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'Tis the Season...for Burnout?

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Happy Holidays!

It is happy, isn't it?

I know how you feel. It’s like the weight of the entire year lands on December. And then, as if that weren’t enough, there are all the holiday commitments, the cookies to be baked, the parties to be thrown, the shopping to be done, and well, the list goes on.

As moms, we tend to understand this dance. The one where we wake up with a never-ending list of things to do before or after work/drop-off/pick-up/making dinner or doing any of those things that come with the holidays. The “what’s next” syndrome kicks in since that’s what we’re thinking before we even fully check something off that to-do list.

Oh yeah, and self-care. Throw in a good, sweaty HIIT session and that should check that box. Exercise is self-care, right?

Well, that depends.

Raise your hand if you’ve been known to sacrifice a few Zzzz’s to sneak in that workout.

Raise your hand if exercise is a form of stress relief for you.

Raise your hand if you know you need to take better care of yourself, and you will, you promise, but when XYZ is all done, which is soon.

Yeah, me, too.

Let’s talk about stress for a tiny minute. And exercise and sleep.

We all hear that stress is bad for us. It's the worst. It’s what’s killing us.

And it’s true. Sort of.

The truth is that stress also keeps us alive. Stress also keeps us alert and focused (cortisol and epinephrine are responsible for that). And it sharpens our memory. It’s an evolutionary thing.

What isn’t evolutionary is constantly being in that heightened state. Our bodies and brains begin to freak out after a while of this. I’ve talked about balance plenty of times. That’s what we strive for. It’s what our bodies work so hard to achieve.

Sleep is a key component of this balance. It’s the only time our brain and body get to take out the metabolic trash of the day. Everything goes pear-shaped when sleep is lost. Slowly at first, but it isn’t good for our mental, physical, or emotional well-being. Everything from mood to memory to metabolism is affected by lack of sleep….and so much more.

So, when we’re running around and always “multitasking” (which isn’t actually a thing but more on that another time) and always thinking 3 moves ahead to what’s next with a very, very full brain AND we’re sleep deprived…well, can you see things starting to tip out of balance?

Throw in that sweaty workout (i.e. stress-relief) and/or a couple of extra coffees or something sweet to keep you going during that afternoon lull and you’ve got the perfect storm resulting in burnout.

See, the body doesn’t care if it’s emotional stress (the daily grind stuff or holiday extras) or physical stress (exercise- yes, exercise, recovering from injury or illness, etc.), the body registers it as stress, plain and simple. Too much of it and our bodies can’t cope. Too much of it and even the smallest things tip us into “burnout”. Like a hard-core workout (because self-care) when what we really need is rest or sleep.

I realize “burnout” is a buzzword, but in my practice, I see it a lot. Genuinely.

And if I’m totally honest, I see it in myself, too.

Burnout is getting easier and easier to achieve as we pile on expectations and commitments and damn are we good at meeting them. But we’re not as good at rescuing ourselves.

What does that mean?

I’m talking about being kind to ourselves. Actually. This is a form of rescue you can do right now.

We’ve all read the blog posts on self-care. Leave the to-do list behind. Throw your phone away. Take a bath. Go to a yoga class. Exercise. Do something “in nature”. Eat a healthy meal. Meditate.

Those are all sound suggestions. Truly necessary, in fact, to maintain good health.

But, sometimes it feels like another area to measure up in or to fail at. If you don’t make it to yoga and beat yourself up because of it, is that really going to help?

So, I recommend kindness and rest. Start with a little trip to the mirror and acknowledging your beautiful self today. Give yourself a little high five because you deserve to celebrate the small and the big. Say something nice about yourself and start to uncover that best friend living inside you. She’ll be there to rescue you if you pay attention to her more often. I’m sure of it. Especially if you let her rest once in a while.

Finally, give yourself permission to say “no” to whatever it is that is asking more of you. You might find that standing up for yourself and being there for you first, at least once in a while, is altogether empowering and relieving.

What’s next? You’re what’s next.

Now go enjoy yourself. Tis’ the season!

P.S. I am in no way saying exercise is not a good thing! Exercise is ESSENTIAL to well-being. But exercise that is done properly, without overdoing it, within the context of your current circumstances. Just listen to your body. Does it need punishing or does it need kindness...and by extension, rest?

P.P.S. For a great read on sleep (I'm obsessed with sleep even if I'm - ahem- not getting as much as I need all the time) check out Matt Walker's Why We Sleep (not an affiliate link, I just love his work).

And lastly, since you're baking cookies anyway, I highly recommend these.

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