Burnout and The Importance of Self-Compassion and Self-Care
Burnout – It’s one of those things that sneaks up on you when you’re not looking. When you’ll have a break once you get past that next deadline or after that next report is finished, only that deadline or report is replaced with a new one with a bigger sense of urgency than the last ones. Before you know it, you can’t get out of bed in the morning. You’re tired, no, exhausted, and find you get every cold, flu and bug that comes around. You may feel anxious all the time, be overly sensitive and emotional and feel like you don’t have any control over your thoughts or emotions. Your memory is shot and your concentration lasts for no more than 30 seconds. You have hit the wall, emptied the bucket and used all the money in your emotional bank.
We live in a world where it is easy to be absorbed in serving or caring for others and, while this makes us feel good, the risk of burn out is high. We see the effects in our clients every day here at the practice and consistently hear from clients who are struggling to come back from burnout following long periods of high levels of activity.
Of course, prevention is always preferable to a cure. By implementing the above BEFORE we get to the stage of burnout we are able to look after ourselves and assist in coping with stressors while continuing to develop our resilience. However, whether you are currently attempting to heal from burnout, whether you are trying to halt your downward spiral or generally just want to take better care of yourself, the following tips will help.
Recovering from burn out takes time – let yourself heal
It didn’t take a week or two for you to get to burnout level, so it’s not going to take a week or two to heal from it. We put so much pressure on ourselves to get better and feel as though we should have been “fixed” last week. Unfortunately, though, recovery from burnout takes time and this amount of time will be different from person to person. It is important you trust in yourself and your body to let you heal and focus on taking care of yourself instead of pushing yourself to feel better.
Focus on your daily needs
And I mean REALLY focus on them (like to the exclusion of all else!). Your sleep, diet and appetite, exercise and social life are the main things that inject energy and focus on replenishment for us. If these things are compromised, no matter what else you are doing, you will always be behind the 8 ball. Focusing on these things can provide you with much-needed healing time for your brain and body and to cope with the effects of burnout and will go a very long way to recovering from it.
Appreciate what you already have
Whether this is a roof over your head, a loved one or a clear sunny day, practicing gratitude and tuning into the positive things in your life (even if there are only a few) can help to shift your mindset from the negative thinking of burnout to a more positive focus. Ideally, practice appreciation or gratitude each day to fully get the benefits.
Actively do something to help yourself relax
To achieve change, you must do something different. If you want to feel more relaxed, you need to be engaging in something each and every day and making a conscious effort to relax while doing this. At first, those who have suffered from burn out will find this very difficult, they will be tired, have low motivation and generally be disinterested. However the more you participate in these positive activities, the more benefit you will obtain from them and the easier you will find it.
Be aware of your thinking
If I had a dollar for all the times I have heard, “I should be…” I would be a very rich person! By unconsciously running these “should”, “must” or “have to” statements in our heads, we place increased pressure on ourselves which actually worsens the effects of burn out, not makes them better. This is because these statements cause us to feel emotions such as guilt, shame and embarrassment and we are more likely to take on more than we should and are less likely to engage in exercises and activities that support health and wellbeing.
Be your own best friend
You know the awesome advice we give to friends in their time of need? The advice that just pops out, but seems so wise, centered and logical? Where does that go when we need it?! A trick here is to pretend you have a friend or family member going through exactly what you are. Mentally picture them sitting and telling you their (your) story. Then imagine what you would say them. Whether this is a kind word, a piece of advice or just general acknowledgment that their situation sucks, it will often be very different to our own internal monologue. We are naturally more compassionate, non-judgemental and validating to others we care about, and this exercise can help us to be gentler on ourselves and to offer the support we need at difficult times.
Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek help if needed
Burnout can be extremely complex, so if you are struggling, or if you are also suffering from anxiety, depression or another medical condition which is impacting on your ability to perform activities and to work on the above, you may need to address these first. In this case, seek support. There are a lot of avenues available to assist people through burnout and the first stop can be simply talking to your GP.
The Psych Professionals clinicians are experienced in assisting those suffering from burnout and assisting them to develop strategies to work on managing their symptoms. Contact us today for more information on how we can help you or your loved one.