It’s 5am, the alarm goes off and I realize another day awaits, but it’s hard to get out of bed. My body doesn’t feel rested, my eyes burn and my head aches. My jaw feels sore, probably from the clenching or grinding in my sleep. Coffee may not be enough to activate me this morning. When I get to work, I notice the things I usually breeze through are taking what seems like forever, my patience is thin, i’m indecisive, I must write everything down so I don’t forget. I don’t feel like exercising when I get home and grab food to go instead of cooking. I decide this weekend, I just want to stay home and relax. I don’t call friends or family to chat. I’m moving more and more away from things that make me feel good.
The scenario I have laid out may be a pattern that develops when burnout or compassion fatigue develops. Burnout, is a common side effect that plagues those involved in the helping professions and many of us who are passionate about the work we do.
There are some warning signs to alert yourself when you need a break. You stop doing the things you love in your free time. You feel tired or fatigued. You notice a lower frustration tolerance – you become quicker to get annoyed/angry. Your eating habits change. More caffeinated beverages are needed to get through the day. Your leisure time is non-existent, and you are spending less time with loved ones.
Practicing self-care is essential to prevent burnout from occurring.
Build in time for “recharging your batteries.” Learn to say no, you cannot help everyone all the time, and if you are stressed out it is likely that you cannot help as many people as you would like. Managing your time more effectively is critical for work-life balance. By planning your schedule so you can be productive at work, exercise, eat nutritional well-balanced meals, while also making time with friends and family offers the balance needed to maintain your sanity. Don’t forget to spoil yourself – get a massage, go for a run, read a book, see a movie, take a vacation and partake in past-times that rejuvenate you.
Guided relaxation is also a great tool for revitalization. There are some great videos on YouTube You can search “guided relaxation for stress” and find a video that suits you. Here is one I like: