One of the things I hear most is “Marielle, I’m exhausted.”
Time and again, women end up in my office or on my screen telling me about how they are tired.
How they barely have the energy to make it through the day.
How they definitely don’t have the energy to live the life they want to live.
How they are so stressed, they don’t even know where to begin.
The negative impact of chronic stress cannot be overstated. Beyond emotional distress, it can lead to physical dis-ease and disease, and eventually burnout. And here’s the thing about burnout: it’s more than just feeling super stressed or worn down. Burnout is considered a distinct psychological syndrome that has three components:
- overwhelming exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Burnout is marked by an extreme emotional exhaustion—where people cannot give of themselves emotionally anymore. When people are burned out, they switch from doing the best they can, to doing the bare minimum. Simply showing up can become extraordinarily difficult, and taking the necessary steps to recover from burnout can seem herculean.
The impact of burnout on our families, careers, personal well-being is enormous. It brings chaos to relationships, destroys productivity, and can obliterate any sense of peace.
Some typical symptoms of burnout include:
- feeling constantly tired or fatigued
- becoming increasingly irritable
- feeling like you don’t have enough time for people, even friends
- difficulty making decisions
- feeling under-appreciated most of the time
- increasing difficulty concentrating
- increased brain fog or “mom brain”
- waking up feeling exhausted
- feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or a “why bother?” attitude
- increasing boredom with work, home life, or life in general
- Frequent somatic symptoms like headaches, chronic back aches, abdominal cramps, “gurgly” stomach, diarrhea, or acid reflux
This list of symptoms is no where near exhaustive, but it paints a pretty good picture of what burnout looks like. If you have more than three of these symptoms, there’s a good chance you’re headed straight for the Isle of Burnout…or you’re already there.
The good news? You’re not stranded. You can build a raft and sail away back to the land of light and ease. Let’s talk about how.
1. ASSESS and Gather YOUR RESOURCES
For any healing process to be successful, we must begin where we are. Take an honest look around at your life. Look at the state of your resources: emotional, financial, energetic, social, and practical.
How much time can you make for this project of recovering from burnout? If the answer is 10 minutes a day, then adding a yoga class to your to-do list isn’t going to be successful. You’ll probably just feel worse when you don’t make it to class!
The biggest resource to assess is your support network. Who’s in your corner? Who can you call for a pep talk? Who can you reach out to when the going gets rough? We have to get honest with not only ourselves, but the people around us. As you recover from burnout, these are some things you might find yourself saying:
“Hey, I’m having a rough time right now. I’m not feeling my best, and I think I’m going to need a little more support than usual. Will you help me?”
“Hey, I’m having a problem. I need your support. Can you do that?”
“Hey, actually I won’t be able to do that thing I said I would. I overextended myself.”
That last one is super important: get used to saying no. No is a beautiful word. No is a complete sentence. Say it freely.
If you’re feeling like your support network is a little light, and you could use someone else in your corner, you have lots of options. If you’re struggling with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or you’re feeling a bit like you’re drowning, I highly recommend finding a therapist who you like and feel comfortable with.
You can check out local women’s groups and spaces, like The SheHive if you’re in Metro-Detroit! Join a book club or organization of like-minded people. You can reach out to me!
Don't skip this step. Assessing the state of your resources, gather them together, and get ready to build something beautiful.
2. CAFFEINE DETOX
Fun fact: caffeine has strong links to weight gain, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. It's kind of the opposite of fun.
Coffee in particular elevates blood pressure, increases cortisol level, and stimulates the sympathetic nervous system. Coffee is also a digestive irritant…hence why it helps many people get things grooving in the morning. This is true of all coffee—even decaf!
Caffeine is just a high-interest loan against your body, and eventually it’s going to bring you down.
So, if you’re feeling tired-but-wired, unable to relax, and buzzing through life with a perma-furrow in your brow, it’s time for a caffeine detox. Give your adrenal system a break and hop off the sauce for 3 weeks.
The first few days can be rough. Wean yourself off slowly and stay super hydrated. Opt for herbal teas, or a dandelion based coffee like Dandy Blend, which I absolutely adore. My favorite morning brew is a few teaspoons of Dandy Blend, a tablespoon of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, and a 1/4 teaspoon of Maca Powder. I usually top it off with some almond milk or flax milk!
I know it can sound daunting, but a caffeine detox is a powerful and simple ways to reset our hormones and help our body respond to stress more effectively.
3. GENTLE MOVEMENT
Sometimes we need to go hard. Do every chaturanga. Push ourselves to go faster, finish first, and be unflinchingly strong in the face of adversity. Sometimes, we need to batten down the hatches and march forward, despite just wanting to curl up in bed. Sometimes, to be our best selves, we need to quiet the voice that cries “Slow down!”
And sometimes we need to listen to that voice.
Sometimes, we actually need to slow down. We need to choose the softer, sweeter path. We need to lather our bodies in lavender lotion and coax the cobwebs from our hips. Sometimes we need to drink tea in the evenings and sashay around our kitchens to Sade.
Sometimes, we need to love ourselves in slow, soulful ways, pointing and flexing our feet just to feel the muscles of our legs come alive. We need to take long walks at dawn or dusk and listen for the echoing song of the hermit thrush.
Sometimes soft is strong, slow is brave, and gentle is the fiercest form of love we can give. If that’s where you are now, leave the cortisol-boosting cardio for other days.
Get thee to gentle yoga, pilates, or for a stroll in the fresh air. Go to tai chi. Walk to dinner. Explore somewhere unexplored. Orgasm. Yes. Orgasm. Orgasm induces deep relaxation, boosts endorphins, and flushes the stress hormone cortisol from the body.
More than anything: move your body gently, lovingly, and consistently.
Sleep is one of the most important practices for healing and maintaining our wellbeing, yet more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Get this: women are far more likely to have insomnia than men, and 24% of American women say they have woken up feeling rested zero of the last seven days.
The bad news is that as sleep duration and sleep quality decrease, inflammation and ill health increase. The good news is that you probably don’t need a prescription to help you get some quality shut-eye.
Follow these guidelines to get to much needed rest:
- Make time for 7-9 hours of sleep every single night.
- Screen time curfew: 1-2 hours before bed, put your screens to sleep! This will help reduce cortisol and increase your sleep hormone, melatonin, to help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
- Sleep in a totally dark environment. Get rid of all ambient light and grab yourself some blackout curtains!
- Keep your bedroom cool.
- Clear your bedroom of distractions. A pile of bills on your dresser? Move it. A do-to list next to your bed? Ditch it. Keep your bedroom totally clear of distractions. Your bedroom is an escape! Treat it like one.
Still having trouble with sleep? Let me know.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
Food is one of the most powerful tools we have to boost our wellbeing. Eating the right foods can help to hone our focus, strengthen our bodies, and leave us feeling cool, calm, collected, and content. When the going gets rough though, many of us reach for traditional “comfort foods” that are loaded with refined grains, added sugar, and processed foods—the exact foods we should be avoiding.
When feeling run down, it’s the time to go for foods that are deeply nourishing: lots of fruits and vegetables, fish loaded with healthy fats, pastured eggs, whole, minimally processed grains, and lots of fresh, clean water.
It’s best to start simply: focus on consuming 6 cups of fruits and vegetables that grow above ground, every single day. This alone can make a huge difference.
Once you're comfortably consuming 6 cups per day, boost that number to 8 cups, or 10 cups. The more anti-inflammatory food in your diet, the better!
Ditch fast food, soda, and energy drinks. Before you eat something, ask yourself if it’s going to nourish your body. If the answer is no…you might want to think twice.
6. SPEAK YOUR OWN LOVE LANGUAGE
Have you heard of the Five Love Languages? It’s a fantastic book by Gary Chapman, and the big idea is that everyone out there has a primary love language that they best receive love in. He breaks it down into five love languages: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.
The book was written for couples to help them best understand their partners, and how they might have different love languages than they do, and it does a really wonderful job. However, I like to look at it a little differently.
One of my big mantras is “To feel supported, support yourself.” So while it’s really great when partners “speak” to us in our love languages, we can’t always rely on that.
Our partners are their own people, and even if you live together and have supportive, positive relationship, we can't rely on our partners to be our sole source of love. We have to love ourselves, in our love language. We've got to do this, regardless of our relationship status.
I have two primary love languages: quality time and receiving gifts. My acts of self-love usually focus on these two areas. I buy myself bath bombs, essential oils, or get eyelash extensions. I take myself out to dinner with a couple of magazines. I spend time journaling. I take five minutes to sit in my car and breathe before coming into the house.
Once you know your love language (or languages) make a quick list of 5-10 ways you can speak to yourself in your love language.
Stumped and can’t think of any ideas? Just drop me a line and we can brainstorm.
7. FIND YOUR OFF BUTTON
This might be the most important thing you can do to banish burnout from your life. You've got to find a way to turn off negativity and fear. Even if it's only for 5 minutes a week, you need to find your off button. Your off button is a simple action that you can take to turn off chaos and turn on peace. Your off button will help you cut through the internal static to find clarity.
Knowing your off button, and being able to push your off button in times of need, is kind of a superpower.
Everyone's off button is going to be a little different. For some people it's taking a long walk. For others it's taking a shower. For others it's a long drive, or physical activity, or talking with a friend. It might be cuddling with a cat, hugging your child, holding someone's hand. Maybe your off button is being in nature. Maybe your off button is being in a museum. Maybe your off button is writing, painting, or cooking. Your off button is out there, waiting for you.
You might be one of those very lucky people who has multiple off buttons.
One of my favorite off buttons is meditation. Specifically, a pocket meditation that you can bring out whenever you need it. With a pocket meditation, you will never be without an off button.
Join me in my private Facebook group, The Om Tribe, tomorrow Tuesday 3/6/18 at 2:00pm EST as I bring on my favorite meditation teacher, Bre Nourse, to share a meditation for banishing burnout from your life. We will only be sharing this mediation in The Om Tribe, so definitely click right here to join!