Do you ever feel “stuck”?

From time to time, I get “stuck”…

My routine starts to feel mundane, like I’m just trudging through the week. I’m exhausted nearly all of the time. And my motivation stores are running on “reserve.”

Up until a few years ago, I prescribed to the “grin and bear it” approach to life, and continued feeling stuck, year after year.

It took a few health scares and a near death experience before I finally realized that I possessed the power to take control over my life and how I felt—both physically and mentally.

Of course, it’s normal to get a little “stuck” every once in a while… But I’ve learned to recognize the signals my body is sending me when that happens. And I now know these are my personal indicators that I’m burned out and need of a reset.

Your burnout indicators might be similar to mine, or completely different.

The key is learning to recognize when you’re experiencing them—and making sure you have the tools you need to pull yourself out.

Indicators of burnout

Burnout is caused by chronic stress, and is a combination of physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feeling ineffective or unaccomplished.

The thing is, burnout doesn’t suddenly happen. Chronic stress builds and builds, until it finally comes to a head.

Here are the few warning signs that you may be chronically stressed and on the path to burnout:

  • Physical Symptoms: brain fog, chest pain, chronic fatigue, headaches, increased illness, loss of appetite, muscle pain, sleep issues,

  • Emotional Symptoms: anxious, cynical, depressed, feeling trapped, irritable, lethargic, unmotivated

  • Behavioral Symptoms: isolation, lack of productivity, poor performance, procrastination, substance abuse, withdrawing from responsibilities

Today, I’m sharing my secret for getting “unstuck” and beating burnout. You might be surprised at just how big of an impact this near effortless routine can have on your life and the people in it…

The life-changing power of the “minding your mindset”

One of the major keys that empowered me the most was an adjustment to my mindset. I chose to commit myself to a daily gratitude practice.

The purpose of a gratitude practice is to develop a “state of thankfulness” by regularly and proactively replacing your negative thoughts with meaningful reflection. Eventually, negative thoughts become less frequent. And instead, you become more aware of all the good that consistently surrounds you.

But the benefits aren’t just psychological. In fact, scientific research has found that participating in this type of daily practice can have a transformative effect on your physical and mental performance, outlook, and even your health.

For instance, in a 2016 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that adults with a gratitude-focused mindset reported lower levels of loneliness—and subsequently sustained better physical health—than those who didn’t.

In a 2015 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers found that a regular gratitude practice can produce lasting changes in the brain, helping to reduce symptoms associated with depression and anxiety, as well as improve feelings of well-being.

And in a 2015 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, a group of nearly 120 women were split into two groups. Over two weeks, one group implemented a gratitude practice every day, while the other group did not. At the end of the intervention, the researchers found that the women who practiced daily gratitude improved their overall well-being, with increases in sleep quality and decreases in diastolic blood pressure.

Developing your own gratitude practice

If you’d like to bring a gratitude practice into your life, but aren’t sure how to get started, here are a few areas to focus on:

  • Environment
    Find a relaxing place (or a series of them) to regularly perform your gratitude practice. It could be over a cup of coffee in a quiet café, cuddled up in your bed, or at your favorite outdoor spot. Anywhere you’re able to find peace without interruption will do!

  • Mindset
    If you want to fully commit to your gratitude practice, you need to enter it with a clear, calm, and focused mind.

It’s easier said than done, I know. So if you need some help, I encourage you to check out my Sound Mind Protocol. This online learning course will teach you how to harness the powers of self-generated sound, deep breathing, and mind exercises to boost your mood, your memory, and brain’s abilities. (You can click here to learn more or to get started today.)

  • Gratitude Prompts

Once you’ve achieved a mental state of calm and focus, it’s time to think about what you’re grateful for. We’ll call these “gratitude prompts.”

Start by envisioning a special person, a pet, your favorite place, a prized possession, an experience, or something you love to do. It can be a major thing or something seemingly insignificant. It can be positive or something you gained from a negative or difficult situation. The options are endless!

Ask yourself the following: What does it mean to you and why? How has it helped enrich your life? What can you do to express your appreciation for it? (A simple internet search can give you plenty more gratitude-based prompts!)

Also feel free to record these in a gratitude journal. Many people find this helpful to look back on when they need a little boost, or to just reflect. Plus, researchers have found that keeping a gratitude journal helps decrease stress, improve sleep quality of sleep, and build emotional awareness.

During your practice, resist the urge to complain or speak poorly of yourself or others. If the thought’s not helpful, kind, or necessary, then let it go.

Remember, the words you say, write, and think matter—and have a big impact on your overall health.

Whole-body nourishment from one daily question

Cultivating a grateful mindset is like tending to a garden. Like plants and flowers, your state of mind needs regular care, attention, and nourishment, too.

And as you’ll soon come to find, practicing gratitude can positively affect many aspects of your well-being. All you need is a willingness to try and consistent follow-through.

I think gratitude is summed up best in one of my favorite quotes, “Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault


SOURCES:

Carter, S. (2013) The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout… Do You Have Them? Psychology Today. Retrieved from: psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them

Chowdhury, M., (2020). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and How It Affects Anxiety and Grief. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved from: positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/

Deschene, L. (n.d.). 50 Questions That Will help You Feel Grateful and Good About Life. Tiny Buddha. Retrieved from: tinybuddha.com/blog/50-questions-to-foster-gratitude-and-feel-good-about-life/

Jackowska, M. et al. (2015). The impact of a brief gratitude intervention of subjective well-being, biology, and sleep. Journal of Health Psychology. 21(10): pp. 2207 – 2217. Retrieved from: journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1359105315572455

Killen, A. and Macaskill, A. (2015). Using a gratitude intervention to enhance well-being in older adults. Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Subjective Well-Being, 16(4): pp. 947–964. Retrieved from: psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-25994-001

Kini, P., Wong, J., McInnis, S., Gabana, N., and Brown, J. (2016). The effects of gratitude expression on neural activity. Neuroimage. 128: pp. 1 – 10. Retrieved from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26746580

O’ Connell, B., O’Shea, D., and Gallagher, S. (2016). Mediating effects of loneliness on the gratitude-health link. Personality and Individual Differences. 98: pp. 179 – 183. Retrieved from: sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886916303038

Smith, M., and Robinson, L. (2019). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

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About the author

Jim Donovan M.Ed., is a professional musician and educator. He's an Assistant Professor at Saint Francis University where he teaches music and how the power of sound can help you experience a healthier life.