What burn out taught me about self-care

Posted by Aspen
10 February 2018 | Self


It’s the start of 2018. You’ve written your news resolutions. You’re inspired to get them started. Day 4 and you’re humming along with these new habits more consistently than Trump firing off tweets. You feel amazing. You grab your Green Tea (because you know, New Year, New Me), and take a sip of all it’s green goodness. Within half an hour, you begin to feel oddly strange.

Your concentration slips in and out. You move around, thinking that maybe doing something else will help it. Before long the sensation in your fingers and toes starts fading. You move them, but they feel like weighted inanimate objects on the ends of your arms. Now the music you had been playing is also fading. You can hear it if you choose to fully concentrate on it, but otherwise it sounds like a crackle on a radio. Before long, you find yourself curling up in bed in the foetal position, cradling your body as you try to understand how in an hour, after that bloody beaut of a green tea, you have become a mere shadow of yourself.

I wish I could say, I have a vivid imagination and just felt like writing that. Unfortunately, I’m not that creative.

No, this is actually what happened to me at the start of this year. I began 2018 in burn out. For a week I felt like what I described above. As you can imagine, being a feisty go-getter, let’s-get-this-fixed person, it stumped me completely and I did everything in my power to regain clarity. Yet, after the second day, I had to do the only thing I could do: rest.

The moments beyond choosing to allow me to rest, something profound began to happen. As I lay blobbed in front of the TV for 6 hours (don’t even get me started on the shameful, negative self-talk that stemmed from that…I mean 6 HOURS!!) I began to realise that this was my body communicating to me.

What lead me to burn out
There was a multitude of reasons why I burnt out, but the irony is they all fed into one another.

  • working upward of 56 hours a week at 4 different jobs
  • coffee being my fuel (real low point: getting up to 4 in one day!!) despite the fact that my body really doesn’t like it
  • having the mentality that I always need to be wired and tuned in
  • allowing my thoughts and feelings to govern the way I live my life

What brought me out of it
If you haven’t already noticed, I can be incredibly stubborn when I want to be. This incident was no exception. Fortunately, I had people close to me (family & friends) who challenged me and at times assertively told me to stop and give myself a break. I’d like to say I listened to them straight away, but part of me rode on the ‘victim’, ‘woe is me’ train for a little bit, and it took 2 days before I realised I wasn’t getting any better, and I wouldn’t if I continued on this way.

I started adopting self-care habits like:

  • reading fictional books that didn’t require a lot of mental stimulation
  • giving myself permission to sleep (on one day I slept 2 hours, then 30 mins later slept for another 3 hours)
  • learnt to crochet and watched TV and a copious amount of disney movies
  • post having a shower, taking time to moisturise my arms and legs (which if you’ve never tried, is pure heaven!)
  • bought some supplements (primrose oil, fish oil, Vitamin B and Iron) and made a habit of having them before breakfast every morning
  • read up about my personality type (Myers Briggs, Strength Finders, Enneagram) and celebrated my strengths and began taking ownership of my weaknesses/default habits
  • monitoring what thoughts were popping into my head and when negative self-talk came up, politely reminding myself that this is a time of healing and rest
  • decreased my time around things of high mental stimulation (eg: social media, music, writing, planning etc.)

Where to?
After a week, and taking the time to recover I slowly began to re-introduce things back into my life. Through small doses, I have begun applying the many lessons I learnt in that time like prioritising sustainability (I will go more into detail around what this looks like in the coming weeks.) In the meantime though, it’s one thing to share what I do for self-care, but each of us is unique and there are different ways we each get filled up.

Over this coming week, take some time to stop and reflect on what self-care could mean for you. To save you trolling through the internet, getting lost in the adorable photos of Kylie Jenner’s new baby and blasting The Greatest Showman soundtrack, I’ve found this quick 10 min tool incredibly helpful and valuable in figuring out what self-care can look like.

PS: Would love to hear from you on any topics/thoughts you’d love to explore this year! Drop me a line in the box below and will be in touch 🙂

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