For a long time, I lived the belief that to create the life I wanted, I needed to work harder. This meant less sleep, long hours, and even “forgetting” to eat so that I could get the job done.
There is a place for rolling up your sleeves and doing the hard work that is called for. This is an ability that many people lack and because of it they stay stuck in one area or another in their life. But for me, I’ve overused this ability to my own detriment.
I started out my adult life with a trial by fire – no resources, no direction, and a baby. I was fortunate enough at the time to call on this ability to work hard and not quit. Because of this, I put myself through school and developed my business, along with a number of other accomplishments.
Whether it was true or not, my ability to work hard became linked to my ability to get results. In other words – hard work meant survival. But it goes further than that. There were a number of other beliefs that were strengthened at the same time, including:
Again, there are whole segments of people who would benefit from some deeper understanding of hard work and sacrifice. But above all else at this time, I needed to remember self-care, support, sustainability, and nourishment. Cultivating the psychological and energetic capacity to embody this shift in the way that I show up to life, has been critical in the unlocking of my personal power and stepping into my calling.
I circled through this territory time and time again. But I was so deficient in my understanding, that try as I might, I could not get these things to stick. Until one day, I found myself cracking. My patience was thin, more and more situations were bothering me, I wasn’t enjoying the people I usually enjoy, I was super thin and really tired. Because of this I was making bad choices and errors in judgment. It is scary that when you are in a place of leadership, so few people are willing to call you on your dysfunction even when it is staring them in the face – but this is a topic for another day.
Long story short, I was swimming as fast as I could and sinking from exhaustion. I had learned along the way that I needed to ask for help. So, I asked for help and got a cosmic level dose of instruction. Some amazing support came my way – just enough to stop me from sinking. However, I also received an enormous heap of challenges, and this was the true teaching. Opposition can show us exactly where and how we need to grow. Here, I was shown the internal mechanisms that were putting this all in place.
I don’t like to repeatedly bang the drum of a certain brand of oppression – throw all my “problems” into one bucket and blame it for everything. Life is much more complicated, and I would rather not make my life story about victimhood. However, that is very different from turning a blind eye to some of the realities of the world we live in.
And for me, this particular issue is about the oppression of the feminine force within us all.
I learned to survive from doing rather than being, so I was not standing in my genius.
I learned to identify my value with my looks, so I never got to know my own beauty.
I learned that care of others was more important than care of myself, so I lived in a place of depletion.
I learned to ask permission to stand in my power, so I was never fully in it.
I learned that the wisdom of my body was inferior to the knowledge of my mind, so I neglected my truth and covered up my wisdom.
I learned that it was ok for others to use my hard work and life force and call it their own, so I let them take without giving until I was exhausted.
And, yes, I believe that this is symptomatic of the long-standing historical oppression of the feminine force and its wisdom – and it affects most of us in some way. Historically, women have been the home-makers. They clean the house, tend the fire, and cook the food. But the wisdom of any oppressed group survives. It just goes underground. It gets preserved and encoded in the simple acts of every day. So look closely, for the greater healing is here:
Clean the house.
Tend the fire.
Cook the food.
So, I started cleaning my house. I put boundaries in place and moved unsupportive people to more distant places in my life. I looked at the places where I was out of alignment with myself and my deeper truth, and I made shifts to get back on track. I repeat as is necessary. And, yes, I literally clean my house.
I started a desire journal and wrote at least one thing each day that stoked the fire of my life. I added in one activity that was just about enjoyment for each day. I paid closer attention to where I lit up and what brought me joy, and recognized this as my divine intelligence.
I looked at what sustains me, what supports me, and what allows me to thrive, and to this day I continue to make choices to bring this into my life. I am taking time to see what will truly nourish me, and make sure that I have put it on the table.
As I do these things, I heal. I love myself more. I find it easier to stand in my power. And as I make these shifts, I uncover a new way of working where I am cared for, supported, and can create more with less effort. Today is your opportunity, and I invite you to gently allow the feminine force within to come alive.
Better self-love equals better decisions. Creating an ongoing experience of self-love for yourself keeps you operating at a higher level. Like all things that you do to take care of yourself, loving yourself makes it easier to make better choices simply because you are feeling better when you make them.
Helps determine your real needs. If you do not give yourself the love that you need, you may end up getting confused about what your real needs are. If you do not even fulfill this most primary need how can your really know what your other needs are.
You know how to do it best. While it is wonderful to receive love from others, we actually know what we want and need better than anyone else. Sometimes, if we are feeling a lack of love or care from an outside relationship, we can focus on giving/showing this love to our self in exactly the way that we know we need.
Sets the tone for the people in your life. We teach others how to treat us. When we love ourselves, we show others how to love us, thus setting a standard for the other people in our life.
Self-love is the best form of self-protection. When you act lovingly toward yourself, you are unlikely to tolerate unloving behavior from others. As a result, many problems can resolve themselves without effort, and certain predatory types will find the presence of your self-love less appetizing.
You are the root of positive change. Whether you are a professional caregiver or trying to have your impact be a positive one, giving yourself a steady dose of self-love keeps you healthier, happier, and in the game longer. If you shirk your responsibility to love yourself, you will lessen your overall ability to make a difference.
You are a role model. You are teaching your friends, partner, children, and others how to love themselves each time you show up for yourself in this way. We can all use some extra support in the direction of loving ourselves even more completely. You doing this for yourself helps those around you to do the same.
Do you ever feel compassion fatigue? Read more about caring for yourself here >>> “4 Ways You Can Stop Burnout When You Care a Lot.”
I hear it all the time from people who work with others in any helping or healing capacity: “I am exhausted. I am not sure I can do this anymore. I need a vacation. Maybe I should go into another line of work.” This same fatigue also affects those who are caring for other people in their lives. It is the result of actively attending to other people’s pain at the expense of your own self-care. It even has its own label: compassion fatigue.
One of the first things that I talk to practitioners about when they start to work with me is their own self-care. The more that you care for yourself, the more you are able to assist other people. The problem is that many helpers and healers get into the work because of their own wounds. This is fine overall; however, you will continue to deplete yourself to the extent that you have not healed.
If you find yourself stressed, with little energy to put into your work, or have noticed your behavior deteriorating in other areas of your life because you are caring a lot for others and little for yourself, try some of the following tips.
Boundaries. You may need to rewrite the way that you do the work you do, or work in a different way. You may need to learn to say no to those you love so that you can do some things for yourself. If you are feeling fatigued and possibly ready to quit, your boundaries are not in the right place. You are giving more than you have to give. Ask yourself: what do you need to make this a healthy arrangement?
Time out. One of the best ways to figure all of this out is to take a break. This can seem like a really big request when you feel like you are barely keeping up as it is. BUT—and it is a big “but”—it can be the smartest and easiest solution to your dilemma. Take as much time as you believe is possible and then take just a little more. The space will give you the perspective to help you see new ways of doing things.
Therapy. As I said, very often we get to this point because of our unresolved issues. Get some help from someone outside of your situation who can help you examine and shift the underlying patterns that are creating your over-giving.
Vision. First, connecting to your vision can be reinvigorating. However, it can do more than that. Take a look at how you are represented in your vision. Is it possible to have a vision where not only are you helping others but you are also well cared for? Write or rewrite a vision statement with this in mind, and read it regularly to keep yourself on track.
Perhaps most importantly, know that this can just be a passing phase. You can offer your amazing gifts to others in whatever way you do and you can be healthy while you do it. Look for new solutions, and don’t settle!
Take a look at my article here for more ideas on why loving yourself is so key >>> “7 Reasons to Love Yourself First.”
I’m of the mindset that while I may not be the smartest or most talented person in the room, I’ll earn my spot at the table with my impressive work ethic. So, I got in early to my office job, stayed late, worked weekends—all the while obsessively worrying about my performance and my future.
Looking back, it’s obvious that my lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. But back then, I wore my workaholism like a badge of honor. The way I saw it, I had an awesome job and would work as hard as it took to do well.
As time went by, any semblance of a balanced life went out the window. I had no energy or desire to hang out with my friends, I was neglecting my health and I had become disillusioned with my work. There wasn’t one single catalyst—it wasn’t that I stopped liking the kind of work I did, generally speaking. Instead, it was a classic case of burnout: multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time left me totally drained and no longer performing at my best. In a few short years, I went from bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to seriously burnt out. Here are signs you could be headed down the same path.
What Exactly Is Burnout?
As it turns out, my story isn’t uncommon; many millennial women are experiencing job burnout before they even turn 30. The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.”
“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. Ballard, who is the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”
Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. In order to catch burnout and combat it early, it’s important to know what to look out for.
Dr. Ballard let us in on 10 signs you may be experiencing burnout:
A clear sign of burnout is when you feel tired all the time. Exhaustion can be emotional, mental or physical. It’s the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.
2. Lack of Motivation
When you don’t feel enthusiastic about anything anymore or you no longer have that internal motivation for your work, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing burnout. Other ways this manifests? It may be harder to get going in the morning and more difficult to drag yourself into work every day.
3. Frustration, Cynicism and Other Negative Emotions
You may feel like what you’re doing doesn’t matter that much anymore, or you may be disillusioned with everything. You might notice that you feel more generally pessimistic than you used to. While everybody experiences some negative emotions from time to time, it’s important to know when these are becoming unusual for you.
4. Cognitive Problems
Burnout and chronic stress may interfere with your ability to pay attention or concentrate. When we’re stressed, our attention narrows to focus on the negative element that we perceive as a threat. In the short term, this helps us deal with the problem at hand, Dr. Ballard says, “but our bodies and brains are designed to handle this in short bursts and then return to normal functioning. When stress becomes chronic, this narrow focus continues for a long time and we have difficulty paying attention to other things.” This “fight or flight” tunnel vision can negatively affect your ability to solve problems or make decisions. You might find that you’re more forgetful and have a harder time remembering things.
5. Slipping Job Performance
Not sure whether you’re burnt out? Compare your job performance now to your performance in previous years. Because burnout tends to happen over an extended period of time, taking this long-term view might reveal whether you’re in a temporary slump or experiencing more chronic burnout.
6. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work
This tends to play out in one of two ways: (a) You’re having more conflicts with other people, such as getting into arguments, or (b) you withdraw, talking to your coworkers and family members less. You might find that even when you’re physically there, you’re tuned out.
7. Not Taking Care of Yourself
When suffering from burnout, some people engage in unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much, smoking, being too sedentary, eating too much junk food, not eating enough or not getting enough sleep. Self-medication is another issue and could include relying on sleeping pills to sleep, drinking more alcohol at the end of the day to de-stress or even drinking more coffee to summon up the energy to drag yourself into work in the morning.
8. Being Preoccupied With Work … When You’re Not at Work
Even though you might not be working at a given moment, if you’re expending mental energy mulling over your job, then your work is interfering with your ability to recover from the stresses of your day. In order to recover, you need time to yourself after the actual task stops … and time when you stop thinking about that task altogether.
9. Generally Decreased Satisfaction
This is the tendency to feel less happy and satisfied with your career and with your home life. You might feel dissatisfied or even stuck when it comes to whatever is going on at home, in the community or with your social activities, Dr. Ballard says.
10. Health Problems
Over a long period of time, serious chronic stress can create real health problems like digestive issues, heart disease, depression and obesity.
And If You Are Experiencing Burnout?
Dr. Ballard let us in on what to do if you recognize the above symptoms in yourself.
Take Relaxation Seriously
Whether you take up meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family, truly think about what you’ll do to relax, and designate time for it.
Cultivate a Rich Non-Work Life
Find something outside of work that you are passionate about that’s challenging, engaging and really gets you going—whether a hobby, sports or fitness activities or volunteering in the community (along with other items we mention here, like relaxation, being able to “turn off” and participating in rewarding non-work activities).
While communication technology can promote productivity, it can also allow work stressors seep into family time, vacation and social activities. Set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.
Get Enough Sleep
Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout, not least because poor sleep can have negative effects on your job performance and productivity. It can lead to fatigue, decrease your motivation, make you more sensitive to stressful events, impair your mental function, leave you more susceptible to errors and make it harder to juggle competing demands. The reverse is true, too: We’ve seen that sleep can actually improve your memory. Recovering from chronic stress and burnout requires removing or reducing the demands on you and replenishing your resources. Sleep is one strategy for replenishing those resources. For inspiration, check out our tips to get better sleep.
Often, when people are burnt out, they spend a lot of time worrying that they’ll forget to do something or that something important is going to slip through the cracks. Get organized, clear your head, put together a to-do list (or an electronic task list) then prioritize. That way, you don’t have to keep thinking about those things because you’ll have systems in place to remind you.
It’s important to tune into the precursors of those conditions, physical signs that you might be under too much stress: more headaches, tight shoulders, a stiff neck or more frequent stomach upset. In terms of mental health, burnout affects depression, and if you’re depressed, that can also affect your level of burnout—it goes both ways. So, if the issues you’re struggling with are really serious and getting worse, you may need to seek professional help. Talk to a psychologist to get help beyond support from just your friends and family members.
Know When It’s You, and When It’s Them
Burnout is sometimes motivated by internal factors, Dr. Ballard says, and sometimes it really is a symptom of external ones. In the first case, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” so you can figure out what’s stressing you out, and how to maintain your internal resources to keep yourself motivated, doing your best work and functioning well.
Some burnout really is the fault of work. “In a survey we did in 2011, more than two-thirds of respondents said that their employers had taken steps to cut costs as a result of the recession,” like hiring freezes, layoffs, cutting work hours, rolling back benefits, requiring unpaid days off, increasing hours, etc. All that increases demands on workers,” he says. “Those are the two components that play into burnout: There are more demands and fewer resources.” To find out whether it’s time to move on, figure out whether your position is a “mismatch between your needs and what you’re getting working for that particular organization.”
reblogged from www.forbes.com