Feeling Burnt Out? Here's How You Can Reclaim Your Life

All of us have been, at one point in time or the other, emotionally drained, unmotivated, or completely burnt out at work. And it's ok- it's a natural response as human beings, and one that we all go through.

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Have you ever woken up in the morning, and the first thought that comes into your mind is how can you avoid going into the office today? Do you call in sick, but what excuse will you use this time around? Or should you just go in late, and say you overslept?

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As you walk into the office several hours into the day, you embarrassingly say something like, “My alarm didn’t go off,” or that “I had some digestive problems,” and you walk straight to your desk to avoid diving deeper into any awkward conversations. You perhaps then spend the next several hours doing absolutely nothing on your computer, but pretending to read emails that you tell yourself you will action tomorrow, just like that Monday diet routine. You then go for a two-hour lunch break, maybe even say you are having a business lunch, and extend it for as long as you possibly can. Do you even go back to the office? Maybe just for a little longer, before you set up another imaginary meeting outside of the office, and then make your way home early to do nothing, but stay on your couch and watch television aimlessly. And then, hours pass, and before you know, it’s groundhog’s day all over again.

All of us have been, at one point in time or the other, emotionally drained, unmotivated, or completely burnt out at work. And it’s ok- it’s a natural response as human beings, and one that we all go through. It does not make us unprofessional, angsty, or even weak. After all, we have emotions, and it’s natural that they impact our lives, either at home or at work. But the important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t let them simmer for too long- instead, we should make it a point to quickly understand the source of the issue. Is it a result of too much pressure at work? Maybe you’re just exhausted? Boredom, perhaps? A situation at home, or in your love life? Or maybe it’s simply not the right job for you? Whatever the underlying reason is, if you ever have a day like the one I outlined above, then you need to sound the alarm. Something needs to change, and that’s either your mindset, or your career.

I have had an incredible 18 months, to say the least. I lost my mother to cancer, my grandmother to old age, a friend to COVID-19, and a country I love to violence and corruption. And if that weren’t enough, the emotional trauma of being locked up at home for months during lockdown didn’t help either. Given all that that has happened, heading to work should probably be the last thing on my mind- but today, I wake up every morning energetic and ready for what’s to come my way. Indeed, I look forward to getting up early and conquering the day. I have a sense of clarity. I know I am where I need to be right now.

Related: You're Not Alone: Entrepreneurs Need To Talk About Their Mental Health Battles

Was it always like this? No, not at all! In fact, there were many days where I wasn’t able to get out of bed- maybe too many. And it isn’t just me- over the past few months, I have spoken to many friends who are experiencing burnouts at work, and have thus either decided to quit their jobs, take long vacations and sabbaticals, or just choose to operate on autopilot. So, how did I manage to turn things around for myself? Well, I’ve realized now that there are four things I did that have allowed me to ultimately change my life for the better: I got a dog, I found my way to the gym, I learned to focus inwards, and I also evolved my perspective on life. Let me explain each of these points in detail.

A dog is indeed man’s best friend There is something that changes your life instantly when another life is dependent on you. For many parents out there, it is their children that give them this ultimate sense of responsibility, and fulfilment. For me, it was getting a puppy. I had never grown up with a dog, and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into that day I brought her home. Yes, there are learning curves, and taking care of something as fragile as a life is intimidating at first. Knowing that she won’t eat if I don’t put food out for her is a frightening thought, and so was the initial idea of having to potty-train her! But the joy you bring her by your very presence, and the unconditional love whenever you get home is a blessing that got me waking up early to walk her, and making sure I come back home from work on time to feed her. It made me more grounded, and it also gave me a lot more time to myself, because I wanted to be at home more. Waking up earlier meant I could have the whole morning to myself, not just to get ready for the day, but to focus on what I needed to accomplish.

Adib Samara with his pet. Source: Private archive

A healthy body is a healthy mind Now that I had more time in the morning, I had more time to work on myself. Instead of sitting idle at home, I started going to the gym. At first it felt like a challenge, but soon after, I became excited for it. I lost weight that I’ve been trying to lose for a while, and it made me feel stronger and infused with renewed energy. And that energy carried me forward the rest of my day. This meant that I was more focused in the office, more productive, more positive, and ultimately, happier as well. Working out releases endorphins, the mood regulator chemical that triggers positive feelings in the body, and that has caused a clear shift in my attitude toward each day. Prior to going to the gym, I remember entering the office almost zombie-like, but now, I found myself coming in with a deepset motivation to get things done. When you feel pumped (literally), it is hard to be down, and by some natural progression, you look at your day-to-day situations immediately with a more positive outlook.

Adib Samara doing a breathwork exercise. Source: Private archive

Practice mindfulness: life is in the moment As part of my transformation, I began to realize that I was in more control of my life than I had led myself to believe. With a new positive outlook, I could see things clearer, and I knew I needed a reset or a reboot. In addition to my physical transformation, I needed to clear my spirit, and the emotions that had been clouding my judgement and behavior. I began with introducing yoga and breathwork into my life, and I was surprised by the immediate impact. I went to sound emersions, bong meditations, water baths, and several reiki sessions. I took it a step further and spent time with the Masai between the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, where I learned of their culture sand took part in healing ceremonies. Similarly, within the Sacred Valley of Peru, I learned of the Quechuan culture and other rituals used among various indigenous groups of the upper Amazon. I thus began to see the impact of mindfulness meditation transform not only how I viewed myself, but, more importantly, how I understood myself in the context of my environment. We spend so much time and energy learning about everything else, but rarely do we focus that same time and energy into learning about ourselves, and discovering what really drives us, motivates us, and fills us with love and joy. To really know oneself is to truly find happiness. We search it for everywhere else, but it only exists within, when we find peace within ourselves. Knowing that changes how you view your life, and what happens in it.

Adib Samara at the Sacred Valley of Peru. Source: Private archive

Everything in life happens for you, not to you When you are in more control of your mind and your spirit, you are able to view life with a new light. You understand your circumstances and how you influence your environment better. You no longer play the victim when bad things arise that are out of your control, such as the passing of a loved one. In fact, you begin to ask new questions. It’s no longer “Why do these things always happen to me?” or “Why do I hate my job?” or even “Why can’t I be more successful?” In fact, it is no longer asking why, but asking what or how. The questions thus change to “What can I learn about myself from such a situation?” or “How do I respond better to what’s happened?” or “What can I do to change my circumstances?” You begin to see every situation in life as an opportunity. You are no longer dwelling on the past or fixated on the future, but are now focused on the present. If you are at work and feel underchallenged, try to understand the why, so you can create the what or how. Take that as an opportunity to find a new challenge or responsibility. If you feel like your boss doesn’t respect your word, take it as an opportunity to try a different approach to speak to him. You have to understand that you cannot change people or their behaviors, you can only change how to react to them, or how you perceive their reactions. Instead of getting frustrated that you aren’t getting your way, get motivated in trying to find a new path. Turn it into a game, and enjoy the process. Take every situation as an opportunity to learn something new about yourself, so that you can grow and better yourself.

When you start thinking like that, you will never have a bad day in the office every again. You will only have clarity. And with that clarity, you will know if you are in the right place or not, or if you are at a place where you need to be, in order to get to where you want to go.

If you are feeling lethargic, depressed, unmotivated, or emotional, you are not in the best position to make any decisions. If you are burnt out at work, it may not necessarily be because of work. You may need to just take a small step back, perhaps even a weekend off, maybe a vacation, or whatever is required for you to reset. Then, go and find something that provides you an ultimate sense of responsibility, get your body healthy, and your mind strong, so that you that you feel better, and with that, get the clarity you need to make the choices you want. Or is it the clarity you want to make the choices you need? Either way, you aren’t alone. Just keep calm and move on. You got this.

Related: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Handling The Burden Of Business Success

Adib Samara

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Adib Samara has a BA in Political Science and a Masters in International Law and brings a unique combination of multinational and entrepreneurial experience, having worked across a variety of industries in various capacities. Adib is currently leading Global Brand and Marketing for Sweetheart Kitchen.

Prior to that, he was at the Director of Business Development at Careem, a UAE-based startup that sold to Uber for US$3.1 billion, where he lead partnerships for the brand.

He previously headed Business Development at Laundrybox, another UAE-based startup, as well as Salmontini, where he established, structured and implemented the sales and distribution strategies for the brand. He is also on the Advisory Board of The Box Self Storage, and was a Sales Advisor for SugarMoo Desserts. Prior to that, spent his career with Nestlé where he gained solid exposure to various regional assignments in different senior capacities, including sales development management for the Nescafé brand.