Tag Archives: mental ill health

Burnout and self care

Many people find that their mental health and mood dip through winter. The darker days and nights, less hours of light, gloomy weather and isolation can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

 This year that impact is worse than usual, as so many of us have been stressed or isolated with lockdown, restricted time with family and friends, and the pressure of working through a pandemic or of losing work because of the virus.

 Self-care is never the first priority for many of us, but it’s more important than ever before that we find ways to care for our own needs, to protect our health and emotional wellbeing, but also to enable us to have reserves to continue supporting others.

What I am seeing a lot of, from clients, friends, family, from everyone to some extent – is burnout.

What is burnout?

 Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. (From HelpGuide)

In other words, burnout is what happens when you have been fighting for months to stay safe and keep your loved ones safe, to work in unusual circumstances, to pay bills with reduced income, to feed your family through a pandemic, to maintain happiness and health whilst home-schooling, working, social distancing, being isolated, separated from support networks – burnout is what happens when you live through a pandemic, economic collapse, political upheaval and the constant threat of harm.

Burnout is what you’re very likely experiencing when you stare at your to-do list and have no idea where or how to start, and are kicking yourself for not being able to achieve as much as usual.

This is normal – at least, it’s normal as a response to this very far from normal year you’ve lived through. It’s common, it’s expected, and it’s okay. You aren’t alone, and you need to reframe your expectations.

Managing burnout.

 The first thing to accept is that this is not normal – this year, this experience. So expecting a normal level of productivity, of activity, and of output is simply impossible.

Your body and mind aren’t in a productive mode; you aren’t in a place where creativity, action and future planning are really possible.

When you are under the kind of stress and pressure that we have all been experiencing, your mind is in defence mode. Your body and brain are finding ways to protect you, to survive, and to simply get through the day – not to achieve anything beyond simply surviving.

When your subconscious mind is working so hard on survival, there is little energy left for creativity or productivity. When your body is in survival mode, any focus you may ordinarily have for training, exercising, working towards goals, is almost impossible to tap into; your body doesn’t have the energy to fight, survive and keep you going and commit to new goals or targets – so if you’ve struggled to work towards any long-term health or exercise goals this year, that’s okay; it’s normal. Your body and mind simply can’t right now. So don’t be angry with yourself, or disappointed; forgive yourself for where you are, due to a situation that is completely outside of your control, and focus instead on what you can control; forgiveness, kindness and survival.

Steps to take

 Recognise and acknowledge the signs

  • Set smaller goals
  • Structure and routine in your day
  • Wind-down time
  • Self-care
  • Support network
  • Ask for help

 Recognise and acknowledge

 We are all great at berating ourselves and criticising ourselves for what we fail to achieve – but when did you last listen to your body, and acknowledge where you are and how you feel right now?

 Acknowledging the signs of burnout is the first and most important step in overcoming it.

Set smaller goals

 So perhaps you haven’t achieved what you dreamed of this year, but look at what you have achieved – and focus on the small wins. You have been subjected to enormous and very complex changes, completely outside of your control. The pandemic has robbed you of many freedoms and opportunities – but it hasn’t completely stalled every thing you are and do. So list the things you’ve achieved – and count even the smallest things as a success. Getting out of bed and dressed is the most you can do sometimes – so take that little win.

Structure and routine

 If you have lost your work or the activities you usually participate in, it’s easy to slip into a rut and to live in your pyjamas, with no shape to your day and time.

Create some structure; set an alarm and try to stick to a regular sleeping and waking schedule, get washed and dressed, keep meals at the same times each day, and start to add in more things over time – getting out for a walk, calling someone, applying for jobs, reading a book, anything which you feel is a proactive and positive use of time.

Wind down time

 Without structure and with less need to leave the house many fall into a habit of distraction; watching tv or films, gaming, scrolling through social media – but often these mindless blue screen activities keep your subconscious brain stimulated and agitated – so ensure that you get some time each day – at least a couple of hours – away from these devices, reading or outdoors in nature, meditating or finding another way to relax.

Self Care

 Personal hygiene, time doing something you enjoy, soaking in the bath, exercising, grooming, styling your hair, picking out an activity which you love to do – whatever it is that give you small moments of joy and which gives your mind and body some healthy nourishment is vital. Even small things – washing your hair, changing your bedding, replacing one pair of pyjamas with a fresh clean set – can make you feel better in small ways.

Support Network

 The isolation of lockdown and social distancing has made many of us very lonely. It’s a painful and frightening experience, so please do take time to reach out to your support network. Call family and friends, make time to video call when you can, and where you’re able to get out of your house to meet others again.

Ask for help

 None of us need to be alone. Nobody needs to fight on, without help and support, struggling and battling burnout and overwhelm; you deserve to be supported and find help, no matter what has happened in your life, and no matter how lost you feel.

If you think that having someone you can speak with in confidence could help, and you would like support in processing the trauma and stress you’ve experienced – whether that’s as a direct result of the pandemic or there’s other experiences you are struggling with – call me to arrange a 10 minute assessment call, where we can have a chat about what you need and whether I’m the right person to help you.

Call me on 07749 499783 or email amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can message me via Facebook or this website. You can also speak to me on video call via WhatsApp, which is how most of my sessions have been carried out through the pandemic. You don’t need to struggle alone any more.

World Mental Health Awareness.

If you were on any social networks, or saw any news, on Thursday October 10th, you can’t have missed the wash of images, stories and personal moments being shared to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day.

Of all the awareness days, this is the one that gives me the most mixed of feelings.

Of course, being a professional counsellor, working with those who have vulnerabilities, have survived difficult situations and events, who continue to face challenges with bravery and with support, I think it’s vital to have an open and honest dialogue about mental health.

I see, and am happy to see, the changes in how openly mental health, crises of mental health, and the depression and anxiety conditions which impact so many lives are being spoken about. We have celebrity – and even Royal – voices telling their own stories, making speaking about these issues more commonplace, making it easier for people to admit when they are struggling, and erasing the stigma and shame that always used to be paired with mental ill health.

These changes are superb to witness – and to be a part of. To be a service provider, helping those who come forward to say “I am not ok, and I need help” – but equally, I know that speaking openly on social media may not be helpful for some. It may open their vulnerabilities to more dangers, to strangers and trolls, to those who take advantage, and those who dismiss their pain and challenges. This can make a person who is already struggling yet more vulnerable, putting them at risk.

I also know that speaking more openly about the mental health crisis the country is currently facing won’t improve the availability of crisis services, which are already stretched far beyond their capabilities in every county throughout the UK.

Crisis counselling services have huge waiting lists, funding to provide more availability, to train and provide experience and support for those who can, and want to, help, and ongoing support beyond the initial mental health crisis an individual might suffer is scant, and a tidal wave of people speaking openly on social media may be helping to remove the stigma and embarrassment around speaking about our challenges – but it does little to provide actionable solutions which can help people in crisis.

I don’t know what the solution is, and I know that – as the country lurches towards yet more uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the political imbalances in the UK – the issues of the NHS, mental health provision and funding for supporting the most vulnerable in our society is going to remain a problem that we don’t know how to solve.

I may not be able to help every person in crisis, but I and the kind, beautiful, compassionate people I have the pleasure of working alongside know that every moment we commit to supporting those who are battling their own struggles eases some of their personal crisis – and every person we help is incredibly important to me, and to my colleagues.

If you are struggling, if you are looking for a safe space to speak and process your fears, anxieties and events which have impacted your life, I can help. Call me or contact me with your name and contact information, and I will respond as soon as possible – and we can arrange a time where you can tell me more about yourself, and discuss how I can help you with your challenges.