Ways to Beat Burnout: Savoring

By Ronald Nicholson, MA

With the new year comes a time of reflection and goal setting. One goal that frequently comes up in therapy, or at just about every holiday party whenever you tell someone you are a therapist, is how to deal with burnout. Burnout is the the prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stress, with symptoms that include exhaustion, feelings of detachment and cynicism, and a sense of ineffectiveness. If you were to think of your own emotional reserves as a bank account, being in burnout is having a negative balance. Being in burnout means that we have less physical and emotional energy, and we are less able to be the kind of person we want to be. This could mean we are less focused and productive at work or less emotionally available to our loved ones.

So how do we treat burnout? One thing that can help is savoring. In psychology, savoring is the process of attending to, appreciating, and enhancing the positive experiences that occur in life. If you have ever heard of or tried mindfulness, this is like that only directed at the positive aspects of life. Savoring means taking the time and energy to appreciate and enjoy the all the positive moments, big or small, that come your way. To expand on the bank account metaphor, if burnout is taking too much money out of your account, savoring is a way to put money back in.

What’s more, savoring doesn’t require any extra time or effort, just appreciating what you have. The holiday season is the perfect time to practice savoring all the joys life can bring. Savoring could mean taking a moment to actually appreciate your morning coffee, rather than drinking it absentmindedly while thinking about everything that needs to get done. It could mean making a point to be present with loved ones when you get to spend time with them, rather than focusing on what needs to get done or mentally being somewhere else. Savoring could also mean letting someone know you appreciate them. Even if you’re pretty sure they already know this simple act could mean a lot to them and you. Or savoring could mean finding ways to enhance the joys you already have in life; doing that one little thing that turns up the dial on something you enjoy just a little bit. No one thing can beat burnout. But taking time to appreciate and enjoy the things that bring joy to our lives can help.

The holiday season can come with as many stressors as they do opportunities for joy. As we take stock of our lives and consider our goals for the new year, the simple act of appreciating what we have, the things and people that bring us joy and meaning, can help us to recharge our batteries be the person we want to be in the year to come.

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