There is no doubt that many, if not most of us, are in need of self-care at the moment. Burnout is very real and is affecting adults and children alike. “The pandemic has disrupted and affected our lives beyond our imagination, from when we went into the first lockdown until now. Even though there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel we still need to get there,” says Helene Vermaak, Business Director at corporate culture experts The Human Edge.
Many of us view self-care as selfish and indulgent. However, Vermaak says that when it comes to the people we love, we would never think this way, so why is it so easy to do this to ourselves? Self-care is a necessity now more than ever if we are to keep on going and to prevent burnout. The first step to prioritising your needs is to change the way you talk about them. To do that, you need to change the way you think about them. “Yes, it is not good to elevate your needs above others but at the same time you shouldn’t value them any less,” says Vermaak. The best way to do this is to view your needs in the same way as you would the needs of someone you care about. When you do this, you will make the right choices for yourself.
With many of us still working from home, self-isolating or avoiding social interactions, we need to actively find ways to help us deal with burnout. Vermaak says it is important to remember that burnout is a result of the circumstances we find ourselves in and is not caused by anyone. The problem is that when we find ourselves feeling burnt out, we often aren’t able to get to everything we need to, we have too much to do, we don’t have enough time and we miss things. All of this leads to us feeling worse about ourselves and creates a vicious circle.
Vermaak says that the tips from Justin Hale, training developer at VitalSmarts, on dealing with burnout help when she finds herself in this whirlpool. Hale says, “you can do anything, just not everything” and applying these six tips will help get you into a much better place:
- Determine what is burning you out and if that is sitting in your head as vague feelings, things will never get better. You’ve got to get that stuff out of your head and out in front of your eyes. Short term: take 20 minutes and brain dump everything that’s holding your attention onto a piece of paper. Long term: never keep anything in your mind that needs to be done – write it down.
- Define it. Now that it is out of your head, ask yourself two questions about each item: 1) What’s the final outcome of this, i.e. what would “done” look like? And 2) What’s the very next action I need to take? Write the answers to these questions to the side of each item.
- Do, decline, renegotiate. Now that you are clear on what‘s burning you out, you need to make some decisions. Accept the fact that you cannot do everything. Then decide what you’ll do; what you’ll decline, whether this is saying no to yourself or the person you committed to doing it for; and, finally, which items you’ll renegotiate how much you’ll do or by when you’ll do it, with yourself or others.
- Decline more. More than likely you are still overcommitted, so go back and decline another 20%. I know that might seem a little extreme, but you need to get focused if you want to actually finish things and not kill yourself in the process.
- Organise. After you have declined those items, take the remaining items and organise them onto your calendar (day or time elements) or into lists according to context – errands, home, work, calls, family, etc.
- Get things gone. When it’s time to tackle the elements, go to your calendar and lists and make a choice about how to spend your time. And since you now have the lists, it’s okay to opt to take a walk, or a nap, or play with your kids for an hour, or read a little. Why? Because you can now trust your lists. Being truly productive isn’t just about doing more busywork, it’s about engaging in the right ways with your work and your personal life.
On that note, Vermaak suggests including some self-care elements into your daily routine. “For these to have the desired effect you need to remember they are not selfish acts but rather much needed self-care, where you are making the right choices for your needs.
- Make yourself a priority – replenish your physical and emotional energy, along with your capacity to focus, by prioritising good sleep habits, nutrition, exercise, social connection, and practices that promote equanimity and well-being, like meditating, journaling, and enjoying nature.
- Find a support network of people you trust – seek out rich interpersonal interactions with people who can offer you mutual support, help identify problems, and brainstorm and advocate for solutions.
- Do something interesting – instead of concentrating on limiting or avoiding work in your off-hours, schedule “restorative experiences that you look forward to.” Making plans to play tennis with a friend or cook a meal with your spouse will compel you to focus on an approach goal – doing something pleasurable – instead of an avoidance goal – not checking email.
- Take a vacation, or staycation, and fully unplug – if you can, do your best to get away from home – and from as many of your other responsibilities as possible – during your time off. Vacation isn’t “a nice thing to do when you can fit it in” – it’s a necessary part of staying physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Your effectiveness at work depends on taking time off, and your family deserves uninterrupted time with you.