“Okay, focus… you have to run to the grocery store after work, remember to feed the dog before you leave the house…can’t forget that, drop off your laundry at the dry cleaner, too… Remember to call back your mom, Oh yeah and there’s that deadline for work before 5:00pm today that I have to meet… Oh goodness, where are my car keys?!”
These are just a few of the many thoughts that run through my head, and probably many of yours before you leave the house each morning. Life can be overwhelming sometimes, and we can get easily distracted with the many responsibilities of life that we forget to take a minute to just catch our breath.
Hello, I am Dianna, and I am a licensed clinical social worker. I work with clients every single day on fostering healthy coping skills, setting boundaries and practicing good self-care to improve the quality of their lives. However, the truth is, sometimes, even I fall short. Sometimes, I have difficulty practicing what I preach in my own life. It can be extremely difficult in the fast-paced, “go, go go” society that we live in nowadays to prioritize ourselves and our own mental health needs. It has become extremely normal for us to put various things above our own well-being, and this can lead to burnout. Especially now, for a lot of people, due to COVID-19, we are working from home– we are not prioritizing taking appropriate breaks at work and working our set hours each week because our “office” has now become our bedroom, our living room or our dining room, depending where your makeshift home office ended up last spring. As a result, it can be easy for our work-life balance to become completely enmeshed and blurred.
A lot of us might be so used to feeling burnt out from our jobs and not practicing good self-care that it’s become a “new normal”, and we have to stop normalizing poor mental health and burnout if we want to improve the quality of our lives. So, let’s identify what burnout looks like..
Psychology Today defines burn out as chronic stress that can lead to: physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness/ lack of accomplishment. Burnout manifests in these areas of our lives in different ways. It can look like: chronic fatigue, insomnia or difficulty sleeping, forgetfulness, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, physical symptoms/ increased illnesses, anger/ irritability, loss of enjoyment in things, and/or feelings of apathy and loneliness. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s time to make a change, now!
For myself, one of the greatest benefits I have found for combating burnout is meditation.
Did you just roll your eyes? Probably. How did I know this? Because I did too. When I first heard someone talk about the benefits meditation played in their mental health and self-care routine, I thought to myself, “that’s stupid and could not possibly work for me” and “I don’t have the time to do it”. Something I have learned about meditation is that it can be whatever you want it to be. There’s no rulebook for meditation that says it has to be for 30 minutes, or that it has to be in a dark room, or that it has to be to the voice of a Buddhist Monk repeating “ummmmm” for an elongated period of time. These are only some of the myths about meditation that people believe, which ultimately deter people from trying or practicing it.
The other common myth about meditation is that it’s a one-and-done process, and that if you cannot quiet your mind on the first try, it doesn’t work for you. This is rarely the case for anyone who first tries meditation. Meditation is an ongoing process and it’s completely normal for our thoughts to wander during it and for us to have difficulty focusing. Be gentle with yourself and just bring your thoughts back, it’s okay.
Meditation takes time and practice; it doesn’t happen overnight. Also, meditation can be as simple as a 5-minute break that you give yourself during the day to sit on the floor of your bedroom and breathe. Meditation varies, there is no rulebook or requirements, but the mental health benefits are surmountable!
Oftentimes, when we are anxious, we are thinking too far into the future, and when we are experiencing depression we are thinking too far into the past. Meditation helps us to remain grounded in the present moment. According to Psychology Today, meditation helps individuals sleep better, cope with mental health symptoms (such as: anxiety and depression), reduces difficulties associated with chronic pain, and improves cognitive and behavioral functioning.
For me, meditation was very intimidating at first, but when I looked at it through a different lens and learned to be patient with myself, and remembered that it’s okay for my thoughts to wander, it got easier. Taking 5-10 minutes out of my day each day to get quiet with myself and a guided meditation of my choosing from any one of the Apps I use, has been a game changer for me in combating burnout and improving my overall wellbeing.
If we want to combat burnout to be more productive in our jobs, have more peace/ serenity, or be better mothers, daughters, brothers, sons, meditation is truly a great way to make a really positive change in your life. I suggest you give it a try and prioritize your health for a change, because if you don’t, no one else will. If you want to be able to help anyone, you have to help yourself, which is why on the plane- it’s directed that you put on your oxygen mask first. There will always be a deadline or an errand to run, but taking a few minutes to meditate and reset can make a world of difference.
Carter, Sherrie Bourg. “The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 26 Nov. 2013, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them.
Ahmad, Samoon. “Meditation and Mental Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 17 July 2019, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/balanced/201907/meditation-and-mental-health.