I was vaguely aware of the cold, hard tiles of the bathroom floor against my cheek. My sweat encrusted hair falling down over my face. I reached out for a towel and pulled it over my shivering body. The hot, feverish waves were receding and leaving a bone chilling cold behind them. This was not the first time I’d found myself alone in the darkest part of the night with just the toilet bowl for company. My body had decided it was time I be reminded (again!) that it would not be ignored without consequences.
A wake up call
My body is what I (now) lovingly call "sensitive" but really it’s just honest. It patiently collects the strains, the stresses and it’s ignored needs until finally it decides I need to hear it. The cost of losing connection to my bodies needs used to lead me to those broken nights where my body collapsed. For many years, I would experience a cycle of boom and bust. Go Go GO...STOP!
Learning to Listen
Have you ever done the same.... Late nights over and over to "get ahead" of your work...? Early starts to fit more in...? Booking in days without breaks "by accident"....? Finding that it’s after lunchtime and you’ve still not been to the bathroom even though you’ve been busting all morning...? Forgetting to eat lunch and then wolfing down handfuls of crisps and leftovers whilst standing at the kitchen sink...? Giving to everyone else without thinking about whether you have enough in the tank to keep going...? Is it any wonder that my body would eventually decide it was enough? Effectively forcing me to take to my bed for a couple of days. The equivalent of being rugby tackled to the ground by my inner wise woman.
It’s all about time
Time. There never seems to be enough. We’re always wishing we had more of it. Sometimes it feels like an overwhelming tidal wave about to crash over your head. But what if it didn’t have to be this way?
Taking Small Steps As I’m about to take a week off, I’m contemplating this topic really closely. I’m aware that I’ve been coasting close to the line of burning out this last month as I’ve tried to do everything I was doing during lockdown without factoring in the nearly 3 hours of driving I do each day during term time. The most dangerous thing for me is that I love the work that I’m doing. It makes it really easy to do too much. (My latest project has been reformulating my Be.More 8 week Transformation Programme and, 6 weeks in, it’s been an amazing journey for those involved:
"I definitely feel hugely calmer and more in control. It’s given me the ability (through self compassion) to step back and chart a course towards what we need/want as a family. It’s already paying off. I’m happier and I’m finally addressing the things that were keeping me awake at night. It’s really life changing stuff, yet presented so simply and clearly that it seems obvious!" - Be.More participant
So what do you do when you know you need to find balance? The answer begins with small steps
The recipe for finding balance when you feel close to burnout
So here’s my simple plan for getting back on track when you realise you need to slow your roll (so your body doesn’t do it for you!)… Step 1: Name it There’s something really powerful about naming how you’re feeling. It’s one thing to feel tired and frazzled but when we own that by acknowledging it, it shifts it out into the open. No longer a nagging sensation that you can ignore, you can start to pin it down and come up with a plan. So how can you do that? If you have a meditation practice in your life already, you can use your eyes closed time to ask yourself "How am I feeling?". It’s amazing how our body and mind will offer up the answer when we dedicate a few minutes to listening. Step 2: Notice it How often do we fleetingly notice a sensation or emotion in our body and then completely ignore it or push it away? If you’re like many of us, me included, the answer might be "often". Especially when we’re stressed and our nervous system is in survival mode. Instead, spending a few minutes turning towards the physical sensations makes a big difference. This kind of noticing isn’t a thinking process. It’s about focusing and allowing your full awareness to be with the sensations of your body. The quality of that attention is what matters. Instead of focusing on sensations to make them go away, we simply bring a curious awareness. How do we do that? Close down your eyes, get comfortable and then tune in! When your mind kicks in with thoughts (which may well happen straight away!), notice that’s what’s happened and come back to being aware. This time the question is "What am I feeling?". Step 3: Soften - Soothe - Allow Now you’ve named how you’re feeling and become aware of what it feels like in your body, it’s time to neutralise it. That doesn’t mean trying to zap it so it disappears. It means focusing on softening the muscles of your body. Then offering soothing. That could be the soothing touch of placing your hand where you feel it or offering kind words to yourself. Finally, opening up and creating the space to simply allow whatever you’re experiencing to be there. Letting go of the struggle. These 3 steps don’t need to take a long time and you can repeat them many times in your day. The more familiar you become with your own experience, the less likely you are to push past the point where you are exhausted.
What about you?
What works for you when you feel close to exhaustion? Are you able to spot it before it happens? Get in touch and let me know.
“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long” - Michael Gungor