Help…my brain is dying!
Are you working yourself into the ground, trying to juggle work and family commitments… feeling like a failure and wondering how much longer you can go on, before you burn out?
If so, then I hear you and you’re not alone. In our fast-paced world, the expectation to do more with less and experience instant results is rife. It’s also wreaking havoc with our wellbeing and happiness.
I know this feeling well, because I was once that person, pushing myself to the edge until an embarrassing encounter with my GP gave me the wake-up call I needed.
Being a high achiever and people pleaser can come at a cost. The reward for high performance in the work place is often…
You guessed it….
This is a challenge that I’ve struggled with most of my career. From as early on as I can remember, I always wanted to please, to demonstrate how conscientious and committed I was and to deliver exceptional results.
Over time, I began taking on bigger projects, travelling more frequently and “No” was a word that didn’t exist in my vocabulary. Days became longer, weekends become non-existent and ashamedly, I missed too many precious family moments. Even when I was at home with family, I was rarely present for them.
Living on chocolate, diet coke and take-aways to squeeze in a few extra hours of work started to take its toll, in addition to the measly 5 hours sleep I was getting each night. I was becoming sluggish, tearful and snappy (although I’d convince myself that I was pretty positive, considering…). I had indescribable brain fog and was munching my way through at least a box of headache tablets a week.
The turning point came when I reached a 90 hour week and still hadn’t made a dent in my workload. The next thing I knew, I was sat in front of my GP having what I thought was the most calm and rational discussion…
“I need your help. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m not working at my usual pace. No matter how what I do, I can’t seem to get through everything. I think my brain’s dying, but I just need you to give me something to speed it up, because I’ve got so much to do”.
My GP asked about my work hours and explained that the human mind and body can only withstand so much abuse and I had pushed mine to its limit…
I realised in that moment that I had hit a low point and I had two choices. Continue and have a complete breakdown or see this as a wake-up call and start making some adjustments in my life to help my body heal and give it the love and care it deserved.
My experience sent me on a much needed self-care quest, which included a 5 day intensive wellbeing coaching retreat and it was the best thing I ever did.
Whilst I still work long hours at times, I have much greater respect for my body and my wellbeing. I’m also far happier and more productive.
5 Top Tips To Help Prevent Burnout and Improve Wellbeing
1. Treat your body with the love and respect it deserves
Our bodies are incredible and can withstand a lot, but just as a car needs water, oil, petrol and regular servicing to keep in in good working order, so do our bodies. Drink plenty of water, make healthier food choices, aim for a minimum of 7 hours sleep per night and take regular exercise. We all lead different lives, so don’t compare yours to others. Do what’s right for you and your circumstances and if you’re unsure or concerned, consult with a professional. Aside from the essentials, it’s equally important to indulge your body. Why not treat yourself to a regular massage, spa treatment or perhaps take time out to read, relax or binge on Netflix.
2. Create healthy boundaries
Boundaries are critical to our wellbeing. Knowing what is and is not acceptable to us, is the first step in establishing healthy boundaries. Perhaps it’s learning to say “No” more, leaving work by a certain time, limiting the amount of time you spend with people who drain your energy or knowing when to ask for support. Start by thinking of the areas in your life where you feel overwhelmed and define what your “non-negotiables” are. It requires discipline to stick to them, but over time it gets easier, particularly when you start to experience the positive results.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the art of being fully conscious of your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations in the present moment. There’s a lot of focus on mindfulness at the moment and the positive benefits to wellbeing are well researched and documented. There are many different mindfulness exercises and practices out there - it’s important to find one that works best for you. I meditate first thing in the morning. It grounds me and sets me up for a calm, positive and productive day ahead. That’s not to say it doesn’t stay that way all day, but it certainly helps and is part of my daily routine.
4. Know your limits
We all have limits – at work, with our friends and family and in our relationships. We may not be able to consciously describe them, but we know how it feels when we’re being pushed to them. Whilst pushing beyond our limits can help to motivate us and move forwards in our personal and professional development, the key is to find the balance and not to tip yourself over the edge. Signs that you’ve pushed yourself too far are often experienced as a growing or unusual feeling of anxiety, fear, overwhelm, anger, frustration or tearfulness. It’s our body’s natural way of telling us that we’re in the danger zone and need to slow down. Whatever your trigger is, acknowledge it, be aware of when it starts to show up and take positive actions to address the situation.
5. Have a strong support network
I cannot stress the importance of having a support network enough. It could include a partner, friend, colleague, coach, mentor, support group or all of the above. As individual’s we’re hardwired to connect and discuss issues with our tribe. The expression “a problem shared is a problem halved” exists for a reason – because it’s true. The key to a successful support network though is having people that you trust and feel safe to share your experiences, thoughts or challenges with. I encourage you to lean in and make the most of your network. Just as I feel sure you would be there to support a friend in need, it’s likely that they will be only too happy to support you.
Finally, as you go about your daily life and routines this week, listen to your body. Start taking small steps to improve your wellbeing and gradually increase them over time.
“Your body knows more about your spiritual well-being than your mind does. Teach your mind to listen to it”
- Necole Stephens
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