“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”Anne Lamott
Society has conditioned us to just keep PUSHING!
Burnout can feel like: heightened anxiety, headaches, low energy and high tension, easily triggered, emotional exhaustion, compassion fatigue, difficulty sleeping, negative bias, anger, fear, grief, panic.
In some industries, wearing exhaustion used to be a badge of honour.
In a world where we are taught to constantly hustle to push ourselves past our limits, reach our goals and get shit down all the while ignoring our body: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
We continue to push, ignoring all the subtle signs our bodies and brain are giving us to slow down. We work to the point where we’ve started to base our self-worth on how productive we were through the day. Only to feel guilt and shame when we take a moment to listen to ourselves and rest when needed.
The expectations we set for ourselves are beyond human capability sometimes.
We live off endless lists and goals, only to keep adding to this never-ending to-do list, when we accomplish one task. Keep going, keep doing, keep being, keep ignoring the signs.
We never feel like we’re doing enough. We are constantly adding dirt and stones to a never-ending mountain we all continuously climb completely exhausted with the mental load – more money, get that promotion, read more, travel more, do more. We often can get caught in a cycle of fear of missing out.
Burnout is not normal and constant exhaustion should not be a status symbol.
Give yourself permission to slow down and feel the feelings!
We have to rewire our brains to slow down and stop the rush. We have to slow down and check-in with our breath, with our body and listen. We have to be courageous to feel our feelings instead of pretending we don’t have any. Especially if those feelings are heavy and painful and grief-filled.
We live in a society that encourages emotional numbness so we can keep up with the machine pace of life. And so, instead of feeling our feelings, we ignore them. We suppress them. We try to make them go away with food or work or alcohol or Netflix or spending endless hours scrolling through social media. These numbing techniques eventually become maladaptive coping strategies, which just contribute to the cycle of stress and burnout.
Maladaptive coping strategies are essentially survival strategies and can be exhausting to keep up. They keep our nervous system stuck in a state of defence and keep us from being disconnected from the feelings that essentially rob us of our ‘aliveness’.
For years, I used work and constant business to stop me from feeling my pain, shame and rage. It’s scary to feel our feelings. But when I took a moment to breathe, to get on my Yoga mat with softness and non-judgement, I started to learn to pay attention to what my body was feeling and what it needed to ease tension and raise my energy.
Learning to feel our feelings needs to be a mindful and slow process. A softening, a melting, a gentle thawing of heavy and cold ice buildup. It’s a process of being gentle with ourselves and those around us and cultivating a space of compassion without judgement.
Healing takes time, stay soft with yourself and trust the process!
Healing from burnout takes more than a few days of rest. Waiting until the weekend to rest isn’t sustainable either. But, we can take tiny steps each and every day that will help shift our energy. These small steps will help you develop self-awareness, and eventually, you will begin to cultivate your own resilience tool bucket of rituals, routines and activities that become adaptive coping strategies, and ultimately help you get back up when you get back down.
Some of the things that help me stay regulated are stillness, movement, and journaling.
Stillness looks like savouring my morning cup of coffee or tea, early in the morning before anyone else is awake. This space gives me a quiet time for meditation and a chance to just be before the busyness of the day consumes me. I also know that any point during the day, I can connect to my breath to either upregulate or downregulate my body, this practice comes with developing self-awareness.
Movement looks like 3 Sun Salutations before my family wakes up, it helps me shift my energy and check in with my body to find out what it needs for the day. Movement looks like a walk in our woods to say good morning to my favourite tree.
Journaling looks like organizing my thoughts and planning my day. I set my to-do list and write in my gratitude journal. It’s a time for me to reflect and stay organized.
And, we don’t need to be alone to do most of these things. Include your students, your family and friends, think of this as collaborative care. Remember, when we can put on our oxygen tank first, we become better co-regulators for those in our lives.
We heal through establishing adaptive coping strategies that we know help us feel good.
A couple of questions to ask yourself when you are feeling burnout:
- What does your body need at this moment?
- Do you need to up-regulate or down-regulate?
- What brings you joy?
- What calms you down?
- What gives you energy? What drains your energy?
- Are there certain parts of your day that drive you crazy? Why? How can you reduce this stress?
- What small habits can you incorporate into your day that will balance your internal ecosystem?
- What small habits do you want to do more of, that you know will make you feel good? How can you build these activities/rituals into your routine?
- Do you do anything today that perhaps you should be doing less of? Are there healthier alternatives?
Be awkward, brave and kind.
Don’t forget that your mental health always changes due to various life events. There are many resources available for free over the internet, better yet, take the courage to be ‘awkward, brave and kind” and talk to a friend or colleague about how you are feeling. Being vulnerable and sharing how you feel is one of the best ways to learn, connect and grow. At the same time, we as a community should reach out to each other, support each other, and remind each other to take care of themselves, not just physically, but also mentally.
Which resources have you tried to help with your mental health? Which one will you try? What did I miss? Email me your thoughts!