I have always been a person that is compassionate and empathetic towards others. Sometimes a little too much. Last month, I faced my own burnout. A routine check-up found an infection and the antibiotics I took knocked me out, literally. I was very lethargic, dizzy, spent two weeks lounging at home. Then an aftermath came. I experienced neck, shoulder, and stomach pain.
Today, I am able to re-balance myself and now learning to take one day at a time.
If you feel depleted or close to it, it’s a sign to take care of yourself. Here’s some tips I’ve learned from the past month:
1. Take a timeout for yourself.
You may ask: How can I? I have so many responsibilities and duties to my family, friends and colleagues. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.
Somehow, our modern society rewards the most “hardworking” individual. The one who stays late to complete a work project, the one who puts in extra holiday hours gets rewarded 1.5 or 2 times more regular wage. If you have Type A personality like me, the chances are you may also ambitious to get these extra rewards. But if your body is starting to get weak or feel off, maybe it’s time to take a break?
What does this mean? That it is OK to take a timeout for yourself. You deserve a break for as much time as you need from this fast-changing world we live in.
2. Get rid of the “If I do this, everything will be perfect” mentality.
According to Psychology Today, Evolutionary Psychologists believe we have much more stress than our ancestors. Our environment has changed drastically compared to our human adaptation in the past hundreds of years. One of the 5 sources of stress in the modern world is: “we compare ourselves to higher standards”.1
Just because everyone else is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to as well. I.e. You don’t always have to be the “soccer mom who’s always cheering everyone” or the “person who makes homemade goodies” to every gathering. While it is wonderful to have passion and hobbies, a good reminder to see if you are off balance is to check-in with your family and friends. Is what you are doing adding value to you? Do your family members and friends view your activity as healthy and happy, or is it obsessive and destructive? Would you rather spend more time with the people important to you?
Remember that those who truly love you will always support you, even if you decide not to engage in a certain activity. Focus on what truly makes you happy.
3. Practice loving detachment. Set boundaries.
If you are dealing with someone who has a mental health issue or other serious issues, practice “loving detachment”. Be there for them, but don’t live their life. It is very easy to burn out if you put yourself in a caregiver role. Set boundaries and use effective communication when things go astray. I got sucked into someone else’s darkness and lost myself. Remember to do the things that are important to you and make you strong. Stay true to your values.
If the person who is suffering is a minor or an elder, be sure to ask for help from family, friends & neighbours. Ask for respite help or look up local resources. You are not alone. Remember the proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child.”
4. Self-Care doesn’t have to cost money.
Sometimes, we don’t do self-care because we believe it takes a lot of money. This is not true! Marketing campaigns brainwash us to believe that we need to splurge. We don’t necessary need to find a VIP spa or service to take care of ourselves (though if you can afford and it’s your “thing”, by all means, go for it!). Find something you enjoy – it could simply be taking a hot bath, taking a walk, or inviting a friend over for tea.
For me, since I had stayed home for so many days, simply chatting with the cashiers at the grocery store or local take-out place was invigorating for me. Just taking an extra minute to ask them how their day was going helped me. Thanking them for giving good service helped me re-connect back with the outside world. Connect with old friends and strangers!
5. Take deep breaths – 4 counts or longer. It’s always there for you.
Practice deep breathing. Our body is mostly made up of water and oxygen, so even a single deep breath helps. And it is available to you at any moment. You can try by putting your hand on your belly and watch the rise and fall of your breath. You can count to 4 for each in and out breath. Try practicing everyday and it may help calm your chronic fatigue.
Good luck on your life journey.
Wishing you much love and peace.
1Stone, Jim, PhD. (2017, Mar 30). 5 Sources of Stress and Anxiety in the Modern World. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/clear-organized-and-motivated/201703/5-sources-stress-and-anxiety-in-the-modern-world
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read online. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or go to the emergency department.