As entrepreneurs, we’re constantly fighting the battle of “busy” and as the holiday season approaches, the stress seems to pile on even more. That’s why I invited my client, Danielle, licensed therapist, self-care expert, and podcast host, to share some of her best tips on how to keep burnout at bay. In this post, she identifies some of the common burnout signs she sees manifest in women and what to do if and when you see them start creeping into your life.
I recently had a session with a client that I had been seeing for a few months. She originally started her therapy because she was in an unhappy relationship and had decided to leave. “Well,” she said, “I guess I’m here because it took leaving an unhappy relationship to realize that I’ve been unhappy for a while. I think the thing that scares me most was how long I’d been living this way before I realized it. “Unhappy” became my new normal.”
We had been working on helping her identify and get in touch with her emotions. This can seem frustrating in the beginning. When we don’t like the way we feel, and there’s a high sense of urgency to feel better -> we just want the answers. Around our 4th or 5th session, as soon as she sat down, she started with this comment, “I know that this is good for me. I can tell something is happening, but honestly… I still don’t see the point of getting in touch with my emotions. Before we begin, can you tell me what this is all for?”
The answer I gave her, is what I want to share with you.
- Denial, dismissal, or ignoring how we feel is a BIG part of what keeps us stuck. Looking, really looking, at how we feel, and then letting yourself feel it puts you in a powerful position because of this -> You can’t unknow what you know. You can’t unsee what you’ve seen. You can’t unfeel what you’ve felt.
- Once you know, see, and trust what you feel, that’s where the magic is. Because that’s when change happens.
When it comes to burnout, here are some warning signs to become aware of. And if you find yourself on your way to burnout, you’re already there, or you’ve been there for a while – what you can do about it.
Before we get too specific, I want you to imagine that being burned out is like having an emotional sunburn. The longer the exposure to the sun, the more painful the burn becomes, and the more painful the burn is the harder and more challenging it becomes to go back outside.
Common feelings & behaviors that women experience when they’re burned out:
- Feeling irritable, restless & exhausted at the same time, short-tempered, less patient, feeling trapped, stuck, or stifled
- Turning to more numbing behaviors to get through the day. For example, more time on the phone or computer as a distraction, more online shopping, more caffeine in the morning & more wine at night to wind down.
- Working through meals, experiencing low blood sugar, and then overeating at night to compensate.
- Throwing self-care out the window, and Netflix becomes a new best friend, not because it’s truly a comfort but because it’s there. If someone is feeling burned out, watching TV isn’t as much of an enjoyable experience as it is a way to drown out the noise in our heads.
I remember the last time I personally experienced burnout, I started rewatching The Office for the 5th time. When I’m thriving and doing well, I enjoy quiet time, peacefulness, and moving at a steady pace. When I’m stressed out, overwhelmed, or burned out, I find comfort in old familiar places. I.e. Parks and Recreation, Friends, Arrested Development, The Office, and so on…
This leads me to the other BIG warning sign to look out for…When the things that have normally brought you joy get put on the shelf.
Another common theme with clients experiencing burnout is that things that normally bring them joy – time with friends & family, exercise, journaling, meditating, etc. – start to feel more like a task, chore, or nuisance.
One of the first things that falls to the chopping block when I’m starting to slip into burnout is my typical morning routine. Instead of starting my day with coffee, journaling, meditating, and puppy snuggles…it looks more like this…
My alarm goes off, I feel a sense of dread, hit, snooze but don’t actually go back to sleep. I start thinking about the day and a stress ball starts to form in my stomach. I hit snooze a couple more times, drink coffee while I rush to get ready, fill a mug with more coffee to take to work with me, rush out the door, and think about the next break I’ll have to stop at Starbucks for the afternoon coffee I know I’m going to need.
Our ability to handle and manage stress is extraordinary. And, believe it or not, stress is not the enemy.
Healthy stress, like accomplishing a goal or exercising, is great for our immune systems and for our self-esteem. What generally leads to burnout is a combination of compounding stress, unrealistic or unforgiving goals, and not hearing what our bodies are telling us. This may seem so basic it’ll make you want to roll your eyes, but stay with me…
When you’re feeling burned out, go back to the basics. Sleep, eat, water, repeat. TRULY!
Just like a sunburn, the amount of care, tenderness, and time out of the sun you need will depend on the severity of the burn. But trust yourself! More importantly, trust your body. Your body never lies to you. It responds to what you do, what you say, and how you feel.
Headaches, heartburn, neck tension, shoulder pain, cold sweats, etc. are your body’s way of saying, “Hey girl. I think we need a break.”
If you’ve read to this point, chances are you’ve either experienced burnout or you may be experiencing it now. And that is okay. Maybe you need some time out of the sun. If you’re in a position where you can take some time for a little R & R, then use this message as your permission slip to take the time you need. If you read that and thought to yourself, “Ha! Who’s she kidding?! I have too much to do.” Then, you REALLY need to take a break. Oftentimes, what we resist will continue and persist.
At the end of the day, you know your schedule, responsibility, and desires more than anyone else. You are the expert for your life. So, take what you need from this message and leave the rest. Take a break where you can. Maybe cancel a lunch date if you need sleep. Or schedule a lunch with your best friend if you need a laugh. You’ve got this. And if you have any follow-up questions, you can connect with me using the links below.
Prior to her work as a licensed therapist, Danielle worked as an actor and ballroom dance instructor. Her journey from performer to therapist wasn’t a clearly defined path, but rather a sweaty, awkward, and exhilarating process of step, stumble, fear, learn, repeat. She’s also the creator and host of the Don’t Cut Your Own Bangs podcast, the remedy to comparison and feeling like everyone has it figured out but you.