Folks like me wrote a lot of self-care posts at the start of the pandemic, hoping they might be helpful.
But as we enter year three of this, self-care is sounding a little like a bad joke. Who has the energy?
When your overwhelm starts feeling over done and you're getting a little extra-crispy around the edges, you're may be sliding into burnout. This is the time when less is more. Read on, please...
Burn-out is officially recognized as a syndrome that occurs because of poor work conditions.
It's characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and difficulty getting work done. But now that work occurs practically everywhere, we might as well recognize that burnout can occur because of multiple causes. If you feel apathetic, cynical, resentful, or irritable, and this isn't your usual mindset, it's not you, it's your circumstances. Time to unwind...
1. If you are overwhelmed, exhausted, or burned out, you don't have the energy or focus to get anything done right now. So put away the phone, the laptop, the to-do list and just stare into space for a few minutes.
While you are staring, replace your worries with the truth. Tell yourself, "This won't last forever." Because nothing lasts forever. You might want to make this your mantra, for a while.
The world, your job, your family, you, will all be okay if you check out for a bit. Really.
Burnout happens because your stress levels have been elevated too long. Your energy is depleted, but you don't have enough control over your circumstances to relax. The good news is that you can begin restoring one moment at a time even if circumstances don't improve.
That gives you some freedom and control again.
Those moments raise your levels of calming neurotransmitters/hormones, which can counteract the stressful ones. That's all you need to get started.
2. Another almost effortless tool that you can do anywhere is what I call One Deep Delicious Breath. Breathe in slowly (preferably through your nose) and exhale just as slowly. If it feels good, do more than one breath like this. Relaxed breathing is one of the most effective ways to lower stress and you're breathing anyway, so why not make it a restorative breath?
3. Next is what I call my Breast Pocket Relief. It's a variation on Professor Jim Hickman's Back Pocket Positivity, which is about wiring your brain for greater positivity by collecting positive memories, savoring them for at least ten seconds at a time, repeating daily, and saving them metaphorically in your back pocket so you can enjoy them anytime.
I'm a firm believer that even adults sometimes need their Mommy. My Breast Pocket Relief memory is about a time when my Mommy really came through for me. I was four years old, disobeyed my Mom and long-story short, I got lost. I was so terrified I started wailing. Some bigger kids found me and took me to my Mom. Instead of punishing me, she sat down in a rocking chair. put me on her lap, even though I was a little old to sit on her lap, and rocked me until I stopped crying. This was a moment of perfect love: I was forgiven, comforted, and made whole again. I imagine keeping it in my breast pocket, near my heart, and take it out whenever I am feeling undone.
When was a moment when you were well loved?
Sometimes we have trouble remembering emotions vividly, but art, especially music, can help. Here's a beautiful song, Grandma's Hands, by Bill Withers, that might help:
4. Of course, hugging a loved one can be a tremendous help for you both, even if it's your dog or cat. If they are too far away, gazing at a picture of them can make a difference, because love fills us with oxytocin, the "love hormone". When we have more oxytocin in our systems we naturally have less cortisol, the stress hormone that makes some people sick.
Key Point: All of these approaches require little or no time or effort, but they do incrementally add to your restoration. The benefits increase with daily repetition. For best results, practice them a few times per day. Most people feel like themselves again, surprisingly fast.
If all of this is too much, maybe just looking at this picture of a little girl hugging a puppy will be helpful:
We all get a little undone sometimes. Fortunately, we don't have to stay there, If you're looking for more self-care articles, here are some, below. Too soon? Never mind.