When life is kicking your arse, everything feels overwhelming. Maybe you feel like you're being attacked on all sides...or like you are running for your life on a hamster wheel. For me, burnout felt like I was on a canoe, paddling as fast as I could to stay afloat. Only I was only paddling on one side, which may have kept me afloat, but I was just going in one, big, exhausting circle and getting nowhere.
Fun fact: I have literally done this. My first time in a canoe, my best friend and I were worried about flipping the boat over. So we were super focused, super careful not to tip or even rock the boat. We were so proud of ourselves for staying above water, until her father asked us why we were just rowing in circles.
Wait, what? Why didn't anyone tell us you need to row on both sides to go, you know, forward? The symbolism and irony are not lost on me.
I started this blog because I completely burned myself out by waiting way too long to address my own needs. As a healthcare provider, my job is to take care of others. As a wife and mother, I take care of my family's needs. As a people pleaser, I wanted to make sure everyone was happy. This meant that whether I was at work, at home, or on vacation, I was always "on duty”…multitasking and constantly pulled in different directions taking care of everyone else. Does any of this sound familiar? I mean, when do we actually get a real break?
When we chronically ignore our own needs and don't listen to our hearts, the body speaks up and tells us something's wrong. That may manifest as:
Aches and pains
Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing
Exhaustion and/or trouble sleeping
High blood pressure
Muscle tension or jaw clenching
Stomach or digestive problems
Weakened immune system and more frequent illness
Emotionally, it feels like irritability, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, or even depression. And yes, we all have bad days. But NO, it is not normal to feel that way on a regular basis.
If you can relate to this, congratulations, you are a burnt cookie too. And you are far from alone. It seems like almost everyone I talk to feels this way these days. Not surprising, since we are currently enduring one of the crappiest times in modern history, and we are all on edge.
Okay, so you feel burned out. Now what?
Everything has to start somewhere, so let's start here. Here is where this whole self-care concept kicks in.
First thing's first, take a breath. And I don't mean this in the metaphorical sense, I mean literally, take a nice, deep, gratifying breath. There's a helluva lot of proven research about the value of breathing exercises. If you aren't familiar with this, https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-to-know-4-7-8-breathing is a great place to start.
Now, TAKE STOCK.
Look around your environment. What is working well, and what isn’t? (Those if you who just looked at your significant other, I feel you)
Try asking yourself some hard, honest questions. What in my life is not going well? Is it one specific thing, or is there a list? Or maybe it's everything? Try to write down whatever comes into your head, just stream of thought. Every little thing that irks you, upsets you, drains you. Nothing is too big or too small. Let’s first try to zone in on the problems and identify them. Journaling is such a valuable and effective way to get rid of and sort out the clutter in your head. Think of it as a confessional to yourself. Or self-therapy.
Just a few ideas to ask yourself:
How do I feel? Tired, frustrated, cranky, overwhelmed, unappreciated, unmotivated, unfulfilled, antsy, or all of the above? Write it down.
What is most important to me?
What moves or motivates me? What makes me happy?
What really pisses me off?
What do I want (or wish for) more than anything right now? Sleep? Vacation? A raise? A promotion? A new job? To clone myself? World peace? Inner peace? A hot fudge sundae? For my (fill in here) to get abducted by aliens?
Make that list, and then let it be. You just purged a whole heap of crap out of your head and created something real and tangible, and it ain’t going anywhere. You can review it at any time, analyze it, and actually see what is going on inside you. Most importantly, you just did something for yourself for a change...you expressed and acknowledged your own needs, desires, frustrations, etc. Maybe you even identified some issues that need to be addressed, which can be tackled whenever you are ready.
Another Fun Fact: I just did this today. At my fabulous and wonderful sister's request, I took all the things I was worrying about and wrote each one on an index card. I now have a stack of cards as thick as a nice, juicy steak. And you know what? My head feels a whole lot clearer. And that itself feels really frickin' good.
Please empty vacuum to restore suction.
Big change starts small. Small is manageable. You know, that whole "Rome wasn't built in a day," thing is true. Everything has to start somewhere, and the biggest but hardest step is to just take that very first one.
Do it when you are ready. This is all about YOU, and if necessary, write it into your schedule and block off the time. I blocked off an hour, but it surprisingly took me a mere 30 minutes to purge the word vomit out of my head. And once you do, give yourself an atta girl, and bask in your own praise...because you just started something. And that, my friend, is huge.
You got this, Cookie. And I'm gonna be here cheering for you the whole damn way❤️!