appearances, just ask yourself how you want to feel! Stop focusing so much on a number or how you think you need to look. For me, I like to focus on the feelings that I get after a work out; the endorphins or how my mind and body feels after eating foods that nourish me, give me fuel and energy for the day. Obviously, yes everyone indulges, but we aren’t necessarily talking about that here, so of course I do, but I am talking about when I am just stuck in a place that I need an extra push to stay motivated, stay balanced in order to feel less tired, sleep better, have more energy, be more productive with work, and be more focused. When I work out and eat the foods that provide me this type of nourishment then everything falls into place; I am more committed to working out, meeting friends, being social, increasing my productivity levels, sleeping more, not becoming sick as easily because I am taking care of myself both mentally and physically. 

Maybe here, you need to change up your routines:

  1. Switch up your workout routines: trade yoga for a HIIT workout or vice versa. Walk, swim, spin, or REST.
  2. Switch the time that you work out to see if that makes a difference with your sleep cycle, stress levels, your motivation, eating habits etc.  
  3. Find different studios to work out in, a different environment can make a difference (even if it is just for one week!) 

3. How is your diet? 

    1. Are you restricting or giving your body what it needs?

Often times, when I personally over think every little detail about what I am eating, I tend to stress out my body even more. When I just focus on eating foods that I love and that I naturally gravitate towards, I respond much better, physically and mentally. This also frees up mental stress and doesn’t lead me to binge, over eat, regret, or feel guilty about foods that I love eating! This is why I also think changing up your food choices // diet // is crucial! I know that when I am bored with eating the same thing every single day, there will be one or two days where I will just eat everything in sight because NOTHING is satisfying me and I truly think it is not because I am actually hungry, it is because I was either; depriving my body of foods that I wanted, bored, stressed/burnt out from following a strict mundane routine, and my body is lacking nutrients that it is missing. I hate to think of certain food as something that is off limits or you can’t enjoy/have, but rather as something as fuel, something that you need, something that your brain needs to get you through your days, your toughest days. When I am bored with the food that I am eating I look up new recipes from other bloggers, check out different cookbooks, use different spices, order healthy take out (to change it up), or I might even switch it up and have a breakfast for dinner type of thing - anything to trick my body to think it is having something different and new. I think it is important to eat label free and not worry or spend too much time focusing on following a certain diet trend. Figure out what works for you with your meals and snacks and stick to it and understand that some days you will be more hungry than other days and that is totally normal!

How are you feeling mentally? 

    1. Talk it out // Write it out

Check in with your intellect. Find someone you can confide in and trust with your feelings. If you have no one to turn to in these moments or turn to immediately; write it out! It will help get everything off your mind and on to paper. Sometimes just talking it out or writing it out can make all the difference, make things feel more manageable. Plus, a friend or family member can help you put things into perspective. They can offer advice, suggestions, tips, and just be there to listen to you even if they can’t relate to exactly how you are feeling.  

    2. Gratitude Journal: Every night or each morning write down three things you are grateful for, three things that you love about yourself, three people you are happy that are you in your life, and three things that you want to accomplish that day. This will help you stay positive, motivated, and appreciate everything you have in life when things are tough! 

4. What is your inner dialogue?

Sometimes I can get so far deep inside my head that I can’t even believe I am saying what I am saying. Whenever I am being extremely negative, I try and stop and think imagine if I was saying this to my best friend or someone that I cared deeply about- to their face; out loud. You’ll probably stop right there with those thoughts. 

Another thing; write down all the excuses as to WHY you CAN’T do something that day or week; here are some of mine that always pop up in my head:

  1. I am so stressed out that I am going to drink this wine because I’ve had the worst day 
  2. I have no time to meal prep this weekend so I’ve already blown it before the week even started 
  3. Everyone else is drinking more, so I will have another one
  4. (OR maybe you live with roommates or a boyfriend)….They eat unhealthy, so that means I have to eat that way too. 

Just begin to change your mindset, shift your focus, and start to think more positively. Easier said than done, but a little change in attitude can go a long way. Examples:

  1. If you live with roommates or a significant other and they do not like to eat the way you do; try cooking for them! Teach them how to; show them the foods you love; make it a habit, but make it fun!! 
  2. Before you go out to eat with your friends take a look at the menu and see what you might want to order so you don’t order something that might upset your stomach or make you feel terrible. That way you can enjoy yourself, be stress free, and have a really good time with your friends NOT worrying about what you are eating while you are there or what everyone else is eating
  3. Take a few breathes before you are about to eat: there is always that transition period when you come home from work and about to eat dinner or decide if you want to go work out; but you are so hungry! Decide how you are feeling, what will make you feel your best. If you always choose to stay home, eat and not work out, maybe have a snack waiting for you when you get home with your work out clothes ready so you can be out the door within a matter of minutes! 

5. Are you over doing it? 

Sometimes I have a hard time saying no, resting, relaxing, and taking breaks from eating too healthy, and working out too much. You need to let your body rest and recover between workouts. When you do this you will see your best results! So, instead of hitting the cardio machines every single day, switch up your workouts with yoga, swimming, yoga, lifting weights and then give your body a break in between. On those off days if you just can’t stand to sit still take a light walk or stretch it out! If you don't rest you will hurt yourself and you will burn out! Also, with the holidays or social commitments it can be hard to say no to every single thing going on and not feel guilty and in the end you are the one that suffers. If you have a few things going on that week, I like to figure out which one is going to be the most important and beneficial for my well-being and go! Maybe I go to every single event I have in one week or maybe I make it to 2 out of the 4 things I had scheduled, no guilt. Do what is best for you and do not feel selfish about it. You can’t run on an empty tank. 

6. Are you prioritizing your sleep?

For me, I notice that when my sleep schedule is off, everything is off: stress levels, anxiety, digestion, mood, you name it. I tend to not get stressed out, my energy levels are always pretty high but when I am working a lot I do suffer from burn outs a few times and it’s mainly because my sleep has been lacking. Things that throw off my sleep schedule;

  1. Working out too much // causing me to be over tired
  2. Not eating well (too much sugar, not eating enough, or eating too much closer to bed )
  3. Working late at night // computer screen // phone screen near bed
  4. Caffeine too close too bed

Other tips/suggestions

  1. Find your circle; your friend group that supports you
  2. Get rid of things in your life that do not hold a purpose there (unfollow people, clutter in your apartment etc)
  3. Stop comparing yourself to other people; we only see a little bit of everyone’s life; not the whole picture
  4. Find a friend to work out with & sign up for the classes; commit ahead of time
  5. Set goals, daily goals, weekly goals & write them down on paper in clear view. Every night before I go to bed I make a tentative to do list of what I want to accomplish the next day; for a few reasons - it doesn't cause me to over think while laying in bed, I don't waste time in the morning thinking about what I need to do for the day, and I get up and start on my day right away and have a clear focused plan. 
  6. Tell yourself you are going to do something & say it out loud! You are more likely to stick to it! It can be something as simple as: I am going to finish this paper, I am going to that workout class tonight, I am going to meal prep on Sunday, etc.
  7. Two apps that might be helpful:
    1. Headspace: It is a meditation app that teaches you how to meditate! Just a few minutes each morning or any time of the day can really change your whole day/shift your focus. Make you more aware and mindful of your thoughts! 
    2. Self-Control: It is an app that manually lets you block your own access to distracting websites, your mail servers, or anything else on the Internet. Just set a period of time to block for, add sites to your blacklist, and click "Start." Until that timer expires, you will be unable to access those sites—even if you restart your computer or delete the application.

Burn outs can be outright annoying and happen to everyone! I feel that the majority of the time I am not stressed out, have pretty much all things under control, but I do hit roadblocks, my body does become tired, weak, and over worked. We think that because aren't being productive that something is wrong but it is also so important to give your body adequate time to rest and recover so you can always (for the most part) be your best self. You can run on an empty tank! Remember the why, why you show up each day, why you want to accomplish certain goals, why you want to work out, why (or what) makes you feel good about eating a certain way, and how all of this makes you feel your best mentally. I think that when you realize that, focus on that aspect you will be able to push yourself to a certain degree but recognize when you need to back off and be able to check in with yourself each day before you completely burn yourself out!