Having experienced burnout in the past, I recognised it creeping in again recently.
After going through a challenging time with my mental health a couple of years ago (with postnatal depression and burnout), I know my warning signs well. When doing all the things that usually keep me well wasn't quite working, I knew I needed to take action.
I was feeling up and down, my mind was on overdrive and my brain felt full and exhausted. My sleep was impacted and I was having regular headaches. It's easy to get wrapped up as a woman, a mum, a career woman and all the other roles we play, in giving so much to others. I was on the hamster wheel trying to keep up and I wasn't giving much to myself. I was overwhelmed and found myself saying "I really need a break". I was tearful, shouty, snappy with my husband and kids and so tired! I could literally feel my nervous system was stressed and on high alert.
I wanted to share my experience, what I did to help myself and how you can assess where you are, so you can take steps to help yourself if you're feeling stressed, overwhelmed or on the brink of burnout. Perhaps you're recovering from burnout and want some support with this.
The Stress Curve
I was in the stress zone, creeping into the burnout zone.
Whilst it feels a little ironic that I help people with their wellbeing and I'm usually pretty good with my own wellbeing, I'd slowly crept into prioritising everyone but myself and having little time left for me. I'm a mum of two little ones, I work part time in the corporate world and I founded my business Grow with Solis alongside this. Add in the world feeling pretty heavy, family illness and a lot of pressure in my other job, I had a lot to contend with.
Checking in with you...
Some questions to ask yourself and check in are:
Where am I currently on this scale?
What are my warning signs when I'm in stress/burnout?
Am I truly looking after myself? Prioritising me?
How can I support myself?
What can I let go of? What can I do less of? What can I say no to? What can I postpone?
As long as you perceive you have the ability and resources to cope with the demands being placed on you, you are subject to optimal pressure. This is classified as good stress. It can be motivating to help us achieve things in our daily life, and can help us meet the demands of home, work and family life.
Stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under too much pressure. Stressful feelings typically happen when we feel we do not have the resources to manage the challenges we face. Too much stress over a long period is described as acute stress – our bodies are only designed to deal with this for short term situations.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can lead to physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, aka burnout. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to cope with constant demands. Experiencing it doesn’t mean you’re not functioning or achieving, but it means you’re putting your body and brain under an unsustainable amount of pressure.
I want to say here that I think a lot of people have a misconception about burnout. When I have been burnt out, or nearing burnout, I've still been functioning and meeting demands, it's just felt so very hard to cope and I've felt on the edge.
How I came back from the brink of burnout...
I stripped back as many things as I could and made my world quite small. I focussed on me and my little family.
There were some things I couldn't change, and some things I had no control over. What I could change is taking a step back from my business and having some down time, taking time off social media, and taking some time off my corporate job (I was signed off by my GP). This gave me a chance to step off the gas, get off the hamster wheel, rest, reassess and renew.
I also started back on herbal medication. I'd taken this whilst I had postnatal depression and burnout, and I knew it would quickly help me get back on an even keel. I called my herbal apothecarist (https://www.jonnysapothecary.com/) and explained what was going on, listed my symptoms and he made me a tincture that arrived the next day.
I had a digital detox and came off social media, deleted apps and downloaded a website blocker so I couldn't be tempted to check my accounts! This was probably the best thing I could do for myself.
I rested where I could and spent as much time as I could in nature. I only had 1-2 short days a week completely to myself. I was still doing school drop offs and pickups for my little girl and looking after my little boy who is home with me 2-3 days a week anyway as he's a preschooler. The kids both had poorly spells and half term was thrown into the mix! But having the headspace away from work and social media helped hugely and I know I'm lucky to have been able to do this. It meant I could be fully present and engaged with my family instead of having my attention elsewhere.
Some days I allowed myself to rest and not feel guilty about it. I went on some slow solo walks, did gentle yoga, meditated and did breath-work. I chatted to friends and family, journaled and made sure I was eating well. I used essential oils to support me, drank lots of herbal tea and soaked in the bath. I went for a massage and got back into the Couch to 5K challenge and eventually came out the other side feeling much better.
It's been a bit of a wake up call that I need to consciously book in proper quality time just for me, where I can rest, restore and do things that nourish me, or it won't happen. A reminder to reprioritise what's important, let things fall away and not get caught up too much in the hamster wheel. This is what it is to be a perfectly imperfect human. Things won't always be smooth sailing.
It also gave me chance to think about my lovely business, Grow with Solis, that I have absolutely loved building up. It brings me so much fulfilment and joy being able to support other people with their wellbeing, reconnect people with nature and seasonal living, and bringing people together to create learning experiences in a like minded community. I've got some ideas bubbling but for now I'm taking it slowly. There's no need to rush! I'm being gentle with myself.
If this resonates with you and you'd like some support from someone who has been there, and is also qualified to help (I'm a qualified, accredited coach and learning professional) - please book in a free 30 minute chat to see how I can guide you through this tricky patch.
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