Lessons in Self Care

The Gift of a Silent Night: Self Care Practices for a Busy Season

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, I have deeply missed writing during this time. Between Thanksgiving and now almost Christmas, it has been long nights, challenges at work, and just an overall giving of myself; to events, to gift planning, and to caring for others. I honestly have been feeling the mental strain and emotional burnout quite a bit. I’ve felt frustrated with myself: why do I feel this way? Why can’t I shake it off? Everyone is burned out, why should I be complaining? Well. The truth is that burnout, much like a sore muscle, is your mind’s way of telling you that something is off and you need to slow down, lest you risk injury. While work has been challenging and has given me a heap of learning experience this week, it is not mutually exclusive of the fact that I’m tired and feeling disconnected. I’ve not been as diligent as I thought with my self care: too much thinking a cup of tea is enough and not enough prioritizing the things that recharge my spirit, such as writing this blog. It’s easy to happen to all of us and while I think people acknowledge this feeling more during this time of year because it feels busier, it can happen anytime we lose sight of our priorities. This holiday season, I want to share with you how to give yourself the greatest gift: the gift of true self care.

While prevention is always the best policy, when feeling burned out, it is important to recognize it. Burnout can be insidious, can disguise itself with a mask, can be completely misidentified and therefore delay you treating it. Burnout can feel like:

  • Being tired even though you are sleeping regularly
  • Inability to focus
  • Lack of joy or excitement in things that normally bring out these feelings
  • Lesser productivity or feeling less capable
  • Anxiety or inability to relax

These are just a few symptoms, but I’ll give you a personal description of how I have been feeling burned out as of late. I’ve felt anxiety so strong that I can’t settle down, I’ve been having trouble sleeping, I’ve been feeling like the simplest tasks are an absolute mountain. I feel overwhelmed, like everyone needs something from me and at the end of the day, I have nothing but crumbs left of myself to give. I have a lot of tools in my toolbox to combat some of these feelings, but I feel like I have no energy left to use these tools. So, how do we work through burnout so that we feel like ourselves again?

First and foremost, we reorder our priority list with ourselves at the very top. This sounds quite selfish, but just like a battery, we aren’t any good to anyone when we are depleted. As a type A personality, I love to be organized, so I think a great step is organizing your priority list. If you have a daily to do list that is a mile long, you inevitably will miss something important and feel like you’re failing. There are a ton of planners out there, both in paper or app form, but the key is to list your top three items for each day that will make you feel the most accomplished. It honestly doesn’t matter what those three things are. They do not have to be profound, they can be as simple as folding a basket of laundry, the point is the way that doing those things makes you feel. That feeling of accomplishment will become a snowball rolling down the hill and will ultimately give you more confidence. Don’t feel like you have to be a superhero and do it all, just start small with things that will move the needle forward.

The next step in self care is tapping into something that brings you energy and lights a fire within you. While the things that energize us are going to be highly personal, everyone benefits from daily exercise as a means of producing that energy. Even though it seems counterintuitive, moving your body enough to break a sweat for 30 minutes a day will actually energize your body. It will keep your mood more stable, it will help you feel more focused throughout the day, it is all around the best thing for you. It is a non-negotiable in terms of self care. It is also important to find an activity that excites you. I’ve given my example of something that excites me: writing this blog. But maybe for you, it is doing a craft, painting, playing a sport. Whenever we’re busy, the first thing to go is the thing that we enjoy because it feels frivolous or unimportant. Don’t give up that thing, it matters the most.

The next thing that is important for self care is practicing gratitude. I dove into this much deeper in my last post, but gratitude helps keep you grounded and reminds you of the things that are good, which is so needed when experiencing burnout. Whether you meditate, journal, or say it out loud, find a daily gratitude practice that works best for you. It is really easy to slip into a pool of negativity when things feel overwhelming. It feels like you’re being suffocated and everything is hard. Gratitude will to remind you of what is important and will help these days not feel so dark.

Finally, find something that relaxes you in a positive way. It’s easy to turn to alcohol or stress eating and think that that is relaxation. But if the thing you are turning too takes away from you and your health, then that is not the right thing. There are many positive relaxation tools that are healthy, it’s about finding the one that feels the best to you. Maybe it’s a bath, massage, a cup of tea, or mediation. No matter what it is, it should be something that you can do daily without negative effects and is not mentally draining. Whatever that thing is for you, make sure there is time for it at least a couple of times a week, but more often if possible. Having time to truly unplug and turn your brain off for a few minutes will give you a short break that will help prevent you from needing a much longer one.

Life is unpredictable. It seems that there are times where you have more on your plate than normal and things are off balance. You feel like if you just had a few minutes to sit down or sleep, it would all be better, yet there isn’t time for any of those things because too much needs to be done. If you’re in this place, know that you are not alone and it will not last forever. But while you may not be able to take things off your plate right now, you CAN manage to make yourself feel more effective and capable of handling it all. I am truly a helper and a giving person, I will help others before myself to my detriment. While I have allowed myself to be somewhat depleted this season, I’m realizing how much I am unable to help the people I care about because I have nothing left to give. This week, I am refocusing my priorities and making sure that I am caring for myself. I’m giving myself the time to quiet my mind; the gift of a silent night.