I am now recently recovering from a fit of burn-out. I got all worked up and fixated on building my shop and being ready for business. I threw everything else under the bus and worked for 3 days straight, no sleep, little sustenance. It was the end of the month, and I had a wave of anxiety come over me, a need to get more done, a need to be ready for more. When I get like that, there's little I can do. It's almost as if I've chugged down 4 coffees. My hands and jittery, and itching to type. Sometimes I can feel my heart flutter and the back of my neck feels cold and antsy.
I think this is the first time I have ever looked back at that event with cold, plain, analytical eyes and said to myself that this was an anxiety attack and you need to identify it and stop. It's very easy to allow myself to continue, and on the way down judge myself for what I inevitable would have been unable to complete in the ridiculous timeframe I set for myself. This is my usual pattern. I barely reflect on the meals I skipped, the sleep I lost or the water I didn't drink. If Gary Vaynerchuk can do it, so can I, right? Every dream takes sleepless nights, I tell myself.
It's all a fallacy though. Every dream takes consistent hard work. Burn-out, over-kill, running your health down- is not in the cards for success.
That being said though, I'm sure I'll find myself here again. Old habits do die hard, but from this week on I'm making a conscious effort to identify my toxic behaviours from early and to calm myself down, get myself back on a healthy and happy track asap. This time, it's been almost a week since the climax of my anxiety attack and I have lulled myself back into a happy fit of productivity and rest, despite still feeling a little lethargic. Below, are my tips:
1. Initiate the reset with a bang. When burn-out sets in, your whole body is being swept away by it. Your thoughts, actions, the very numbness in your arms; are all being affected by your myriad of toxic choices. You have to make a loud and conscious choice to end what you're feeling and doing to yourself at that moment. It doesn't always work immediately or in the same way, but I find you have to find the switch in yourself and turn off the self-hating self-abusing setting. Some things that helped me to flip the switch:
-Hot shower with loud music and scream session
-Yelling at oneself very loudly with a conclusive "OKAY, WE'RE DONE WITH THIS NOW"
-Calling a friend and ranting about yourself (not your work or what you didn't do- fixate on your dumb habit of overdoing it)
-Change the kind of music you're listening to and dance a bit (even if you're tired, it will trigger a different set of chemicals in your body, helping the feeling of change)
2. Take your vitamins and chug some water. This next phase of keeping yourself focused on the change is just as hard as finding the switch in the first place. It's easy to just crawl into bed and sleep for 3 days. But that will eventually make you feel even worse about yourself and give your bed sores and bad circulation (which leads to dizziness and brings your back to stage 1). Give yourself a fighting chance, and build your body up. Eat your vitamins, a banana - maybe some walnuts and CHUG WATER. Water is the one thing that your body can't do without constantly, and you'd be surprised how differently your mental health feels when you are well-fed, full of cold ice water, and nutrients.
3. Choose an easy but mobile self-care option
I mentioned that staying in one place causes poor blood circulation in the last point, and it's something I rarely hear people point out about nursing your mental health. You don't need to go outside or go to the gym immediately, but even getting up and walking into your kitchen and wiggling around while you make a latte is better than choosing to sit at your desk in your chair the entire day (this is my preferred self-care option when I don't feel like doing anything).
-do a face mask while rubbing your arms, legs and neck, i.e give yourself a mini-massage
-Sit on the floor and do mild stretches while watching calming youtube videos or a funny Netflix show
- Put ice on the back of your neck and shake up your back. (Ice automatically helps blood circulation and brings down inflammation in the body which causes headaches, sores, lethargy and mind fog)
4. Reflect while moving
I keep stressing the movement. It's mostly because being in your head is not usually as helpful as we'd hope it be. Your mind is a negative and imaginative space. Speaking out loud or doing something physical will bring reality into your reflections and prevent yourself from going in circles in your mind. Whether it's moving your hand, dancing lightly in your chair or writing as you think about what pushed you down this path- all forms of positive self-reflection are welcome. This way you will be more acquainted with your root problems and can spend time working on them when you don't feel like shit.
5. Set three things you must do during your day (hear me out on this one). OKAY, so everyone will probably hate me for this one but I'm a strong believer in this point. You cannot just do nothing at all during your recovery time. If your burn-out was originally caused by your need to be productive, cutting off all productivity and feelings of accomplishment cold turkey is not going to make you feel any better about yourself and your capabilities. This point is dealing with the root problems and not only the symptoms.
When you choose your three things, make them have varying degrees of difficulty and purposes. This is usually my format:
a. work thing (maybe takes 1-2 hours) b. research thing (something I wanted to know about, but I can solve by leisurely searching or watching videos) c. hobby thing (maybe something I don't do very often but would make me feel good to do; like a small drawing or journaling)
The important thing is you feel accomplished without pushing yourself too hard. Give yourself the opportunity to cross things off a list, even if they are simple. Make yourself feel that you are in control.
6. Go outside in nature
This tip works at varying times for different people, but feeling life and getting fresh oxygen does wonders for a person. My immediate instinct when I feel off is to hide away in my bed and never come out. I prefer to follow that instinct for the first few days, but sometimes my family will whisk me away to the nearby beach or I go to a lake somewhere- my body just feels different. I breathe differently. So although I'm not trying to force you out of your comfort zone, going outside is a good way to really seal the deal and melt away some of your frustrations.
Share this with a friend who may need it or subscribe to see the next post. Comment here or on Instagram and tell me your tips. I'm always trying to shorten my rebound time after a breakdown. I love you, and you are valid.