If you don’t know what Burnout is you’re either lucky, or you’re too busy to look it up.
Burnout is the state we get into when we’ve pushing too hard, doing too much, and chronically depriving ourselves for TOO LONG.
For far too many of us ‘Burnout’ has become a way of being to such an extent that we’ve forgotten what LIVING without the burden of it looks and feels like.
How do you know if you’re suffering from burnout? Here are a few tell-tale signs:
- You’re ‘hit by a truck’ exhausted, there are dark circles under your eyes and you feel like you could go to bed at pretty much any time of the day...you probably can’t actually get to sleep though because you have too many things to think about or your never ending to-do list is growing by the second in your mind
- You’re no longer enthusiastic about things which you used to love
- You barely have the motivation to change the channel on the television set using the remote control
- You feel in a constant state of anxiety – about nothing and everything - things which you might normally do without even thinking seem huge and your level of competence feels miniscule.
- Everything is ‘too much’
- You don’t have any desire to get up in the morning
- Nothing inspires you
- You don’t want to be creative
- You seem to pick up every bug and sickness going
- You feel trapped between the two states of pressurising yourself to do more, while actually accomplishing nothing
- You feel angry and snappy
- You feel guilty about any time you spend not tackling your to do list or helping/caring for someone else
- Loss of libido or sexual function
- While at home you’re thinking about all the things you need to do at work and while at work you’re thinking about everything you need to do at home
It’s time to call Burnout Rescue.
It’s important to remember that burnout can happen to anyone, even that friend of yours who always seems happy, or the celebrity who is perkiness personified, or that health and fitness coach or lifestyle guru – and even me.
I’m increasingly meeting women and men who are chronically burned out; trying so hard to do it all, have it all, be their best, while forgetting entirely to look after themselves. I don’t mean taking a multi-vitamin every morning, I mean, deeply, lovingly, compassionately, totally accepting of their needs and limitations, taking care of themselves. Body, mind and soul.
I don’t mind admitting that I’ve suffered from burnout, I don’t see it as a weakness, I see it as a reflection of how committed, enthusiastic and motivated I am to live every last drop of my life, including all parts of myself, my work, my relationships, my parenting, my passions... but what I’ve learned, (In no uncertain terms – thank you, oh wise body) is that if I want to be everything that I want to be, I have to give myself what I need...first.
Yep, that’s right. You did just read that.
Put. Yourself. First.
This isn’t about being selfish, this is about recognising that you can give SO much MORE of yourself when you aren’t depleted and running on empty. Filling up your own tank isn’t just good for you; it’s good for everyone around you, your work, your children, your studies, your friends. It’s a win-win situation!
I was once told a Sufi story about a group of travellers who had been walking for days in the baking sun, they had run out of food and water, they were parched and weakened by dehydration and hunger. They came across a river and rejoiced. One mother placed her baby on the banks of the river, waded in and drank until she’d had her fill, on her return a group of men and younger women scolded her and asked her how she could be so selfish as to leave her baby and quench her own thirst rather than giving water to the baby first. The woman calmly picked up her baby, sat on the banks of the river, put the baby to her breast and said to them ‘I have drank all that I needed and have satisfied my thirst, now I am able to provide my baby not just with river water, but with clean milk that will feed his hunger and his thirst’.
The mother was able to provide her baby with more, and better, by taking care of her own thirst first.
That's a super powerful image to have in your mind the next time you feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
Q. How are you currently taking care of your thirst? How are you looking after YOU in order to prevent burnout or bring you back from the brink?
Need some ideas? Here are 40:
- Learn to Meditate -here’s a link to Deepak Chopra’s free 21 Day Meditation challenge https://www.chopracentermeditation.com/Bestsellers/LandingPage2.aspx?BookId=178
- Learn Mindfulness – See my blog on the benefits of mindfulness https://kymnetherton.typepad.com/my-blog/2013/02/index.html
- Massage – If you can afford it get a professional massage, if you can’t, do massage swaps with friends and loved ones, most people are more than willing to give you a massage if they know they’ll be getting one back, and reciprocal massages are definitely worth more than the sum of all their parts so everyone benefits more than they give.
- Yoga – Yoga is credited with health benefits such as improved mood, increased strength and flexibility, decrease in aches and pains, better sleep, increased confidence, improved body image, decreased stress, and according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, yoga’s ability to reduce anxiety, increase body awareness and even speed the release of hormones associated with arousal translates to an increase in libido, lubrication and ability to achieve orgasm. I’d highly recommend attending a class in your local area but if not then check out https://www.doyogawithme.com/ for free online classes that you can do in your own home, at a time to suit you.
- Do something creative that has nothing to do with work, get in the kitchen and bake up a storm, make cards for your loved ones, get your camera out and take some pictures of unexpected beauty, make collages, learn to knit, learn a new crafty skill.
- Do things you loved doing before life got in the way, what did you enjoy doing when you were a child? Maybe it was reading, or colouring in, or running down hills, I’m willing to bet your adult self will still be exhilarated/calmed/overjoyed by doing some of the things that your child self loved.
- Get together with friends, old ones, new ones, silly ones, the power of a good chin-wag with people whose company you’d choose is much underrated.
- Set boundaries. It’s crucial to have set times when you don’t work, when you don’t answer calls, when you don’t answer emails. For those that work from home it’s also important to have boundaries around times that you aren’t available to mend toy cars or make snacks.
- Take naps. I love a power nap (20-40 minutes, no more) at pretty much any time of the day that my body says it needs one; and I’m in good company, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Margaret Thatcher loved power naps too, and they were *quite* productive.
- Read books that you want to read, not just ones that you have to read or ‘should’ read.
- While we’re at it, remove the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary. Entirely. You ‘could’ do anything, but shoulding all over yourself is asking for trouble of the fatigue/guilt/anxiety kind.
- Burn (or add a couple of drops to your bath) essential oils - Try Lavender for relaxation and stress relief, Geranium to calm and balance, Orange for insomnia and mood boosting, or Clary Sage to release nervous tension.
- Steer clear of stimulants like caffeine, nicotine and processed sugar.
- Feed your body – ‘Real’ food that comes from nature, and that you prepare lovingly for yourself, not junk food that’s prepared by a nameless stranger in a factory or fast food joint. Read my blog about Mindful Eating https://kymnetherton.typepad.com/my-blog/2012/01/index.html
- Breathe. In and out. Focus on the out breath.
- Stroke a pet, if you don’t have one, see if a friend has a dog that would like an extra walk or a rabbit who likes cuddles.
- Exercise. In any way you like, it could be that you love running, or salsa dancing, or skipping with a rope, it really doesn’t matter what you do, only that you move your body in a way that you enjoy.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your worries is a proven way of getting distance from them. Also a written to do list is often ‘shorter’ than a mental one.
- Laugh - it really is the best medicine. Watch a funny film, see a comedian, read a comic strip, whatever tickles you.
- Gardening - great for reducing stress, getting exercise, fresh air, teaching patience, getting creative, and being in touch with nature.
- Take a bath - Treat yourself to a facemask or aromatherapy oils, luxuriate until the water goes cold and your fingers go wrinkly.
- Listen to music or play an instrument.
- Drink Camomile Tea. Slowly and from your favourite cup.
- Lie on your back outdoors and look up at the clouds or the stars. Great for getting perspective and feeling connected.
- Unplug – No facebook, no twitter, no smartphone, no emails.
- Go for a walk and really notice your surroundings.
- Look through photo’s and indulge in your happy memories.
- Light scented candles and sit in the candlelight.
- Go to the beach or a river and connect with the flow of water.
- Go somewhere or do something new – A change really can be as good as a rest.
- Forgive yourself.
- Let go of something – perhaps a negative belief about yourself, a rule or a memory.
- Snuggle under a blanket
- Buy yourself flowers and remember how special you are every time you look at them
- Look yourself in the eye in the mirror and tell yourself that you love and accept yourself, just the way you are. Out loud.
- Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
- Get professional support – That could be a baby sitter, a cleaner, a counsellor or a VA.
- Say goodbye to guilt about taking care of yourself. Forever.
The great thing about burnout is that once you’ve been through it a few times and learned what works to bring you out of it, you get better and better at avoiding it; and you start including what you need as a daily practice, rather than as a last minute rescue remedy.
Remember: You don’t have to get burned out before you start taking care of yourself, take care of yourself today and say bye-bye burnout for good.