Have I missed something here? When did we start to believe we were machines that could run for hours and days and weeks and months with no oil, no servicing and no down time? I have actually dubbed it, “the squeeze” and written about it on social media. If I speak with another burned out, tearful client about the stresses of working a job that really is two jobs, I’m going to retire to my zen monastery. The work climate has changed, expectations have gone wild and we are all suffering as a result. We are drowning in a rising tide of anxiety, stress and depression.
Self care is not an added extra, it’s actually why you are here, to live a life of quality, connection, warmth and fun. Hands up if you agree?? Sometimes work can provide all of these things but more often work becomes the ogre which chases away all possibility of quality in life. The higher the level of work, the more likely this becomes. I see my clients being crushed with anxiety and depression as a result of work responsibility, long hours, poor support and crazy expectation.
You know you have burn out if life feels overwhelming, your mood is low, feelings of anxiety intrude on everyday life, your body reacts to work with pain, nausea or both. Vomiting on the train on the way to work is not normal, neither are panic attacks while at work. The Sunday night syndrome of insomnia and irritable bowel is also a telltale sign. If you recognise yourself in any of these, read on!
Here are my three easy steps – with experiential guidance!
1. Align your work with your values
2. Reclaim autonomy
3. Express your self worth
Align work with values
This is is a biggie! Have you worked out your core values? What really inspires and motivates you? Think of a time when you were really happy and joyful, picture it and colour it in. Savour the moment and notice how you feel. Move on to another moment of intense joy….now write down the qualities of those moments….for example mine were connected, adventurous and loving. Notice how the words make you feel, I‘m feeling transported just writing this! Find the qualities or values which describe your joyful moments, and you will be close to your core values.
Now take a moment and consider whether the work you do aligns with any of these values. If it does, bingo, you have purpose and you probably have a path with Heart, move on to the next two steps! If not, reconsider the work you have chosen and find something more aligned to your purpose. It’s out there!
Loss of autonomy is a really big part of burnout. Feeling that you have no control or agency over your life, that other peoples expectations and requirements are bigger and more important than yours, whether they are your manager or your clients, is a slippery slope to emptiness, exhaustion, resentment and illness.
My biggest tip to you here is to recover a sense of autonomy by practicing saying ‘No’. Decide where your limits are and what serves you. Even as I write these words I can hear the protest from all your inner beliefs about serving others, which are especially prevalent amongst women. Truth to tell, you cannot really say ‘Yes’ if you cannot find your ‘No’.
What would it be like to really choose your response instead of feeling the pressure of your ‘shoulds’? ‘I should be nice, I should be helpful, I should put myself last, I should help everyone else, I should work every hour God sends…..’ The ‘ shoulds’ will drive you into the ground if you let them, but, as Osho says, the door of the cage is open…
Express Self Worth
Really rekindling your inner fire is the final step, and this is done through extreme self-care. It’s not optional! Notice your self talk, focus on self support instead of self abandonment. This takes awareness and vigilance and often requires some external support (therapy) to get to the heart of the inner beliefs or themes. Supportive guided meditations can be a great help, as well as practicing appreciation and self praise. The simple act of journalling every night to praise yourself for three things that went well will start building that muscle of self appreciation, and minimising the blame and shame cycle.
What you focus upon grows, what would you rather water, the weeds or the beautiful magnolia tree? It’s your movie, might as well make it a good one!
Self care can also take the form of time out, exercise, massage, buying yourself that dress or going out with friends on a Friday evening. Whatever it is, DO IT, don’t just think about it. PRIORITISE IT, don’t leave it till the last thing on your list. As an insurance salesman once said to me abut income protection, “If I had a machine out the back making $150,000 a year, I’d want to insure it!”
Lastly, remember…physical and mental health are intricately linked, keep fit, go for a walk every day, watch your weight and your diet. You deserve the best health, the finest energy and a good life. Ensure that life has plenty of fun! What makes you joyful? Singing? Dancing? DO THEM! You serve no-one by not looking after yourself, fit your own oxygen mask first, fill your own cup and be a light guiding others by example.
You can work with me individually or in group, I will be on retreat in Bali with Opening to Life in October, 6-13, 2018, join me for a magical, transformative week of extreme self care!