Hello lovely people of the internet! I hope you all are well and have navigated through the food-coma weekend we call "Thanksgiving." All jokes aside, as I prepared for the long-awaited long weekend ahead, it made me think about what it meant to "take time away from work" and really get the feeling of relaxation that we all crave. Funny enough, most of us feel as though long weekends or holidays drain our energies more than they replenish, mostly because of the fatigue brought on from family gatherings and the chaos we associate with it. With that in mind, I decided to write about burnout and offer some suggestions on how to address it, without having to wait so long for a day off to fuel the need!
Last week, I put up a poll on my Instagram page (@everydayselfcounselling) and asked my followers what they would rather read about this week: Burnout at Work or Self-Care Ideas. The result was a 50/50 split between both options, so I decided to write about burnout in general, and throw in some self-care tips for addressing this concern in particular.
To begin, burnout, otherwise known as compassion fatigue, is a common, yet rarely talked about phenomenon in the world of mental health care. As a therapist, burnout is always on my radar, as this is my indication that I need to pull back and take more time for myself. In my opinion, I think every profession has a form of burnout and mental fatigue that comes from the nature of the work you do. Whether you work in health care, an office setting, a factor floor, or out in the community; the nature of the work that we do sometimes results in mental and physical exhaustion. It is important to be aware of this fatigue and what affect it has on our bodies and minds ( https://www.everydayself.ca/post/the-mind-and-body-connection-understanding-the-impacts-of-physical-pain-emotional-pain). When my clients reach out for support, it usually stems from a form of burnout that they are currently experiencing. Sometimes this burnout comes from a struggling relationship, conflicts within a family or workplace, frustrations on the job, or a general unhappiness with the current climate of their life. Whatever the reason, burnout is our bodies way of making us "wake up and smell the roses" and letting us know that it's time to stop and re-evaluate ourselves.
Some common signs of burnout include the following...
ISOLATION FROM ACTIVITIES
Individuals experiencing burnout view their jobs as increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may grow cynical about their working conditions and the people they work with. They may also emotionally distance themselves and begin to feel numb about their work.
Chronic stress may lead to physical symptoms, like headaches and stomachaches or intestinal issues.
Burnout causes people to feel drained, unable to cope, and tired. They often lack energy to get their work done.
REDUCTIONS IN ENJOYMENT
Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work—or in the home when someone's main job involves caring for family members. Individuals with burnout feel negative about tasks. They have difficulty concentrating and often lack creativity.
Some people often associate these symptoms with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, but more often than not, symptoms of burnout can be more easily talked through and addressed.
*Please note that people experiencing burnout may be at risk for developing depression. It is important to reach out to your local mental health care professional or physician to learn more*
Although the term "burnout" suggests it may be a permanent condition, it's indeed reversible and easily managed. Someone who is feeling burned out may need to make some changes to their work environment or speak to a therapist about ways in which to reduce the symptoms of burnout in their personal lives. Perhaps introducing some self-care would ease the emotional and physical pressures and introduce a way of coping. Self-care strategies, like eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercises, and engaging in healthy sleep habits may help reduce some of the effects of a high-stress job or lifestyle. A vacation may offer you some temporary relief too... but a week away from the office won't be enough to help you beat burnout. Regularly scheduled breaks from work and daily stress, along with daily renewal exercises, can be key to helping you combat burnout. Some examples of self-care ideas for burnout can include the following:
1. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
I’m not talking about quitting your job, packing your bags and moving to a new country! I’m talking about getting away from whatever is causing your stress and doing something that nourishes your mind, body and soul. It can be as simple as going for a walk or anything listed below. I’m assuming you spend too much time at your computer while slightly losing your mind? Studies carried out by Princeton University found that the brains of those who are sedentary behave differently under stress, and aren’t able to function as well. So stand up my friend, and take yourself off for a little trot. The more you do this, the better you will cope through the stressors of the day. If things have got out of hand and you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, you’ll need to do more in-depth work, but even still, breaking up your environment will always give your mind a much-needed break.
2. HAVE SOME FUN
If you’re not laughing your way through all the drama life fires at us — what’s the point? You have a duty to enjoy your life and have some fun. The more you honour that and the more fun you have, the more likely all the other stuff you’re stressing over will fall into place. Get together with some close friends, play some board games, or just be silly for once. It's okay to act like a kid every once in a while and not be so darn serious all the time. It's important to clear your mind of all the heaviness and remember what it feels like to let loose.
3. LISTEN TO MUSIC THAT SOOTHES YOUR SOUL
Music is extremely powerful when it comes to stress-management and relaxation. It can aid in meditation, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and helps decrease stress hormones. Obviously, the type of music matters, but I even find soulful music really helps me to reflect on a hard day. If I’m working, I’ll have some classical or relaxing music playing softly in the background, which studies confirm help reduce stress levels. So, if you're having "one of those days," play some tunes and let yourself boogy to the beat!
“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” Surely that’s worthy of a collective amen, right? The breath doesn’t just play a role — it plays a major role in controlling emotions and keeping anxiety at bay. Meditation has been shown, through brain scanning imagery, to turn down the amygdala. I actively use meditation, both personally and with my clients, to teach the ability to control anxiety, panic and symptoms of traumatic response. It's important to allow yourself to learn these skills, which can be easily transferred during your day or whenever a stress comes knocking on your door. As a Buddhist monk on a Netflix Documentary explained, meditation teaches you to welcome panic into your life as a lesson of strength, rather than a demonstration of weakness. So now I say..."Hello panic! Welcome panic!" as my little mantra!
5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” — Zig Ziglar
I’m all in with The Zig! Challenge yourself to practice gratitude for 30 days, and I guarantee your life will start looking a little rosier by the end of it. Gratitude helps to bridge that awareness we learn from meditation and allow us time to reflect on the positives present in our lives. We often overlook these positives when the negatives are all we focus on.
6. SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP
A lack of sleep is scientifically proven to be extremely bad for your health. Unfortunately, many struggle a lot with this one. I don’t care what anyone says — unless you’re a robot, you need sleep to function. The good news is that all the above should help. In addition, you can drink chamomile tea, light some candles, take a magnesium supplement, and infuse your bedroom with essential oils. Also, develop a nighttime routine that works for you and write in a diary all you achieved today and all you plan to achieve tomorrow, so it’s not running around your mind driving you absolutely mental as you try to drift off to sleep!
Your phone causes havoc on your mind...we all know this but often chose to ignore it. Get it away from you before you go to bed and don’t even think about reaching for it first thing in the morning, unless it’s to turn off your alarm or throw it out the window. Either way, get into the habit of turning airplane mode on sporadically throughout the day and get out of the habit of playing with it when you are in the company of others. It will make you a better human, I assure you.
8. TALK TO SOMEONE
Sometimes the best thing you can do is sit opposite someone who’s capable of listening and offload your worries onto them. Easier said than done because most people are incapable of listening and offering enough support and advice because the context they use will be their own. HOWEVER...seeking a therapist is an easy way to ensure that when you do talk to someone, it will be focused on you and confidential. The job of a therapist is not to just listen and give advice, but rather to take all the information that you give, and give it back to you in a way that you can easily process and understand. I often tell my clients that my role as their therapist is not to fix their problems or make them go away, but rather to show them a path to addressing the issue in a healthy way.
I hope this blog post can help you shed some light on areas of your life where you may be experiencing burnout and stress. Also, be sure to try out at least 1 of the 8 self-care ideas to see how they can positively impact your life.
Nicole: Your Local, Everyday Therapist!
To book an appointment or free 15-minute phone consultation, please visit https://www.everydayself.ca/book-an-appointment