We all suffer from burnout now and again. Things build up and get on top of us and it suddenly feels like you don’t know what to do first, where to start, or even to start at all. Whether you are a parent, have a full time job, family commitments or have suffered a bereavement, or all of the above, burnout can happen at any time to anyone and without warning.
Let’s say you are working hard at work, looking after everything at home, caring for someone with a health condition and then someone dies or gets a terminal diagnosis, how do you cope? You probably keep going, pretending that you are fine, getting things done. And then one day, someone asks how you are and it all comes flooding out. You are crying, shaking, not eating or sleeping, lacking motivation to do anything, even get dressed. What do you do?
First of all speak to your GP, if you need some time away from work to cope with the other stuff then do it. Get a sick note (fit note) and step away from work for a short while. This is not easy, we all have work commitments, deadlines and the need for our bills to be paid. But can you do your job properly if you are worrying about all the stuff going on at home, or you can’t even get out of bed? Ask yourself this, is it better to take 2 weeks off now and get sorted, or keep going and need 6 months off when things get worse and you have severe depression? You should get sick pay or be able to receive some benefits to cover this period of time, that should help take a bit off stress away.
Talking to your boss can be hard but employers have a responsibility to look after your well-being. Any decent employer will ask what they can do to help you and will take some of your workload off you.
Secondly, tell someone close that you trust how you are feeling. Pretending to be ok is not ok. As the saying goes “it’s ok not to be ok”. Anyone who cares about you will want to help you get back on your feet. Whether you need them to do things for you, like get shopping, or you need them to know that you cannot be there for them right now, this is an important thing to do. Admitting you are not coping is not a failure, it’s a sign of strength. Asking for help is a sign of strength. Telling yourself that it’s fine for you to take care of yourself is a sign of strength.
Now you are off work, you have told someone how you are feeling, so this is when you start to look after YOU.
Put something comfy on, can be jogging bottoms and a sweatshirt, soft warm socks, just not pyjamas! Put the kettle on and make yourself your favourite drink. Treat yourself to some cream on top of that lovely smooth hot chocolate. Add some marshmallows too! Sit in your favourite spot, grab a blanket, a good book or the TV remote and relax. Now doesn’t that feel better! It’s not the fix but it’s the start. Give yourself some time, whether that’s an hour or 2 or the whole day, the next step is coming.
Go outside! I know it’s cold, wear 2 coats if needed, scarf, gloves, hat, boots, even a hot water bottle in your coat but go outside. Take a deep breath, feel the air enter your lungs and release. As you breathe out, let go of some of the tension in your body. Let your shoulders fall from your ears, rotate your head from side to side, stretch your arms out and smile. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it. Have a look around, what can you see, what can you hear, can you smell anything in the air? Are there any birds around, is the sun shining? Notice what is actually around you, I have 2 regular robins that visit my garden, I love seeing them. If you live in a built up area, what’s going on? I always love a bit of people watching.
Breathing some fresh air will help your mind to clear and get extra oxygen into your body which will help your muscles to feel easier, not as tight.
Now the next thing to do is make a choice…have a nice warm bath or a shower and wash your hair. Do a face mask or a body scrub to help you feel renewed. You are probably still feeling rubbish but you are at least taking care of yourself which I suspect you have been neglecting, that’s why you have burnt out!
Are you missing meals? This is usually a very easy thing to do when you are feeling overwhelmed with life. But you need fuel to get your mind and body working. Imagine driving your car without filling up! Try and make yourself a plan for what you are going to eat. If you don’t feel like eating, have a smaller portion. If you have the opposite feelings and you can over eat, try to stick to the meal plan that you have made.
Looking after yourself, putting yourself first is the way out of burnout. The days will become better and you will start to have clearer thoughts in your head. Good luck and keep looking after your body as well as your mind.