First, I want to just talk a little bit about why I’m doing this podcast- why I’m so passionate about helping women. I’m really committed and I’m really hoping that I can reach more and more women who are feeling exhausted, who are feeling burned out. And this podcast is one of the ways that I reach people and to help them. I also have a program called the vibrant health program, and like to invite you to learn more. It’s a simple way to get the support you need to move from burnout, exhaustion, or physical health issues that you’re having without having all the trial and error. You’ll get the support you need. You’ll be able to make big changes and transformations. I would love to chat with you and see if working together would be a good fit. I will put the link to a free call below so we can talk about supporting you in making the change that you want in your life. You can move from being exhausted, to actually being well.
As usual to begin, I’d like to start by welcoming the directions. I welcome in the great direction of the east. I welcome in the direction of the south and the west and the north. I welcome in the directions that are above the directions that are below in the directions that are within. I welcome all the great and loving, compassionate spirits that are here to support us. And I welcome the ancestors who have lived well and died well, and I acknowledge that I’m on the land of the Creek, in the Cherokee, in what is now known as Athens, Georgia. There’s been a guide that’s been helping me that lives, particularly on this land. She has been really in making sure that I stay connected to my spiritual self as much as possible. You might want to check in with your land as well.
Today I want to talk to you a little bit about something that’s coming up a lot for me, and I’ve seen it so much in the popular discussion, whether it be in social media, on Facebook, on Instagram or in the news, a lot of people have been talking about burnout, and I became kind of curious. Talking more about this very specifically with my clients, because I think it’s one of the key pieces that is happening. One, because we’ve been in a global pandemic for so long, but it’s also, I think it’s happening more and more even before the pandemic and people didn’t realize that they were burned out. I think that we don’t always recognize the signs and the symptoms. So I wanted to talk about burnout and how you can know if you are burned out.
One of the ways that I’ve seen burnout described is it’s kind of this multimodal state of exhaustion. Not just one level, but emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion and mental exhaustion. And it’s usually determined or defined by a being caused by excessive and prolonged stress. For a long period of time, we’re stressed. There’s like this level of stress, where we’re really stressed. And then we have stress, all the time, for a really long time. And we keep having that stress without the break of the stress being gone. Sounds kind of like the global pandemic we’re in, right? We never really get a break from it. It’s not like we had a global pandemic and then there was a year without it, and then we came back to it. It’s just ongoing, for two years. And for a lot of people, I’ve heard a lot talking about workplace burnout, but it can also be parenting burnout, or relationship burnout.
Let’s talk a little bit about some of the signs of burnout. I was asking about other’s people’s signs of burnout on Facebook, because I know I have very particular signs of burnout. And you might notice that some of these for you and some of these don’t. I think it’s really individual for each person. One of the signs that people were talking about were, was feeling overwhelmed. There’s so much to do and not just overwhelmed, I have so much to do, but overwhelmed in such a way that there is actually to a point where, well, I might as well not do any of it. The shut down and the freeze response. If you’re talking about the nervous system this is a really interesting, kind of a distinction of, oh, I’ve got so much to do overwhelm that we feel in stress. It’s almost like it takes it so much instead of like their stress. And I’ve got a lot going on and I’ve got to do all these things to, there’s so much I’m going to do, and all I’m going to do is lie here on the floor because that is all I can do. The well is dry. I am burned out. I am crispy. You might also feel like you don’t have enough time to even process what is happening. Things are not going well, you know that’s happening, but you don’t even have the time to process it. That’s another one of the signs. You might also feel like everything is a chore.
And you might feel like even if you did all of these things that you have to do, that nothing seems worth doing. Or, one or both of your eyes might be twitching. That was a huge sign for me. You might also notice that you have a feeling of dread or you stop doing your self-care for no apparent reason. Or (this one broke my heart) when someone was describing this on a podcast of their burnout experience, they cried on the way to work because they were going to work and they were burned out at work. And then they were crying on the way home from work because they were burned out at home with their family/parenting burnout (ugh). You might notice that you feel numb. You just can’t feel anything that you have. Absolutely no motivation. And maybe you even stopped caring.
You might have that extreme exhaustion. Not just like “I’m tired. I’m exhausted,” but so exhausted that you’ve reached empty. You’ve been going on fumes for a while. You might start noticing or might have had a lot of health issues, either short term, you had the flu or you had a cold or you know, well, there’s this one ache that I can’t quite get rid of or they might be more chronic. Right? You might start having bigger problems, more consistent health issues. I know for me, this was one that showed up a lot as it was like, why is my body breaking down in my twenties? And the answer was because I was burned out. I was already burned out. You might have migraines or frequent headaches. That’s another one that shows up for me, irritable bowel syndrome might show up, or insomnia.
Some of these are different physical manifestations of the mental, emotional over and chronic stress. You might be using food or alcohol or social media to cope. One of my teachers calls this, a buffer. If you’ve can’t seem to deal with it, then what can I turn to that will actually numb me in a way so that I don’t feel this. And the one that I hear my most often is people are saying that they “just can’t.” (that’s kind of the end of the sentence. They just can’t).
Maybe you recognize yourself in some of these or maybe you have different signs or symptoms that are showing up and you can just begin to ask yourself, is this burnout? Am I stressed? Does it feel like stress? Does it feel like something that is short term, or is it burnout? I know in my own experience, I had two little kids and my grandmother was moved to the long-term care facility near me. So while I wasn’t her primary caregiver, I was her connection. I had a full-time job, I was trying to run a business, two children, and then my grandmother on top of just regular life. And I remember that feeling of like, I simply just can’t anymore. There was a lot of crying that was happening. And I remember going to see, I was seeing a therapist at the time, and I just would cry the entire session. We couldn’t even get through anything because I simply didn’t know how to not do any of the things that I was doing, and that’s pretty common. I’ve really gone through burnout three different times.
I remember one was right before I got tenure or right in the middle of that process, I knew that there was a lot of health. There were a lot of health issues going on for me and it was showing up because I was so chronically stressed for such a long period of time. I didn’t take a break. Ok, actually four times, lol. Before that I was in graduate school. Again, a lot of health issues, a lot of not knowing that, all of these thoughts in my head, all of how to deal with emotions, how to take care of myself in a way that was nourishing. And burnout again when my grandmother was here and the boys, I have two boys and the boys were little. And then just recently I reached burnout again with this pandemic, I would say it was a major contributor to that. We are in a place societal where burnout is common. We are in a global pandemic, and our democracy (if you are watching anything in the United States) is in a current battle to survive. We’re also in an environmental crisis. I mean, it’s mind boggling really, when we think about what’s going to happen in to the earth in the next, not even 10 years.
We’re not just hanging out in the status quo– on top of like regular life stress on top of regular things that are going on. You might notice that when certain topics come up, that you might notice that there is a stress that’s there for you. And if that stress has been going on for a long time, you might notice some of those signs of burnout. One of the things that like to look at when I’m talking to my clients is also around some of this emotional connection between some of the pieces with trauma and how that relates to burnout. As we have discussed before, I think it was last week’s episode, we were talking about how, how children who have gone through adverse experiences in childhood, who had some sort of traumatic event. They have a much more likely time of having chronic illnesses, a body isn’t able to deal with stress and chronic stress as well because of that challenge because of that experience. Even if you haven’t had the whole list of adverse childhood experiences, almost everyone has had one of those adverse childhood experiences. One of them is that your parents get divorced. There’s a high likelihood that you are one of those children whose parents were divorced. I’ll raise my hand for that one, and it’s one of the childhood experiences. This is an experience (trauma) that affects the nervous system. When the nervous system is impacted, we are not a able to handle stress as well. A lot of people talk about building resilience. Resilience is just a fancy term for, can I handle this “too much?” There are different gradations. Like there’s some, there’s some too muchness that we’re just never going to be able to handle.
Burnout is common. We’ve talked about some of the pieces of what it might look like, and the symptoms. I’d like to talk a little bit about what you can do. Because there are things you can do. You don’t have to just burn everything down. Although sometimes it can be really helpful to step away when you’re in this level of chronic stress that’s been going on.
One of the things I talked about in the previous podcast episodes last week, I talked about how patriarchy influences our health and wellbeing. If you think about what’s going on at a societal level, is that patriarchy wants us to work, and work hard, and work really long hours. Resting and taking care of yourself is actually one of the things that we can do to help change the system, help fight the patriarchy. The more people that are willing to say, you know, that’s not okay. I’m not going to work such long hours, I’m not going to stand for that system anymore. I’m not going to be in that system anymore. The system won’t be able to continue, right? The more people that say no, that is not acceptable. I want to talk a little bit about how we can change on an individual because that individual level is our way of telling the system that it’s not working.
One of the things that we can do is first become aware that you are either approaching or in burnout. This is more difficult than it sounds. This takes awareness of the body. And most of us hang out here in our heads because that’s what we’re taught to do in this society. We’re taught to be in our heads. We’re not taught to feel the sensations in our body. We’re taught to ignore them, numb them. You know, we are taught to take care of our physical bodies, right? W that’s a conversation that is being had at a pretty national level of, we need to take care of our physical selves. You need to walk, you know, 30 minutes a day. You need to, I’m going to put quotes around this, eat good food, because sometimes I have very different definitions of what good food is than some of the experts, but taking this awareness into the body is a whole different level.
What I mean by having awareness of the body is sitting still quietly for even just one minute a day and asking your body what it needs. And if you don’t have experience with it, it sounds really hard, or it sound scary. Like what, what am I supposed to be looking for? But it can be really simple. For example, sometimes I will be working. I will continue working. And unless I pause and check in with how I’m really feeling in that moment, I won’t notice that I’m tired. That I’m hungry. That I’m the reason I’m having such a hard time being productive is because I need to move around for a minute.
Your body may even be screaming to you that it just can’t do this us anymore. It may get sick. My body gets sick the last three years in January. Yes, there’s a higher viral load in the winter time. And it’s like, December is always the busiest month. There’s so much expectation with the holidays. And there’s just the end of the semester, craziness at the university and people needing more support. So in January, my body’s say “I’m out, I’m done.” Reduced immunity happens when there is chronic and excessive stress with a short term, stress immunity is reduced. So checking in with your body being aware, how am I really feeling; asking yourself that question is one of the best things you can do. Another thing that you can do, if you realize you are reaching that point of “Gosh, I’ve been stressed for a really long time. I feel like I just don’t have anything left.” You can start to take stock of anything that you might be able to say no to. Now I’ll give a little caveat here because I’ve been in an academia for a long time. I know what it’s like to be a perfectionist. Even though I didn’t know I was a perfectionist. I found out I actually was a perfectionist and my brain always said, you can’t not do that. You can’t give that up. You committed to that. How are you going to back out of that?
Well, this is one of the places. Where you might look at, look at what can I let go of? Am I going to not feed my kids? Of course not. I can’t do that. Might I make it easier on myself and find what easy foods we can have. Right. My kids love spaghetti. It’s not a favorite of mine. You know, we have the gluten free pasta. They love it. It’s not enough veggies for me, but during a really tough week, I’m like spaghetti it is- here we go. How can you let go of those perfectionistic tendencies of getting it right.
And the other thing that you can do besides taking stock, letting go, is you can actually say no to things that are coming in. That’s the other part of that taking stock. When people ask me to one of my jobs in academia is to review menu scripts that other authors have written. I have learned that there are only a certain number each year that I will do. I used to do all of them anytime I was asked, I would say yes, yes, yes, yes. Then I learned, that was not working for me. That was not working. So I decided I could complete a certain number, I was just going to say, no, it didn’t matter what was coming in. I would say no to anything after that certain number, I would set boundaries on my letter of recommendations, the number I could write. I would only be on a certain number of committees. I would say no to extra work. I have a certain number of clients that I see so that I can keep track of what I can do. And if you remember, I took all of November and all of December off recording the podcast and writing newsletters. Because as much as I love you all, I just knew I, I needed a break. I needed to say no for a period of time. So that’s what I did. I stripped it down to all minimal activities. And I’m taking a leave of absence from the university this semester because I knew I just couldn’t do all the things that I was doing. And that was an option for me to take a leave.
And the last thing is to reach out for support. Doing less, and listening to your body, I’m giving like the very basics to keep it simple. There’s lots of different things you can do, like mindfulness that can help. There are also different things that you can do for your body. Like certain particular yoga poses are rejuvenating. There’s food that you can eat that’s rejuvenating and can help so many different things. And if I tell you all those things right now, it’s going to be overwhelming because likely your bucket is empty. Your tank is empty. All the different terms that we use, you’re flat. You don’t have anything left to give. The last one is to get support. Find someone to support you in whatever way feels good for you. So that support could be in the form of a coach. A coach that helped support you in deciding how you want to move forward. It might even be deciding how to say no. Coaches are really good at helping that. You might decide that because you’re dealing with depression and anxiety and a long list of other things so that you want to see a therapist. Therapists are great. I love them. I have one. I have coaches. I have therapists. I have both. They both do different jobs. And I think they’re both absolutely amazing.
I feel like support is actually one of the most important pieces because if you get support, if you reach out and get someone to support you, even if it’s just telling your partner or a friend, “I need support,” it’s like holding on to that life preserver when you’re burned out. It’s getting something so that you are no longer drowning. And that’s one of the most important pieces that I want you to do. If you’re not sure, reach out to me, email me. I’ll put my email in the show notes. You can always email me and ask me, what do I do? I’ll be glad to support you. And this is part of why I have a free call. So if people are like, look, I know I need support, but I don’t really know how. I’m happy to talk through that with you. One of the great things that one of my superpowers, is if you want to come work with me, that’s great, but I don’t get a offended if you don’t want to. I know there are certain people who would greatly benefit from my support and some people who they need something else I want to help you find what works for you.
So we all need at, at any time, all of these, even if you’re not burned out, to be able to check in with your body, to be able to say no, where you need to say no, and to get support is always really helpful. And this is where self-care is. It’s one of the most important times for self-care. We are in a really challenging time. This is not the time to let go of self-care. And I don’t mean chocolate cake for self-care. If you’re not sure about that, check on my treat yourself episode, right? This is not the time for that. This is about how do you nourish your body in the best way possible; lots of sleep, moving your body, nourishing food, taking care of yourself, mentally, emotionally, energetically, and spiritually. And to make sure that you recognize this self-care is so important.
It’s imperative that we have self-care right now. Again, this is a way to break down the patriarchy. This is a way to change the system that supports burnout is to take of yourself. And here’s the thing though. I don’t want you to think you are the problem or the cause, right? It’s not you, there’s nothing wrong with you. The problem is the system. The system is not set up to prevent burnout. The system is designed for burnout right now. So the problem that I see is that a lot of companies teach stress reduction. Some companies don’t even go this far. We need to teach stress reduction to all of our employees, which you know, I love mindfulness. It’s great. Highly recommend. Mindfulness is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Especially when dealing with stress and burnout. And this is different, right? The company saying, yeah, you need to do mindfulness or offering it. But the system doesn’t change. So you can’t keep sending the same messages, have the same system in place and expect that the individual just absorb all of the challenges. A person can do all the self-care. But if the system is still expecting long hours is still expecting you to respond at night is still expecting you to take on one more thing, without compensation, and is still expecting you to do the impossible, or has a dysfunctional workplace, or has unclear or ever-changing expectations. As long as all those things exist, no amount of self-care is going to solve the problem. And that is the discussion we really need to be having at a bigger level. So yes, take care of yourself. It doesn’t, it mean don’t take care of yourself. It means start taking care of yourself. Take care of yourself so much that the system says, but wait– why is everyone taking care of themselves? So much that we change it. We have to change it both at the individual level so that we know that we are actually working against the patriarchy by taking care of ourselves and that we change the systems.
I hope that’s helpful. As you’re thinking about burnout, maybe wondering, am I burned out? Is this something I need to look at again? I’ll just invite you. I have a free call. We’ll just hop on zoom or a phone call if you’d rather, and let’s talk about it. If you’re unsure, I’d be happy to support you. Okay dear ones, please take good care of yourselves. Say no, get support and listen to your body. I’ll talk to you next time.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of whole body upgrade. If you’d like to learn more about working with me, you can visit me on Facebook or Instagram. Or, schedule a free Vibrant Health Call here.