Self Care: What Others Won’t Tell You About Burnout and Exhaustion.
Self care seems to be a bit of a trendy topics these days. It would not take you long to find thousands of articles on why you need to take care of yourself, how you can take care of yourself, and the steps you should take to start getting better at self-care.
But here is what those articles don’t tell you: the stigma attached to self care is real, whether it is self inflicted or coming from others. These articles don’t tell you about the guilt that you feel when you leave your baby with a babysitter because you need a night by yourself. They don’t tell you about the shame you feel when you need to ask your boss for yet another day off because you cannot get out of bed that morning due to the mental exhaustion of being burned out. They don’t tell you about how hard it is to tell your family that you can’t visit because you need some down time.
This is not talked about.
So here is what happens: You feel burned out to the point of mental and physical exhaustion, you feel guilty but ask for a break, you sit at home feeling guilty about your break, you go back to work feeling a little rested but still exhausted… and the cycle continues.
Burnout takes over every part of your life, interfering with your relationships, ability to work, and motivation to complete normal daily tasks.
So today, instead of giving you a long list of things to do that you are too mentally/physically/ spiritually exhausted for, I am going to give you 3 Tried And True Stepping Stones To Self Care. These stepping stones can help you start your journey when you are stuck in that spiral of exhaustion, guilt, burnout, and shame.
What would it mean for you to tell yourself, “I accept that I am struggling right now”? Humans seem to be wired to want to ignore or avoid their struggling. Instead of accepting our hardships we throw ourselves into our work, we go out more with our friends, we eat poorly, we drink in excess, we focus on others problems…The trend here is that we AVOID our problems and feelings.
However, avoiding our struggles does not make them go away. The struggle will continue to build, and will present itself throughout your life by disrupting your relationships, confidence, and motivation.
The first step to changing this cycle is to accept. Tell yourself “It is OK that I am struggling right now”. “I allow myself to feel how I am feeling”. “I allow myself to experience ______”.
Whatever it is that you are feeling, acknowledge it, and accept that it is part of your life. This is the FIRST step of bringing meaningful change to your life.
Also it is important to note that you will need to repeat the line “I accept that I am struggling right now” to yourself MANY times before you start to believe it. This will not happen overnight. This will be hard, may lead to tears, and will impact your life dramatically.
Unless you work to accept that you are struggling, any “self care” strategy that you use will end up being another way to avoid your struggle. The struggle will remain and the strategy will be ineffective.
When you are feeling burned out, it is easy to keep this inside. As we deal with the chaos in our everyday lives, we often feel as though we must keep our struggles to ourselves so that we don’t burden anyone else.
However, it is important that as you come to accept that you are struggling, you let someone know how you feel. Choose someone you trust. This may be a partner, friend, or colleague.
I would also suggest talking to your doctor or counsellor. Even though friends and family members can support us, they can only support us to a certain point.
Professionals in the field of mental health have years of training and experience and can help you overcome your burnout in ways that your friends and family simply cannot. Instead of dragging out your struggles, talk to someone. Professionals are here to help you, and WANT to hear from you.
Create a Realistic Plan.
Once you have accepted that you are struggling with burnout, and you have stopped using avoidance strategies to ignore your pain, it is time to create a REALISTIC plan.
I say realistic because so often when reading articles on self-care, I come across things like “Write in your journal for 15 minutes every day”, or “Exercise for 30 minutes a day”. Even though there is some evidence showing that these can be effective strategies, when you are already busy they may feel like more of a burden than a help.
This is why I say set a realistic plan! This could mean you spend 10 minutes by yourself drinking your coffee before the kids wake up for the day. This could be that you commit to showering every day and taking that time just for you. Whatever it is that is realistic and that you can commit to, set that as a goal.
Over time as you meet your small self care goals, these goals can grow bigger and bigger. What was 10 minutes drinking coffee alone, can turn into 30 minutes cooking yourself breakfast and drinking your coffee.
If you are having a difficult time coming up with a plan, talk to your trusted person about this. Have this person help you come up with a realistic self-care plan that you can stick with.
Take Home Message.
Acceptance – Talk to Someone – Create a Realistic Plan.
These three stepping stones to self-care are extremely important in your mental health journey, and can be used for anyone who has struggled with burnout or any other mental health issues. Taking care of yourself will help you have more motivation, confidence, and happier relationships. These steps can also help you protect yourself from falling further into the spiral of guilt, shame, and exhaustion that was talked about earlier in this post.
If this post resonated with you, please know that you are not alone in your struggles! There is a community out there that wants to support you and help you out of the spiral of guilt/shame and burnout. Please reach out and talk to someone you trust and/or a professional in your community.