Let’s talk about burnout. We’ve all been there, and a lot of folks are in that place right now.
I’ve suffered burnout from a variety of sources over the years:
overworking at a toxic job.
staying in a terrible relationship.
putting too much pressure-to-perform on myself.
Perfectionism running rampant (see above!)
Whatever your “source” of burnout…
But you won’t be able to recover from burnout by doing more of what you’re currently doing.
That’s the catch, as it is with all healing.
You cannot keep doing the same things that led you to your current state expecting to recover from said state.
Maybe you’re burned out because you are trying to keep up with the pace of things, feeling like you can’t stop. Not sleeping well or waking refreshed. Unable to take care of your self and health. Exhausted from running all over creation (literally, or metaphorically).
If you kept going on this path, you feel yet more burned out.
And then you’ll get sick.
Perhaps you don’t know, or can’t see, your way out of this predicament.
All you see is all this stuff that “has to” get done.
You can’t just stop adding things to your plate.
This is usually the stage clients get in touch with me.
They want herbs to help them to keep going.
I can list all the adaptogenic herbs, sleep herbs, and so on that will help you survive this time. I prefer to talk about herbs with individuals – and not give lists with a few key facts. I can talk about the foods that will help you.
And really… In cases of burnout, you can take all the herbs you want but if you aren’t making other changes… you are prolonging the inevitable.
I’m here to say: you have to reduce your “productivity”, your “doing”, and recenter yourself as much as you can.
Don’t take on new projects that you know you don’t have the energy for.
Not even in the name of “self-care”.
For example: don’t “add” going for a massage to your plate if it means you’ll be more stressed out. Squeezing it into your schedule (and budget), then having a nightmare of a time with it is not what burnout self-care is about. Not at all.
As they told us to do in the 80’s: Just. Say. No.
Instead: shift and change what’s on your plate.
Take things off your plate wherever possible.
If you can’t take things completely off your plate: Change the amounts of each thing on your plate so that you have more space for YOU.
I’m not a parent, and I know all the hard working mothers and engaged-fathers are at epic levels of burn-out right now. And I don’t have any answers for you from that perspective. But…
If you came to me saying, “Pam, I’m really burned out, and I don’t know what to do. I’m at the end of my rope, and I just can’t keep going anymore. I need help!”
I’d ask you to tell me what you think you need.
Then I’d have you make a list of every single thing that calls upon your attention. Something you are responsible for, or think you are responsible for, then… write it down.
Yes, this is “adding” to your plate.
This list is your litmus test, reality check, a taking a good honest look at what’s happening in your life.
Getting real with yourself.
Things to put on your list
What are you responsible for?
Are you responsible for meal planning, cooking, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming?
Feeding the pets, getting the kids to school, work, the family finances, and on and on?
Whatever you are responsible for: write it ALL down.
Then, I want you to write down all the things that are weighing on your Heart right now.
Is it the current state of affairs – how so? Is it loneliness and isolation? Anxiety? Depression?
Now I want you to write down everything that you give your attention to each day – and be specific.
Are you on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok? Do you watch/read/listen to the news? Do you listen to audio books or podcasts? Hours of Zoom calls?
No matter your reasons: work or winding down, or whatever.
Write down how long each day you spend on any of these “external attention beacons” you spend time with each day.
I also want you to think about how much time you are giving yourself every day for basic self-care.
Such as: sleep, eating, rest/relaxation, mindfulness, exercise, socializing, body-care (showering, skincare), etc.
Write down what you are doing to take care of yourself.
Is this the list of one person’s life or two, or three, or four?
Once you see your reality, I’d then ask:
Are you engaging in any activities that you LOVE each day, and if not each day… once a week?
What do I wish I could do right now, that I know would lift my spirits?
Are you moving your body in a way that feels good to you?
For me, nothing beats getting outside for a good long walk. I could be feeling downright horrible and down in the dumps, and a walk lifts my spirit.
Could you take your energy and attention off of something on your plate, to shift it?
And in shifting that energy, focus it to yourself?
To take care of you a bit more.
Even if it’s for 15 minutes here and there – somehow, some way, ASK for that time.
Proclaim it to your household (even if your household is: you).
Say, “I want to do X, and I need help to make that happen.”
(Seriously, I live alone and I’ll proclaim to my apartment that I want to do something, and I need help to make it happen. I’ll typically get my “how” or offer of help within 24hrs.)
When you ask for what you need, from loved ones, the Universe, you’ll often get a surprising response.
(That is unless you have little people running around your home.Or, if you are in an abusive or otherwise dysfunctional household.
If you’re in the latter: your safety and well-being comes first. If you want help with this, please get in touch with me for resources.
I know how hard it is to live in a situation like that.)
Maybe you can’t do the thing… like, escape to an island in the Pacific and disconnect from the world entirely.
Can you instead take care of yourself a bit more with basic living things?
How about cooking a good meal for yourself, going out for a walk, calling a friend on the phone, taking a bath, reading a book with a great cup of tea, things like that?
(If you don’t feel like you have anyone to reach out to, and need connection with others, get in touch with me. I may have some ideas for you.)
You cannot give from an empty well.
And that’s exactly what burnout is.
You are the well, and the spring that feeds the well.
When you’ve burned out, you’ve dipped into the well so much that the spring cannot keep it full.
So you need to dip into your well LESS for a period of time.
To rejuvenate your well and spring with time, care, nourishment.
This way, you’ll have a bit more to give back to the world, to your loved ones, to your work and life.
Don’t give up. Consider that stopping the fight to keep going as if everything is “fine” is the solution.
Shift your attention and energy, pour some of what you are giving to the world back to yourself.
If it means disconnecting from the news, social media, and/or the laundry for a few days – then do it.
That’s what the seasons of Autumn, and especially Winter, ask us to do: slow down, go within.
Be less extroverted and external. Recuperate from the flush of growth and prolific harvests.
Even the Earth doesn’t produce, produce, produce year round.
She moves in cycles. Growth, fruiting and harvest, a fallow season that returns nutrients to the Earth, a deep turning within to replenish the ground, and spring’s growth again…
We’ve forgotten how to do these things.
Stop the perform-perform-perform, push-push-push.
Give to yourself more, and the outside world a bit less. Let yourself move in the cycles that your body, through screams of “I’m burned out”, is giving you.
You may be surprised at what opens up for you.