In this article, I want to talk about how I am on my way to recovery from burnout. I am learning as I go, and I also learned that what the doctor tells me doesn’t always work for me. I listen and try to take their advice, but I also rebel and follow my path to recovery. I also want to state very clearly that just because this is what works for me, it might not be what works for you, but maybe this will help you on your journey.
1. Rest and Sleep
The number 1 thing I needed was rest and sleep. I try to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day. The Doctors actually told me not to sleep during the day because it would make things worse, however, I took this literally, and every afternoon, I would just feel more and more exhausted during the day as I tried to overcome my exhaustion. One day my husband told me, that maybe I should just go lay down. I did and what I found was that it was better to just lay down for 30 minutes instead of fighting the exhaustion, and I wouldn’t even sleep, I would just close my eyes and rest for a little bit. The difference this made for me was huge and so I do get in bed most days and give myself a moment to lay down.
2. Food and Drinks
The second recommendation that I was given was to eat and drink at the same time every day. I immediately blew this in the wind. Not because I don’t think the structure could help, but because for the past year and a half I have been losing weight after struggling with this for years. What I have been doing works. The stress just got in my way, because it caused some issues, such as jaw clenching and not eating enough. With the help of a dietician, I am now eating more and because of the rest I am not clenching as much anymore, which makes eating easier, but I also eat softer foods that are easier on my jaw.
3. Write your thoughts down
I did follow this recommendation. The advice was to whenever I would feel stressed to write down what was going on in my head and then read it back the next day. This opened up my eyes to some issues I have and need to work on like:
- Negative self-talk (nothing I do is good enough, perfectionism, self-esteem)
- I always tell myself I need to do more
- Even when I take a break, I feel guilty because not everything is taken care of
- The to-do list in my head keeps swerving around constantly
- When something comes up, I feel like it needs to be addressed right this moment
- I take on the weight of the world and feel too responsible
- I struggle with saying no
Especially in the beginning of my burnout, I struggled. I managed to drag my ass to the gym once a week for a few weeks. My husband is the one who got me outside on walks and bike rides. He said, “People who are struggling need to eat, sleep and exercise”. I would fight him, every once in a while, but in the end, exercise is good. Regular exercise creates endorphins and reduces stress and cortisol levels, and that is exactly what you want.
5. Get rid of the to-do list
The to-do list never ends. There will always be something on that list and to be honest, I know now that the insanity of that list that was going on in my head was damaging to my health. I felt like it was never good enough if the list wasn’t done, which is nuts because it will never be done. What I started to do now is block time in my calendar for chores, this way there is no list, just time allocated to do things and I know how much time everything takes, I also make sure to plan empty spaces, but the to-do list is gone and for me, that feels liberating. Sometimes I do need to make adjustments to my calendar because life gets in the way, but that doesn’t seem to face me as much as the never-ending to-do list I used to have.
6. One day at a time or even one moment at a time
I seem to live and worry about the future. This tip is the one I am having the most challenging time learning myself. I worry about what is next, what is in the future, what is going to be next, and what are the consequences going to be? Is that helpful? Or are you just worrying and driving yourself nuts over something that may never happen. In my case it is, which is why I tell myself every day: “one day at a time” or when I feel overwhelmed and anxious even “one moment at a time”.
When you are burned out, you have emotional overloads. In my case anger, frustration, ugly cries, and blow-ups. You also cant process anything anymore and become completely unreasonable. My husband has been on the other end of them. He has told me at one point that he is not my therapist and he is not, but the real realization of what I was doing came when he was telling me I was acting like my nana, which is one of the reasons I got burned out, she has done the dumping to me for years and it is one of the reasons I burned out. She is also very manipulative and what was alarming to me is that I was starting to be that way. You are my husband so you are supposed to take this from me, which is unreasonable. I am her grandchild so I am supposed to take this from her. I guess there lies the problem, constructively talking about things, yes, but dumping all your negative energy constantly on someone else is not healthy for any party involved. It also wasn’t just my nana that was dumping on me, so were the people I talked to on the phone at work all the time.
8. Love and Peace
I have had stress problems years before my burn-out. One thing I forgot along the way is that the best way to live life is from a place of peace and love for myself and others, not out of stress, frustration, and pessimism. I now try to come from a place of love and peace again instead of responding from the frustration and stress you seem to get stuck in when you burn out. What that does is it gets the people you love closer to you again and it makes you feel better too because you are not constantly exhausted by your negativity and you start feeling like yourself again bit by bit. I do still fail at this, but is a practice I want to keep up because so far it has helped my healing process more than I could ever imagine it would.
I hope these tips will help you heal and get you back to a more comfortable calm place with yourself and the people around you.