This week, in a meeting of providers (and every week in our conversations with families) burnout and exhaustion came up. There has been a sort of expectation, a breath-holding, that come fall, come summer, come 2021, we would have a return to normalcy. We’d do the things and wear the masks and then it would be something of the past. But here we are over a year and a half in, and it's not over, winter is ahead, and burnout is more present than ever.
Only now - we have to adapt. We are expected (understandably!) to go back into work, to increase our productivity, to BUILD a new sort of normalcy. But the burnout doesn't just magically disappear as the months go on; in fact, it seems to be worsening for many - particularly caregivers and frontline workers. So what do you do? You do the basics, because in burnout, that’s all you have energy for. Burnout is a culmination of the effects of chronic and acute stress over long periods of time and says it often manifests three ways: emotional exhaustion, lack of energy, and cynicism or detachment from work, in particular, but life, generally.
You may have seen that Nike, Bumble, and a few other large companies have recently instituted week-long mental health time off - and this is good! But not all organizations have the financial or logistical ability to do so. So what CAN we do?
The first step which is simple but powerful is to simply share the emotion and name the feeling for yourself. Sharing and identifying something shifts its power over us and can be the catalyst for you to go from the exhaustion to action. The second is to actually take that action - a break, whether that’s paid time off if that's a resource for you, some pauses for guided meditation, a re-invigoration into the things you love, a walk outside; all of these are valuable and important. And remember: you cannot outrun burnout - no matter how hard you run! When swimmers are exhausted in water, pulling harder and increasing the speed of strokes while may seem like the right call, it actually brings you closer to drowning. Floating for a little, bobbing up and down in safety bibs, to regain your breath and strength, can get you to shore.
A week ago, we asked our virtual meetup group, a free weekly zoom conversation with a therapist, what keeps them moving forward, what grounds them. They shared some small and big things to at help them push forward - and then perhaps the most valuable? Being able to share the feelings and be seen, together, burnout and all. We're sharing those below. Give yourself a break, this week and every week. Remember we are still in a crisis, even if we've normalized it. And make your own list. What works for you?
Our list of grounding practices:
- Meditate. The group recommends Insight Timer and Deepak Chopra as resources.
- Get organized - Identify ways to get your life more set up and feeling good to you!
- Move your body if you feel stuck. Even moving to another room can help.
- Get grounded outside! If you want, take your shoes off and feel the grass.
- Do a transition activity after school/work. Consider doing this before you even go into your house!