As a mental health therapist, I often see people when they have reached a point of not knowing how to move forward; when they are feeling depleted, hopeless, exhausted, and unsure of what else to do. Many times these people report that they take care of their families, that they dedicate hours of their lives to their jobs, and that they feel they do not have time for themselves at the end of the day.
We can all agree that the world needs altruistic people who are looking out for the welfare of others. However, the empathy, love, and connection must be kindled inwardly before it can be reflected out to others without burning us out.
Self-love and care is the most important thing that we can do for ourselves, but many of us are trained into a different view. Having grown up in the south, I have seen that the experience of many women is the expectation of handling ‘All of the Things’ with grace and to always act as if everything is “just fine”. We are taught to put the needs of others before our own and that to even think of doing anything for ourselves is selfish. These beliefs are both ludicrous and hazardous to our health.
It’s easy to think worn out is normal because the worn-out model is the dominant model for women in our culture. Have you noticed how our culture loves women achievers, even if they’re exhausted every step of the way to the top? – Karen Brody
In every moment, we are making choices. Yes to this, no to that. Why is it that we feel guilty for saying no to others, but we do not feel guilty for saying no to ourselves? If we cannot learn to take care of ourselves first, this will gravely effect our ability to take care of everyone else. We can quickly find ourselves burned out, exhaustion, angry, and unhappy. If we cannot learn to take care of ourselves first, we can also find our bodies breaking down, our immune system failing and illness or disease setting in. This is not how we want to live our lives.
We must give ourselves permission to make our own health and happiness a priority. In order to take care of others, which feels really good, we first have to turn the loving care inward, This is not an option. When I work with someone who has burned out and can no longer function, they often experience a sense of relief simply because they are forced at that point to stop for a while. And their burnout has an affect on everyone around them who is now having to adjust and take care of ‘All of the Things’ because there is no other choice.
Making the changes in our belief system to feel that it is ok to put ourselves first is a difficult one, but we can get there by learning to say yes and no when we need. If we can be real with ourselves and recognize that giving from an empty cup is unsustainable, we can start to see that helping ourselves helps all of the other people that we want to help.
In my online healthier habits course, I often see symptoms of burnout unwind. Small changes to our daily routines can lead to big shifts in our mental, emotional, and physical health.
This week, start to recognize when you are saying no to yourself and give yourself permission to put you first. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift or rudely refusing to do something you have already agreed to. Maybe it is something more like taking a short walk outside when you go to the restroom at work before returning to the obligations that can wait 5 minutes. Or perhaps it is going to bed at 9:00 because you are tired.
Reach out if you would like to chat about your habits and shifts that you may be able to start making. I would be happy to talk to you about it.
I will be taking care of myself right along with you.