Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Sometimes I find myself going a million miles a minute in my mind and in my physical life that I come to a point of burn out. You know the feeling... mental, emotional and/or physical depletion. On top of the day to day things we feel we need to take care of RIGHT NOW, we oftentimes can skip when we actually need to breathe, hold ourselves delicately and lovingly. Can you relate? If you can relate even a little, below are a few tips that may help orient you to how to hold yourself those times you feel burnt out and emotions such as anger, sadness, loneliness and/or overwhelm (to name a few) start bubbling up:
1. Acknowledge how you feel. Oftentimes we actively avoid or numb ourselves to not feel feelings by using alcohol, drugs, relationship hopping, moving jobs or residences, comfort eating, over-working, etc. We can also move straight to "fixing" whatever we think is causing us emotional pain by doing things such as cutting people off, forcing things to work, trying to control things or people, telling ourselves we need to work harder, be better, etc. These things we do skip a step - acknowledging our feelings. What that does internally is it invalidates our feelings - the messages we end up telling ourselves over and over is that what we feel doesn't matter, it's not welcome, it shouldn't be there and/or it's wrong. This habit may have been role modeled to us from childhood - watching our parent(s) not take the time to let themselves be sad, angry or afraid. This cycle of invalidating internal experiences may have also been reinforced verbally to you - "Big boys don't cry" or "There's no reason to be scared" or "Why are you crying? There's nothing to be sad about." The truth is, you may not know why you are feeling the way you are right now and that's okay. Another truth that needs to be acknowledged is that you are feeling something and it's okay to not be okay.
2. Ask yourself what it is you need. Oftentimes as children, we aren't taught how to verbally articulate or that it's even okay to have certain needs. Maybe you were the oldest child and received the message that you were the one that was supposed to be responsible for your younger siblings and tend to their needs while putting yours on the back-burner. Or maybe you came from a family where everybody fought so you assumed the role as "mediator" or "fixer," buried how you truly felt and what you needed in order for everyone else to get their needs met. This step gently challenges you to dig deep and find compassion for your precious self especially if you aren't used to attuning to your needs. Sometimes you may not yet know what you need and that's okay too. The goal is to give yourself the space to practice checking in when you find yourself depleted (mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually) and take some time to be honest with what you may need. Do you need connection, inspiration, reassurance, to be heard, to be in quiet, to rest, to move, to yell, to be around family/other supportive people or not be around anybody at all? Notice when you judge the things you need and try to just let your needs be what they are. Needs are not good or bad right or wrong - they just are.
3. Embrace yourself. Literally put your arms out in front of your body then wrap them around to hold opposite shoulders. Feel the pressure of your own embrace, let yourself be sad, angry, overwhelmed, experience grief and cry loudly if that is what needs to happen. Hold yourself here, bow your head and be present with whatever emotions surface. This may feel quite unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first but let it happen and see how this experience moves you. You can also take a warm bath, let yourself float in a pool or allow ocean waves to rise, crest and recede as they move your body with them. Embracing yourself, receiving a hug, warmth and water can be extremely nurturing. These actions send messages to your brain that you are held and safe.
4. Surrender and let go. Oftentimes we try to control outcomes, people and their reactions. The business of letting go does not come easy for most of us. The reason for this is because we fear what we do not know and oftentimes we equate letting go with a loss of control over what we know. It's normal to think we can control things especially if we have proven to ourselves that we have been able to predict and master several different environments (like school, work, home life). The truth is that there are also many things we have absolutely no control over whatsoever and letting go of the idea that we do can be extremely liberating. Surrendering can be done in a variety of ways or it can also be something that happens when you have come to a point where there is nothing else you can do. It may be helpful to physically practice the feeling of letting go by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath in while shrugging your shoulders tightly up to your ears, then breathing out and releasing your shoulders down. Try this a couple times and really feel out your different body sensations. Another way to surrender is to ask for help from friends, family, your spirit guides, God, etc. Then be open to allowing the support you need to find you. This step can take longer for most people and there isn't one way to "do" it. So be patient, kind to yourself and know this is part of being human. This is the journey to finding the balance between doing things/pushing forward and trusting/allowing things to shift into place when it's time.
We can learn to nurture ourselves by letting ourselves feel, holding ourselves in those precious, delicate, vulnerable moments and practicing, as best we can, letting go of things we can't control. I hope this was helpful and until then, take care.