Stress Management: What NOT to Do to Avoid a Burnout
Well my loves, I’ve officially reached my post holiday burnout. Why I thought 2020 would be the year I was finally able to skip this pesky annual slump is beyond me. I’ll admit, I’m a glass half full kind of girl, overly optimistic is my trademark and I’m not mad about it. Despite my mini christmas vacay, I have completely burnt myself out! I’m talking zero energy, unable to peel myself out of bed in the morning, vilely ill with the flu kind of burnt out (this is not my best look).
As I’m sitting here confined to my death bed (send help) I’ve had nothing but time to reflect on exactly what’s brought me here and wreaked havoc on my otherwise healthy immune system. Low and behold, it’s my inability to properly manage my current stress levels! Stress management is SO important and often gets overlooked due to over packed schedules and pressing deadlines. But you know what? No amount of stress, healthy or otherwise, is worth sacrificing your mental and physical well being. It’s just not.
Luckily for you guys, I’ve made ALL of the wrong decisions these last few weeks and have lived to share my experience (hanging on by a thread). So if you’re interested in what NOT to do to preserve your energy and prevent a burnout, I encourage you to keep reading.
Do NOT Try to Fight Your Bodies Need for Sleep
I know I touch on the importance of rest frequently, and that’s simply because it is one of the most beneficial tools available to us when we are facing an overly stressful situation or phase in our lives. When we are stressed out our bodies create excess amounts of cortisol (stress hormone) which can negatively impact our immune system leaving us more susceptible to illness and fluctuations in our mood.
If you are someone like me who struggles with a mood disorder, it is crucial that you monitor your sleep to ensure you’re getting just the right amount. This is where I’ve recently fallen short. I’ve been running off 6-7 hours of sleep each night for the last 4 months. Typically this wouldn’t pose a problem unless my body was trying to fight something. My increased need for sleep became apparent a few weeks back and being the busy body that I am, I tried to fight it because my mind just didn’t feel tired (do NOT advise).
Production can wait. The gym can wait. Scheduling coffee with friends can wait. How do I know this? Because I’m officially so sick that I’ve had to cancel every plan I’ve made for the last two weeks in addition to missing work in a dire attempt to heal! Take it from me, your schedule can wait, your health can not #rudeawakening
Do NOT Overcommit – Learn to Implement the word “No”
I am almost certain that learning to implement the word “no” is something I am bound to struggle with for the rest of my human existence. The empath and nurturer in me strives to help those I love whenever I possibly can (sometimes at my own detriment). Pair this quality with a manic brain that constantly pushes me past my physical limits, and you start to understand the girl who is prone to overcommitting and running on fumes.
Saying “no” doesn’t mean that you don’t love and care for someone or wish to support them when they need you. Setting boundaries to preserve your energy levels and protect your overall well-being is an act of self-love. It is necessary, not selfish! My battery has been empty for a while now and I know deep down in my heart if I had the courage to tell my loved ones “no” when I was feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s quite possible I wouldn’t have wound up in the position I am now.
With that being said, I don’t regret my decisions. Instead, I’ve decided to embrace this valuable life lesson and use it as a preventative tool going forward. A reminder to slow things down a notch, tune into myself and acknowledge if my own needs are being met before expending that energy on others.
Do NOT Ignore Signals from Your Body
My body knew two weeks ago that I was getting sick. She wanted more sleep, more water, and more movement. As much as I tried to give her all of these things, she was just too worn down. I’m sure the overindulgence of sweets, occasional cigarette, and one too many caffeinated beverages didn’t work in my favour (we all have our weaknesses). But the point is, I didn’t listen to her.
Remaining mindful of our limits requires a certain level of self-awareness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “self-awareness means nothing in the absence of action”. It’s great that I know I should listen to my body. It’s another thing entirely if I choose to ignore what it’s trying to tell me. By eating garbage and staying up later than I should have (despite the cues from my body) I disrespected her need to unwind and heal. Ultimately, I let her down.
So often we take our health for granted until it becomes jeopardized. Until we are literally so sick we can’t perform our regular day to day activities and become bedridden with some form of nasty illness. WHY do we do this?! I’m a firm believer in remaining optimistic whenever I’m faced with a challenge, but coming down with the flu…there’s no positive way to spin it (sorry to burst your bubble). Listen to your body! Nurture her with whatever it is she needs to prevent the two of you from a massively unpleasant #burnout. Trust me, my stubborn a*$ wishes I had.
Do NOT Allow Your Cravings to Consume You
It’s no secret that I have a major sweet tooth. If it were sustainable to eat baked goods for every meal each day I would opt to consume nothing else! Sadly, our bodies just don’t function optimally on sugar and carbs alone (a flaw in our genetic makeup I will never truly understand). As heartbreaking as it is to admit, I highly recommend you do NOT allow your cravings to consume you!
When I sit back and reflect on my poor dietary choices these last few weeks, I am not the least bit surprised that my immune system has failed me. Food = medicine! Home cooked, whole foods full of nutrients and vitamins are always a good idea and never leave me feeling deprived and sluggish. The boxes of Oreos I have been slamming back…not so much.
Five days into my chicken soup and toast diet and I’ve managed to regain some of my strength. It’s a miracle what a little homemade bone broth can do! I’ve been pairing this with copious amounts of herbal tea to curb my cravings and revitalize my aching soul. Keisha 1, cravings 0.
Do NOT Forget to Schedule Time for Yourself
Your health, your needs, your sanity comes first! Out of the entire month of January I spent about three days to myself, and this was only because I was so sick I literally couldn’t get out of bed (I know better than to set myself up for this kind of failure). I was working on Saturdays, skipping the gym, and spending every last minute of my time dedicated to other people while neglecting my own need for down time.
February is the month that all changes. It’s the month where I let go of those habits that are no longer serving me and create space for rest and reflection. At the beginning of each week I start off by scheduling time for myself. Whether that’s in the form of a dance class or a night in sipping my favourite earl grey while getting lost in my creative pursuits, I make sure that my needs are being met before making any prior commitments.
In addition to this mini revelation of sorts, I’ve come to accept that sometimes plans change. If something unexpected pops up, I am willing to reassess my day or week to ensure I am still meeting my minimum requirements. For me, this is two full days every week that are spent nurturing myself and respecting my body’s need for solitude. You may require more or less depending on what your body needs in order to function at its absolute best!
With that out of the way, I want each and every one of you to know that it is 100% OK to fall off the bandwagon every now and again. That sometimes you will slip up and make unhealthy decisions that don’t always jive with your end goal. After all, we aren’t robots making our way through life without stumbling somewhere along the way. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are making all of the right moves. Your downfalls don’t define who you are as a person and your ability to create change and live a life that makes you proud. This is only the beginning of your legacy!
Do NOT allow yourself to become discouraged.
Do NOT give up and throw in the towel.
Do NOT forget about the power you possess.
These lessons from the universe exist to remind us of our resilience. To teach us how to love and care for ourselves despite any obstacle that gets thrown our way. I can assure you, you’re exactly where you are supposed to be, a beautiful train wreck and all.
Beautiful Train Wreck