Category: Stress

To do list with burnout

Heading For a Burnout? Why You Need To Know About Self Care

What’s on your to-do list this week?

  • Plan a week of enriching activities for your children
  • or go to work and exceed all your targets (or both!)
  • race to pick up the children from nursery or school
  • feed them, try and remember to do their homework, bath them, get them to bed
  • wash the pots, push the hoover around, iron clothes for tomorrow
  • pick up an email from your manager
  • argue with your partner about whose turn it is to put out the bins
  • ring your mother before she panics that you’ve dropped off the planet
  • burnout
Burnout probably isn't something you've written on your to-do list but if you're neglecting your self-care, you might as well have. Click To Tweet

Why is self care important anyway?

I used to be one of those people that just kept going and going. People seemed to look at me and marvel. I would regularly get comments like “I don’t know know how you do it” and “When do you sleep?!”. To me “it just needs to be good enough” and “you can only do your best” meant giving 100%, 24/7. As soon as I’d achieved one thing, I was on to the next thing – barely even leaving space to celebrate and enjoy my successes.

I was spinning all kinds of plates like a spectacular circus performer. Every day there were more and more plates to spin and they were wobbling faster and faster. Every day, I pushed myself harder and harder to spin, spin, spin. I tried dropping out some plates but new ones just appeared in their places.

Then, one day I had an unexpected shock – someone tried to hurt me in a way that left me feeling painfully vulnerable. I felt shaken at my core. With hindsight I could see there was no truth in this malicious attack and therefore no real risk to me. At the time, I was so exhausted and overwhelmed with everything else that I really believed there was.

My heart was racing, I couldn’t focus on anything, I kept snapping and crying. I didn’t recognise myself.

I had reached burnout.

Everything I had worked for was falling apart.

The plates all crashed to the ground. I didn’t feel spectacular; I felt sick. Everything I valued, everything I had worked hard for was at risk (or so it felt at the time). I tried a few different things – mindfulness, medication, positive thinking, but nothing worked. In my constant busyness, I had neglected all of my friendships and I felt completely alone.

I have to be honest – at this point, my critical inner voice was shouting “Therapist, heal thyself!” so loudly I thought other people might hear it. “Come on, sort yourself out, just get a grip.” I was trying to fix my problem in the exact same way I’d broken it. I didn’t want to ask for help, I didn’t want to tell anyone I was struggling and I was push, push, pushing myself to just fix it.

How do you heal from a burnout?

Thankfully, the therapist in me knew I couldn’t heal alone this time. She knew I needed help and so I found what I needed by returning to therapy.

This was a nerve-wracking experience but one that I am grateful for as it reminded me of what my own clients might feel when they contact me for an appointment or come for their first session. Click To Tweet

My therapist was exactly what I needed – calm, solid and most importantly she encouraged us to work at a steady pace. I knew this work as therapist but I had forgotten the sheer relief of what it was like to be on the receiving end of it. I didn’t need to struggle alone anymore, my therapist had my back.

Piecing my life back together

Together we began to survey the rubble of smashed plates and start to think about how to put the pieces of my life back together. They needed to go back together in such a way that I didn’t keep repeating the same mistakes.

It started with the basics – with self care. I don’t mean hand cream and spa days (though if that’s what works for you, keep doing it!). For me the basics was choosing a single, basic hygiene task and doing that consistently. It felt ridiculous at first – I was a qualified therapist, why on earth was I talking about brushing my teeth – but it soon became a way to show myself that I mattered, every single day, no matter what else needed doing, looking after myself came first. I had spent so long putting everyone else first, thinking burnouts wouldn’t happen to me. But it did. And this is why you need to know about self care.

No-one is immune to the risk of burning out.

Not even therapists.

Not even you.

So how can you prevent it happening?

  1. Self care.

No long and complicated lists. It doesn’t even have to take a long time. And it definitely doesn’t need to involve painting your nails or taking bubble baths.

How do you stop yourself from reaching the point of burnout? Stop firing on all cylinders. It’s a scary prospect and one you might need some support with but it is both possible and necessary.

Self care is both possible and necessary, no matter how little time you have. Click To Tweet

There’s no judgement here. If you’ve read this far, you know I’m in no position to judge.  Even if I was, one of my core beliefs is that judgement and shaming doesn’t lead to lasting positive change.

This is about kindness – showing yourself kindness. Letting yourself rest and recuperate.

But what if you haven’t got time to even think about it?

Let alone do it…

My unhelpful answer to that is “Leaving yourself to burnout will leave you with even less time to do the things you need to do.”

My helpful answer is in next week’s blog…


5 Resources To Get Your Mental Health Back On Track

The constant strain of daily modern life can take a huge toll on our mental health.

We’re under pressure to have not just a job but a good job and to perform well at it.

Parenting seems to be increasingly like a competition – keeping up with activities, parenting philosophies and looking beautifully turned out while we do it.

And that’s before we even think about the day to day juggling of housework, admin, organising and so on and so on…

It can be hard to know where to begin to either make life a bit easier or to develop more resilience to cope with everything we feel we need to get done.

Here are five resources to get you started…

1. Headspace

Headspace is a guided meditation app. Mindfulness and meditation has pretty much become mainstream over the last few years. It’s a simple but effective way to clear your mind of the constant whirring of your mind. Mindfulness is a useful technique to stop you dwelling on the past or worrying about the future as it brings our attention back to the current moment.

The benefits of meditation are wide-ranging, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and chronic pain.

That said, simple doesn’t always mean easy. If you haven’t tried meditation before, or even if you have, it takes some practice to “clear the mind”. It can be like being told not to think about elephants – it’s impossible not to! So just how do you empty your head of your endless to-do list – that letter you need to post, the things you need to remember to pick up from the shops or which child has which activity on which day…? Headspace walks you through it all with ease. The app includes their free 10 day beginner’s course.


2. Moodscope

We track all aspects of our health and wellness with pedometers, scales, food diaries and so on but rarely do we keep track of our mood. Sometimes we don’t realise how low our mood has become until it’s a big problem and often we try and manage alone.

Moodscope believes that knowing that you have people around you looking out for you can help to elevate your mood. It only takes a couple of minutes once you’ve got the hang of it.

Moodscope works in two ways. Firstly, it works by actually tracking your mood using 20 cards that you flip and rotate on the screen to select how you feel on each day. Secondly it works by connecting you with trusted friends and family who act as “buddies”. They receive an email each day with your score and can offer you support and encouragement along the way.

3. SAM (Self-help for Anxiety Management)

SAM helps you to be more aware of how your anxiety is affecting you over a period of time. With this awareness, you can learn how your thinking and lifestyle contributes to feeling anxious, identify situations where you want to feel less anxious and you can practice self-help options to manage feelings of anxiety.

SAM is a handy app for times when you are struggling with anxiety.

The app is split into 8 different sections including an anxiety tracker, a place to list the things that increase your feelings of anxiety and a section for when you need help straight away. There is also a “social cloud” which lets you share your experiences anonymously.

4. Reasons2

Reasons2 is an app developed in collaboration with young people but can be used by anyone aged 13+. The focus of this app is to help you manage your mental health by creating a profile of reasons to feel better. The app allows you to upload images and photos of things that boost your mood.

When life feels bleak, Reasons2 helps you remember reasons to smile.

Reasons2 has a crisis section if you need support or help in an emergency. There is also a community element of Reasons2 so you can share your reasons and see what others have shared too.

5. YouTube

Okay, so YouTube isn’t exactly a mental health resource but you can find some really helpful videos on there that can help with all kinds of aspects of mental health. TED has a playlist full of talks on mental health including shame, hearing voices and building mental strength.

But the reason I included YouTube on this list was because of my accidental discovery of ASMR videos a few years ago. I was struggling to sleep and trying to find a guided meditation video and stumbled across a video similar to this one by a lady known as Gentle Whispering.

ASMR is best described as that tingling feeling you get sometimes often on the back of your neck or across your scalp.

There is a huge community of ASMR creators and followers who find these videos really helpful to relax and switch off at the end of a long day. Some are role plays like the one I linked above, others are just a collection of sounds or “trigger words”.

So there you have it – five resources to help you get your mental health back on track.

Alice offers counselling and psychotherapy to both individuals and couples in Nottinghamshire, UK. 




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