First, how do we get to burnout? That feeling like you are up against a whole ocean of currents trying to pull you under every day. Fighting to keep your head above water is exhausting and you feel like you are losing the battle… It is a long process of taking on too much, saying yes to too many things that do not involve our own personal growth, and not giving back to ourselves. Our mind tires, our body takes a hit hormonally, our spirit feels as though one thousand racehorses have trampled all over it. It is a long process to get to burnout. Years of putting everyone else first before our own needs. Sometimes decades of self-sacrifice and giving. Sometimes it seems like it was just a single moment that pushes us over the edge, sometimes a lifetime.
After a time of putting ourselves second to family, career, friends, obligations… After an accumulation of obligations that just beats us down… How do we fix it? How do we get back to that place where there is a balance between our obligations and our own personal sanity? Have you lost so much of yourself to these obligations that you do not even know who you are anymore? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel??
Here are 5 suggestions that you can implement right away to help stop burnout in its tracks and restore balance to your life:
- Take care of yourself NOW, and make it a habit— If you are waiting for the right time or for things to “slow down” to recover and take care of yourself, you will never take care of yourself. Write it in your calendar and be specific! Saying I am going to take the time to recover and do my self-care is too vague. Write out “I will breathe for 1 minute in the morning while I wait for my coffee to brew” or “I get a massage on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at FORM at 4:30pm with Kasey” and make a standing appointment with your therapist for the whole year. With a specific plan of action that is a non-negotiable on your calendar, you WILL follow through.
- 5 minutes a day to a full day to a full week— Self-care looks different for everyone. For some, it is a reward of a week vacation after quarter-end and others it is mindfully eating a piece of chocolate in a quiet place. For some, it is food prep on Sundays and for others, it is drinking enough water every day. But the one thing remains the same for everyone, you need to find what works best for you to take care of yourself. If you already know, awesome, refer to tip #1 and make a plan. If not, then you get to experiment with what helps you! For example, I learned that sitting for 30 minutes per day in self-hypnosis or meditation actually caused me to have more anxiety about the things I was not getting done during that time. So I made a nice compromise with myself, I do mindfulness exercises 3-4 times a day for a short time (from 2-10 minutes) and once a week I do a 20-30 minute self-hypnosis session. I plan those longer ones in my calendar and I seize the opportunity for the shorter ones while I am standing in line at the grocery store or in between clients. Full days of self-care/spa services don’t work for me, but I make sure that I have at least one massage and one facial booked per month and I always go to the gym at 5am or 6am 4-5 days a week. What works for me may not work for you. Find what helps you and make a plan to follow through with it!
- Breathe— When was the last time you actually took a full breath? Breathing is one of the most important things we do every day, all day, yet we spend very little time allowing our breath to calm and focus us. Holding your breath for 3-5 seconds at the top of your breath puts a little pressure on the vagus nerve which elicits a relaxation response from your system. Taking 10 deep belly breaths, holding at the top for 3-5 seconds, can totally change your mindset, relax your body and ease tension in your mind.
- Utilize the power of “NO”— Say it with me now, “no, no, no, no, no”! This requires some extra effort sometimes. However, saying no to events, obligations, friends, and family is imperative to recovering from burnout and bringing balance to your life. Really take some time to understand what is important to you and why. Understanding these things is how we make decisions about what we say “yes” to. Say that being involved in your child’s schooling is important to you because you believe that parent involvement is key to a child’s developmental success and growing into an amazing adult. Your child’s teacher is having an open house for parents in the evening on the same day as you usually go out for drinks with your friends. Going out for drinks with your friends is also important to you for self-care. What do you say “yes” to? That is where the understanding of the things that are important to you comes in! Having a hierarchy of where important things fall on the list is also crucial to making a decision about what to do. There is no right or wrong answer, and maybe there is even a compromise… It is all about finding what is best for you at that moment in your life (the answer also may be different depending on what is going on in your life at the time)!
- Sleep— Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep a day? Are the hours you are in bed sleeping actually good sleep? Sleep is the number one thing you can do to recover from burnout and bring more balance into your life. We demand so much of ourselves while we are awake. When we sleep our muscles relax, our hormones balance, our heart gets a break because it pumps less because of a drop in blood pressure, your immune system is boosted, your brain clears out harmful toxins and waste proteins, which allows our bodies to heal and prepare for the next day. If we fail to hit REM sleep for at least a couple cycles every night our bodies cannot “hit the reset button” from the previous day. With constant sleep deprivation comes the accumulation of toxins and stress that we are unable to shed. From this accumulation, we become overloaded with toxins and eventually this ends up contributing to burnout. Having trouble sleeping because your mind runs like a hamster wheel? Refer back to #3, go to your doc and have your hormone levels tested, try an Epsom salt foot soak or full-body soak before bed, try some melatonin or magnesium spray before bed, stop looking at your screens (all screens, including the TV) at LEAST one hour before bed, or have a bedtime routine that signals to your body and mind that it is time to wind down. You do not have to do all these things! You just have to find what works for you and implement it as a habit (refer back to #1 for establishing a good habit).
These are just a few tips to start with if you are on the verge of or actively experiencing burn out. If you are having trouble finding the balance in life, please reach out! We have a full network of resources that can help! Send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), visit our website (youareforming.com), or send a text or call (585-752-3644). We will be happy to help you find your way!