Low Power Mode: How to Overcome Burnout

YoIs anyone else tired? Burnout is at an all-time high and rising, so I think it’s safe to assume the answer is a resounding “yes.” Between the demands of work, home, and other elements of adulthood (hello, parent burnout), we often end up feeling drained, with little energy left to tend to our personal well-being. In that physical and mental state, figuring out how to overcome burnout will surely feel like a terrible evil, if necessary.

What you could want most is some time off to completely unplug, and understandably so. According to the Harvard Business Review, gap years are the best way to recover from burnout. In fact, I love the idea of ​​a multi-month sabbatical and even offer specialized training programs to help clients prepare for it at my burnout relief consultancy Hooky Wellness. However, as much as you love them, those long breaks from work aren’t always practical or possible for financial or logistical reasons, and therefore can’t be the only way to alleviate burnout.

Not to mention, even if you are able to take a well-deserved sabbatical, vacation, career nap, or some other version of a break, there will be a period before you retire where you have to overcome impending burnout. It’s during that time, before you can recharge, that I recommend switching to “low power mode.”

What is low power mode in relation to depletion?

“Low Power Mode” is a phrase more commonly associated with smartphones, referring to a setting that allows a phone to reduce the amount of power it uses in order to extend battery life. (If you’re like me and forget to charge your phone when you’re sitting around the house, you’re probably pretty familiar.) You’ll usually get a notification from your phone to turn this setting on when it’s at 10-percent battery power or below, telling you to adjust your battery usage and start conserving your power until you can charge it.

Operating in “low power mode” means doing what you need to do while conserving what little power you have left.

This environment is an apt metaphor for what happens when we are dealing with burnout and how we can act while we need to keep working to overcome it. Burnout is physically, emotionally and mentally draining, creating low energy levels and reducing capacity or bandwidth, much like a phone with a low battery. In turn, operating in “low power mode” means doing what you need to do while conserving what little power you have left.

Like Low Power Mode on a phone, this is a temporary operating state: it can only continue to deliver while dealing with limited power for a certain period of time until you need to plug it in and recharge. But during that in-between period, learning to operate in low-power mode can help you maintain your mental well-being and preserve a base level of productivity when no real rest is (yet) possible.

How does it work in low power mode?

1. Reduce battery usage

Just as a phone stops running certain programs and performs non-critical background tasks when you put it into low power mode (for example, an iPhone will pause uploading photos to iCloud and stop using 5G), you should also reduce your own battery usage by focusing only on the necessary items on your to-do list when you have to work during exhaustion.

Prioritize the most important tasks and postpone the rest until you feel more energetic. It’s essential to give yourself permission to step back and look at the big picture, identify the tasks that are most critical, and be realistic about the amount of time and energy it will take to tackle them effectively.

It’s also important to release any guilt about procrastinating or delegating. If you feel like even your daily tasks are becoming too much of a burden, ask your colleagues, friends or family to help you release some of your limited energy.

2. Stop mindlessly swiping

When your own personal drum kit enters the yellow zone, one of the first things to cut is mindless swiping. We’re sorry, but repeat updating for Instagram, Threads, and Twitter can wait until you’re back to full capacity. This is not only draining your battery, but also consuming a ton of (mostly unnecessary) content, which can clog up the headspace you need for positive, affirming information.

Instead, make it a point to check social media when you need (or want) to, and set clear limits for yourself on usage so you don’t unintentionally reduce your remaining battery life.

3. Take small actions that extend battery life

When you’re already nearing burnout, making big changes to your routine or lifestyle can seem too daunting. Instead, focus on adopting small changes that can have a significant impact.

To go back to the phone metaphor, an iPhone uses 54 percent less battery life when you turn down screen brightness; disabling GPS and automatic updates, and closing apps you’re not using are other small actions that can help your phone conserve its juice.

The same is true in real life and self-care: small but powerful actions like taking a moment to express gratitude, doing a five-minute meditation, taking a short walk, saying an affirmation in front of the mirror, and establishing a clear work life. Limit can add boosted energy, an improved mood, and intrinsic motivation.

4. Plan to recharge as soon as possible

There is no way outside from low power mode other than to actually recharge. To be clear, recharging is not a luxury but a necessity, especially when it comes to depletion. When you notice signs of depletion, it’s important to plan a time to fully recharge (as soon as possible), so there’s a light at the end of the low-power tunnel.

Once that time comes, plan to connect to your personal source of power with activities in what I call the four pillars of mental wellness: growth, rest, play, and community. The first includes any activity that stimulates or expands your mind (think: attending a workshop on a topic you love or setting aside time to use a language-learning app), while the second has to do with calming your senses, perhaps through way to listen to a relaxing playlist or a guided meditation, or get a massage. Meanwhile, the “play” pillar is anything that’s just for fun (like singing karaoke or playing a board game), and the “community” pillar encompasses anything you can do with people who bring you joy, like loved ones or friends.

Regardless of what you choose, the sooner you recharge, the faster you can return to full power mode and do more of the things that bring you joy. Naturally, taking a break may seem impossible when there are so many things to do, but the truth is, if you don’t prioritize time to recharge, you may find that your symptoms of exhaustion only intensify.

How to recognize when you are in low power mode

Unlike a smartphone, we don’t have push notifications or adjustments, so the ability to recognize when you’re in low power mode and need to operate accordingly relies on personal awareness. Take time monthly to reflect on whether you might be starting to show warning signs of burnout. You can add this reflection to your daily routine or use the burnout quiz at Hooky Wellness to gauge your mood.

When you experience burnout, it can seem like you’ll never get your energy levels back. But again, just like a phone in low power mode, this situation is temporary. Through the intentionality and behavioral changes described above, you can retain enough energy to reach the metaphorical charger and avoid being left with a dead battery.

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