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What to Do Before an Emotional Burnout

The importance of recognizing when you have emotional fatigue.

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Being a strong woman requires training. Like running a marathon, we have to learn to pace ourselves, nourish ourselves, recognize signs of overload and emotional fatigue, and know how to repair and replace our energy. So if your schedule leaves no time for bathroom stops, if you feel your cell phone is part of your body, if you don’t cross anything off your errand list when the unexpected pops up, and you care for everyone else, you can run into serious trouble because this means you don’t have enough time for yourself. Being strong is not running on empty or resorting to catching up with things when it’s the middle of the night. We have to take and make time if we want to "do it all" and last for the long run. Here are some training laps and emotional workouts you can try:

Befriend yourself

If you are parenting your parents, running a house while you are running a business, and accompanying friends to the doctor’s office, you are probably seen by others, and yourself, as a strong woman. And I’m not suggesting that you stop doing the nurturing you enjoy or shirk your responsibilities as you see them. I am suggesting, however, that you put yourself on your own list of loved ones. Don’t wait until you’re so sick or so exhausted that even your boss begs you to stay home. Give yourself permission to take time out while you can enjoy it. Make a date with yourself before it’s too late.

Underwhelm yourself

I know some of you are thinking that multitasking is a good thing because the more you have to do, the more you get done. Think again. The ante will keep rising because you will gradually need more and more adrenaline, the body’s natural stimulant, to get the same stress ‘high’. Soon you will have trouble sleeping and concentrating from the extra adrenaline and you’ll be irritable and agitated when it drops. Eventually, adrenaline addiction is a lose, lose situation. So, don’t confuse being strong with being invincible. If your patience is wearing thin and your stamina is low, take one task or chore at a time. Even though multitasking is probably second nature to you, it can make you feel even more out of control than you already feel. Instead, pace yourself and pad your to-do list with extra time and some breaks. All you need is 20 minutes and you can do this by buffering five minutes throughout your day. This downtime can help save us from a stress fallout.

Learn to say "no" to others, "yes" to yourself

We’re usually saying “yes” to requests for favors, invitations, and projects, that we run on a time-deficit. This isn’t including the phone calls, emails, tweets, and texts, etc. and now we’re on overload. So why don’t we just say “no” more often? It’s often the ‘guilt’ that creeps in and trying to be strong for everyone else. But it’s time to stop the burnout.

Practice saying “no” without feeling guilty.

  • Practice saying “no” without justifying yourself.
  • Practice saying” no” without defending yourself.
  • Practice saying “no” graciously, but not tentatively.
  • Practice giving explanations, not excuses.

If that’s hard to do for you, remind yourself that expecting too much of yourself isn’t noble, it’s unrealistic and even cruel. Be strong for yourself.

Reframe your mindset

Do you blame yourself for your unexpected life snags like an infertility diagnosis, a bad investment or a divorce? Do you obsess about what you should have done or could have done to prevent it? If so, you may be attempting to restore your sense of control by telling yourself that if you can figure out what you did wrong, you can figure out how to make things right. But when it comes to problems like infertility, the stock market, or marriage choice, this is usually just wishful thinking and adds insult to injury.

Even the strongest of women cannot anticipate or correct every one of their problems. We have to stop telling ourselves that we can and, instead, think of your life snags as inconveniences, not failures. Infertility, of course, is not a small inconvenience like a parking ticket. It is potentially a huge ‘inconvenience, but it’s not a punishment or your fault. By reframing it as an inconvenience, it will help you look and move forward instead of wasting time looking backward.

Prepare your body for the long run, too.

Learning to include physical activity or exercise in your day, every day can increase your emotional and psychological strength as well as your physical strength. The activity burns up extra adrenaline, so the hormone won't burn you up. It also helps that it makes you physically tired at the end of the day, instead of emotionally tired. And the bonus is that you can choose the activity because they all work: biking, hiking, dancing, taking the stairs, cleaning, fixing the roof, babysitting, running, etc. You can build your weekly ‘mileage’ over time, so your mind and body can adjust gradually to the workouts. Make sure you also enjoy the rest and recovery. If you find a friend to join you, you’ll be doubling the likelihood that you'll stay committed and probably doubling the fun of the workout.

Finally, encourage yourself to reach for spiritual strength, family encouragement, support from friends, or anything that can help you. Just because you’re a strong and independent woman, doesn’t mean you need to do everything by yourself.

More from Georgia Witkin Ph.D.
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