I’ve written about the emotional and psychological impacts of the coronavirus numerous times, for various clients, and I continue to struggle to summarise the enormity of what is happening, not to mention the myriad of ways people are being affected. It’s huge. So let me speak from my own experience and see if you relate.
I have found that the pandemic has created a baseline of anxiety and uncertainty in most of us, which can be manageable until other life stressors are layered on top. Simply put it feels like our ability to cope with life stressors, without getting very overwhelmed, is much reduced during the pandemic. This has been my experience.
Without going into the details of what my particular stressors were, I have been healing from emotional burnout for the last couple of months. The symptoms are very similar to other types of burnout, for example difficulty sleeping, extreme fatigue, nausea, IBS symptoms, slipping into old toxic patterns (addictive cycles), loss of appetite and feelings overwhelm. Being in the midst of emotional, or any type of, burnout is as hideous as you’d expect, which if you are relating to these symptoms you’ll know only too well. At the time it feels like every day is a struggle and there is no end in sight, constantly questioning what’s wrong with you and what you did wrong to be feeling like this. Fortunately there are steps you can take to heal, recover and feel like yourself again.
You might say I have had practice in this particular area…during my divorce I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, which I believe was a very extreme version of emotional and physical burnout. Since then I have identified the pattern I repeat which causes a burnout period – for me it involves slipping into old codependency behaviours. Which makes complete sense as the definition of burnout is ‘giving more of yourself than you are receiving back, over an extended period of time’. Codependency 101 right there my friends!
Here is my best advice to avoid full burnout, if you’re starting to feel some of the symptoms above, and to take steps to heal full blown emotional burnout. As my wise brother said to me recently, ruthlessly remove life stressors. I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done, and you’d be right, there are stressors that just have to stay. However there will be some you can remove, or at the very least, reduce as much as possible. For example can you take some time off work? Can family members help you with the kids? Is it time to take a break from that negative friend?
As a Virgo sun sign it really helps me to understand what has precipitated the situation, then I can do something about it. So in my case it was slipping into outdated codependency behaviours which looked like the abolishment of my carefully laid boundaries, putting others’ feelings before my own and sacrificing myself in order to ensure everyone else was OK. Once I understood this was happening I could start replacing my boundaries and checking in with where I needed to take back my energy for myself.
My gorgeous and endlessly wise coach and mentor says ‘be extraordinarily gentle with yourself’. This is an easy one to gloss over – so please don’t. How much of your burnout experience is your sky high expectations of yourself, that you are not currently meeting, that you are now beating yourself up for, and therefore experiencing guilt and shame about? My hand is up. When we are struggling it’s so easy to turn on ourselves and be super harsh in an effort to bring about change and somehow feel better. A better plan is to take care of yourself as if you were a child, a tired, sad child who needs more than anything to be loved and comforted, rather than scolded and shut out.
Lastly, and I’m sure you’ve heard all this before, but it is important, make healthy choices for your body and mind wherever possible. That means alkalising food such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, avoiding too much alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Keep moving your body, even if it’s a short walk and some simple stretching each day. Rest as much as you can and make time to do things you enjoy. I say ‘whenever possible’ because it’s when we’re feeling right up against it that we tend to turn to unhealthy ways we have previously learnt to comfort and manage our emotions e.g. drinking too much, smoking, binge watching Netflix, comfort eating…pick your poison. In this case how gentle can you be with yourself, while remaining conscious of your choices?
It is my hope that you find these words supportive. In the words of Glennon Doyle, ‘We can do hard things’.
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