Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation once famously said: “Once a year, Donna and I spend a day treating ourselves. What do we treat ourselves to? Clothes, Fragrances, Massages, Mimosas, Fine leather Goods: Treat Yo’ Self.” Self care is a critical factor in burnout prevention. It’s like stretching before and after the workout. It may seem like a waste of time or something people suggest but it is not mandatory. OH CONTRAIRE! Self Care NEEDS to be a priority. No matter who you are or what you do.
What is burnout exactly?
It’s a gradual process. It can be hard to tell that you are in this space because it can occur so slowly, you may not notice until you are getting upset or yelling at inappropriate times (or perhaps throwing a tantrum in your office because you don’t want to move your own desk between buildings when your office is moved…that is definitely not a real life example). If you include the phase you can be in before stress and burnout set in there can be four phases of burnout: enthusiasm, stagnation, frustration and apathy.
We all start out like superstars who cannot be stopped- Enthusiasm . While this is commendable and would make me want to hire you, its a trap. No one can sustain that attitude long term.
As time goes on, we notice that despite our best efforts there is stagnation – little to no change occurs.
When there is minimal change or goals are not met over extended periods you may enter Frustration which can lead to a quick fall into apathy. You see this in the blank stares and dead eyes of your coworkers, friends or employees, and stores your frequent. The latest place I have noticed this is at my local pharmacy. That system needs an overhaul and that staff needs some self care training. Do you notice apathy in the places you go to daily or weekly?
Why is making self care a priority in our lives so challenging?
•The pressure to say yes at home and at work. We don’t set boundaries.
•Our own emotional baggage – negative self-talk, self-doubt
•A lack of coping skills
•Little to no insight into what your self-care looks like
•Not feeling empowered to make self care a priority.
I was once told by a stay at mom that when her husband got home from work she would go into her bedroom, shut the doors and spend 45 – 60 minutes alone. At first, her children didn’t understand what she was doing or thought it was a game and would knock on the door. She would simply respond: “I’m in here making a better mommy.” BAM! Self Care!
In community mental health (my field) the people I work with can have unsolvable problems
•Clients are not in the same stage of change as staff are (more to come on this topic in a later post)
•There are vague or challenge ways to measure success
•The system I work in also doesn’t have nearly enough resources for our clients needs
I could go on and on regarding the reasons for burnout in my field. It’s a major barrier for people staying at one agency or in a position for long periods of time. You may see something similar in the work that you do.
Now that you are a pro on noticing the signs of burn out and have gained insight into your need for a self care plan, how can we take better care of ourselves? The two largest parts are: finding the time and identifying what works for you.
You have tiny moments throughout your day and night that can be used for self care. No kids, 10 kids, CEO of a big deal company, it doesn’t matter- you are making an excuse. You can find the time.
Plan to get up 10 minutes earlier to implement some self care.
Take a short break in your day to perform a self care activity.
Commit to taking a three day weekend for yourself 3 times a year.
I am a big fan of a manicure/pedicure. Nothing like paying for a foot rub and a pretty color on my hands to cheer me up. However, they can add up quickly.
Here are some affordable self care strategies:
•taking a hot bath with scented oils or Epsom salts
•Going for a walk
•Listening to music with the volume up high, listening to a podcast at normal volume
•Watching a movie or show you enjoy (I love watching the housewives of wherever series and Entourage- their problems couldn’t be less important to me)
There are a ton of free or low-cost apps for relaxation, mindfulness etc. There are also numerous free videos and youtube channels for yoga/meditation and workouts. Yes, exercise from low impact stretching to powerlifting is self care!
How do you self care?