If you are on my newsletter list (if you aren’t, you can sign up here), you’ll already know that I’m focusing my services on helping women who are dealing with burnout. I’m preparing several posts about this topic from my own experience, my training as a holistic nutritionist and from talking with other women. I’m also preparing some new resources and services, so watch for those too!
There isn’t really a right way to do burnout because basically your body, or mind, or both decides it has had enough, and you have to stop and deal with it. Burnout could affect you physically (fatigue, achy bones and joints, ongoing infections, autoimmune issues, continual health issues, adrenal fatigue), emotionally (depression, anxiety, lack of motivation) or even spiritually (loss of faith, sense of isolation and lack of purpose, malaise). I’ve seen the term “mommy burnout” referring to the endless demands of caring for children, often on top of other responsibilities. And, I’m sure there are other variations – each woman’s experience will be unique to her situation.
Based on my experience, here are some suggestions to make it easier to get through burnout, so you can learn from the experience.
Listen to Your Body
My body had been giving me hints to slow down and take a break for years, but new projects and new possibilities would get me excited and I’d take on more and more commitments. When I didn’t take the hint, my body gave me stronger messages, which I continued to ignore. I promised myself “if I can just get through this project, I’ll have time for a break.” But, when I didn’t take that break or the next one I promised myself, my body screamed “SSSTTTOOPPP!” until I had no choice but to listen.
Stop and Rest – You Can’t Push Through Burnout
I honestly believed that cutting back my workload for a couple of weeks would be all I needed to get back on track. When my counsellor suggested taking several months off, I thought “she clearly doesn’t know me. I’m quick to learn. I’m used to balancing a lot of responsibilities, so I can fit this rest in.” So, I tried in my way – and soon found myself knocked out of my life for about 8 months.
It takes time for your body to heal physically and emotionally when you have burnout. There isn’t a quick fix or shortcut to the process. By trying to push through you can actually lengthen the process.
Create a Safe and Nurturing Space for Yourself
When I had burnout, I realized that I had to create a foundation to support myself as I rebuilt my life. I needed to a safe and nurturing space to build that inner and outer foundation. I started with a small space – my bedroom. It felt like the safest place in the house. I spent most of my time there. I slept, ate, worked and did yoga there. I helped the kids with homework sitting on the floor and we curled up in the bed to watch movies together. I made phone calls, ordered Christmas gifts and wrote in my journal there. As I felt more comfortable and strong in this space, I was able to venture further away – first, to the rest of the house, then to the front step and the yard, then to walk around the block and eventually further and further away.
Your space might look different. It may be membership in a community that supports you rather than a physical location.
Clarify What You Need
As I stopped everything and focussed on what I needed to survive – because I was really focused on surviving and making sure my kids were safe and fed at this point – I noticed things I hadn’t before. I realized that I rarely felt grounded and solid in my body. I found that using a weighted lap blanket or neck pillow helped me to feel my body and find stability. As I stopped focus on what I needed to do, I could figure out what felt good for me. I realized that I was more sensitive the texture and feel of clothing and fabric than I had before. Shirts I had worn without really understanding why I didn’t love them now felt uncomfortable. They didn’t wrap my body in the layers of warmth and comfort that I needed to feel secure. I learned that I needed to have a variety of textures in my foods. A plain smoothie wasn’t appealing, but adding some crunchy cereal or seeds on top made it much more enjoyable. I was attentive to and responsive to what I needed at a physical level with consideration of sounds (quiet was best but some music was okay), tastes, touch, smell (essential oils to calm and relax me) and sight (simplicity and familiarity in my space). By paying attention to and addressing these physical needs, I started to create the space and support I needed to feel it was okay to rest.
Ask for Help, Find Help, Get Help
When I realized that I needed to slow down – or grind to a stop – I realized that I couldn’t continue with everything I did at work, in my business, at home, with my family and in the community. So I started to take a step back from some work commitments, delaying the launch of my new business, and letting go of volunteer commitments. I soon realized that I need to let go of even more. I recruited my husband, my family and friends to help. I needed someone to walk my kids to the bus and pick them up. I needed help looking after my kids sometimes on days I was at home. I needed someone to take my kids to their activities. I even needed help with dinner and bedtime when my husband was away for work. I needed someone to run errands and pick up groceries. I learned to ask for help both outwardly and inwardly, and to have faith that what I needed would be provided. Sometimes it was easy to find what I needed, other times it took more time and more effort to get the supports I needed in place.
In addition to this practical help, I could write a whole post about the medical professionals and other experts who provided the information, support, and caring I needed.
Use Technology – When it Helps You
For me, technology was a really helpful tool to get through burnout. Thanks to on-line shopping and grocery delivery services, I didn’t need to leave the house for food, birthday and Christmas gifts, supplements and medication, or even clothing. I did rely on other people, mainly my husband, to do errands, and I called upon my family members to take my kids to do their Christmas shopping, I was able to take the time I needed at home until I was ready to leave. Thanks to technology, I could track when my children’s bus was dropping them off and be at the door to meet them. I could watch video from my son’s birthday party and my daughters’ Christmas concert. I could also use the phone and Skype to meet with professionals to helped me. I could also use email and social media to connect with people when it was too hard to make calls. Reminders on my phone helped to take my medication and allow me to keep track of basic tasks like taking shower. By taking notes on my phone, I could be sure I wouldn’t forget anything important while my memory was unreliable.
But I also had to be attentive to how I used technology. I found reminders of the work I needed to do or the messages I needed to return could increase my stress level and feelings of overwhelm. Turning off notifications and reminders was helpful in allowing me control of the information and reminders that came to me.
As I said in the title, these are some suggestions for how to do burnout – but the list doesn’t include all the information need, and it might not even work for you. Maybe you need to get out the house and spend more time at work, or maybe you need to spend time away from home to help you find what you need to feel better.
What did or do you need to do burnout?