Are you one of the walking dead? I’m not talking zombies here and some strange mutant virus. I’m referring to burnout – that life sapping condition that affects us mentally, physically and emotionally.
How do you know if you’re burning out, or already there?
Take some time today, and ask yourself honestly – how are you feeling? Is the way you are living sustainable, or killing you… I trust that in your heart you already know the answer to that one, so tune in and see what your heart is telling you. If things are rosy, I wish you well. Good for you! If things aren’t quite the way you’d like them to be, read on. Maybe we can help turn this around for you.
Tip 1: Get more sleep. Sounds obvious doesn’t it, but many of us end up on that slippery slope to burnout because we are cramming too many things into the day. If we get just one hour less sleep a night, we build up a sleep debt. Sleep deprivation means our bodies don’t have the time they need to repair and attend to physical and psychological housekeeping. Our immune systems weaken, we lose our creative edge and our ability to respond to stress, we become irritable and intolerant, eat more, have weaker digestion, difficulties with memory and cognitive function. Our coping ability rapidly deteriorates.
Protect your health by ensuring you get enough sleep. Turn off the TV or computer and go to bed an hour earlier. Avoid caffeine late in the day and drink herbal teas that relax and calm. More sleep tips here.
Tip 2: Free up your dance card. It’s so easy to overcommit – especially if you’re a pleaser or a fixer. Drop what you can, delegate whatever is practical, extend deadlines if possible and take measures to simplify things. Clearing some space in your life gives you room to breathe, it buys you time to play catch-up in the energy stakes. You may want to do this as a temporary measure, but for many people, once they become accustomed to a simplified life, they can’t return to the craziness that got them to the place of burnout in the first place. More ideas on freeing up your schedule here.
Tip 3: Hobbies that are joyful and engaging – There is no point in a life that is all work and no play. Hobbies can be both an outlet for creativity and a form of moving meditation. They give you an interest outside of your work and personal relationships, and enrich your life in many ways. Whether it is knitting, beer brewing, ballroom dancing, writing or gardening, hobbies reconnect you with yourself. They can also help you connect to like-minded people, expanding your circles of friendship and support. If you can carve out a small time each week for a regular date with your hobby, your stress levels will begin to drop. One of my favourite things is working on my novel over breakfast in a favourite cafe!
Tip 4: Clear boundaries – Saying ‘no’ is a life-saving technique. One of the biggest contributors to burnout is an inability to set clear boundaries with work and other people’s problems. Be firm about working hours, especially if you work for yourself. If you are constantly working long hours, you need to re-evaluate your situation. Charge fairly for your time (ie don’t undersell yourself!), and don’t allow people who don’t value your time or abilities to waste yours! If you are constantly drained by certain relationships in your life, back away a little, and set some parameters around your ability to be available for them. You may need to drop some relationships entirely. If workplaces don’t respect your boundaries, look for somewhere new! If friends won’t respect your boundaries, or are constantly negative or unsupportive, move on. A handy guide for being assertive.
Tip 5: Emotional and energetic support. Sometimes we get so busy that our support network – friends and family – become neglected and drop away. If we are stressed and tired we are often poor company, and are irritable and critical in ways that aren’t reflective of who we truly are, or how we really feel. Take some time to renew friendships and relationships, especially if you have a partner. Relationships that aren’t nurtured may die when they didn’t need to. If you love someone, value and nurture that relationship. If necessary, seek a counsellor. Massage, reiki, pranic healing, acupuncture, reflexology – there are so many wonderful healing modalities on offer that support and re-energise us. Go with what you are drawn to. Invest some time and energy in supporting yourself to get back to balance.
Tip 6: Eat for energy and health. Sadly, one of the first things to go when people become stressed and too busy is good eating habits. Make sure you are including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins and good fats in your diet. Drink lots of water, and cut down on fried food, take-out, sugar and refined carbs. Caffeine and energy drinks will tax exhausted adrenals even further. It may be worth taking some dietary supplements or herbs to help you back to health. Naturopaths, nutritionalists, Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic practitioners could help. Putting better fuel into your body leads to better energy! Food matters. Great info here.
Tip 7: Be Wholistic – Exercise is important. Move your body. Where you can, get into nature and spend some time there. Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are all practices that work on the mind and spirit as well as the body.They help create a raft of calm in your life, easing tension and encouraging flow of energy. Even five minutes a day will begin to make a difference. This is a great easy morning yoga routine.
Tip 8: Eliminate energy drains – Energy drains can be relationships (See Tip 4), debt, or things that are creating pressure because they don’t get done. Bite the bullet and sort them out. Get your tax squared away. Have the conversation about the difficult thing. Say sorry. Work out a repayment plan. Fix what needs fixing. End what needs ending. Sort out your house, your desk, your computer. Get help if you need it. You’ll feel a whole lot better with the weight of these things off your back! Tips on clearing clutter.
Tip Nine: Work that works for you. Get your head right about work. If you know your job is killing you, work out why (it might be you – saying yes to everything, no clear boundaries, not enough support) and then reassess. If necessary, find another job. If you are unhappy at work because it’s not what you want to do with your life, begin to see your job as what I call a Pizza Hut job – the job you do while you are becoming something else. Let the job you have pay the bills but not define you. Instead, find some study, or begin work on your own thing outside of this job, and let that new energy define you, while your old job merely supports you. Sometimes it’s just a matter of adjusting your thinking. Life is too short not to use your gifts and follow your passion – but sometimes we need a job to support us while we become a writer, an actor, a rocket scientist, or a professional mountain climber. And sometimes our passion will only pay in personal satisfaction, so you may actually need that Pizza Hut job to fund the dream.
Tip 10: Down Time. We all need it. Chunks of unstructured time, where we have no plans, no expectations, no pressure. It might be a Sunday afternoon nap, a wander through a bookshop or a park, a weekend away, a proper holiday. If you are really broken, your down time might need to be filled with hammocks and pillows, and siestas. Or sleep-the-day-away weekends. That’s okay too. If your body needs to sleep, honour that. Stop pushing – rest first. Plan adventures; small ones, longer ones, crazy once-in-a-lifetime ones. Half the fun of the trip is in the planning. Down time gives us the balance we need to enjoy life to the full, and to be revitalised for the rest of the journey.
I’ll be doing a series of meditations coming into 2012, focussing on healing the patterns that cause physical, emotional and spiritual burnout. I’ll include you in them. My intention is that in 2012 you return to balance, with healthy habits and attitudes, an abundance of energy and creativity, and a joyful outlook on life. Know that you are Loved ♥