Like a toddler being told its bedtime, whilst I know that stopping is good for me, I have a thousand things that I need to do, each one is vital, and has to be taken care of! Unlike a toddler, I run my own business and have a family to support so the sense of impending doom if I don’t do what needs to be done is a strong one. It means every spinning plate will come crashing down, and who knows what kind of disaster that will bring on us all? Having fully experienced burnout, and felt on the brink of it numerous times, I know what happens if every plate comes crashing down.

Nothing changes, and everything changes.

The world carries on spinning in its orbit. In your world, the vacuum you have left is somehow filled. Those who love you, or even simply like you, find a way to chip in and help. You learn that it is possible to stop. And when you are ready to start again, you do so with this knowledge, which relieves the pressure, if only by a tiny bit.

Unlike a Hollywood movie you don’t always ‘come back stronger’, ready to conquer the world. Actually, you realise that the whole idea of ‘conquering the world’ is a ludicrous one, because the world that matters most is happening inside your own home. Are you ok? Are you and your partner ok? Are your kids ok? Are your parents ok? This dynamic exists in billions of homes around the globe, and we tend to treat them as micro-versions of the world at large. But it’s the other way around.

The world is a reflection of how we think, feel and behave at home.

Every one of us takes our thoughts and behaviours outside, and wonder why everyone else is so angry, upset, stressed and self-obsessed. We feel this energy and tension and wish everyone else would just calm down and be less reactive. It’s like washing in dirty water and wondering why you can never get clean.

Looking after ourselves by noticing when we are feeling this way and taking a moment to reflect on what we can do to address it isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s simply an emotional flex that we aren’t used to seeing.

It’s why the world reacted with such shock at the boldness of Jacinda Ardern recently stepping down from her role as Prime Minister of New Zealand, citing burnout as the main reason, saying she simply didn’t have enough in the tank to continue. That she is human.

In her statement, she talked about the intense demands of her role, the impact that it had on her family, and how she realized that she needed to prioritize her own well-being. Her resignation was reported as: ‘A powerful reminder of how even the most accomplished and successful women can struggle with burnout’, and the importance of taking care of ourselves. I see it differently. Surely the attitude that even successful women struggle with burnout implies that they should be immune to it? That being smart and capable somehow means it won’t happen to you. It infers that if you burnout you are somehow not successful, or aren’t smart enough to stop it. Which is absurd, because burnout can happen to anyone, at any time.

So, what can you do to avoid it?

  1. Prioritize self-care activities: Self-care activities are so important for our mental and physical well-being, and they can help us recharge and reduce stress levels. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – it could be as simple as taking a relaxing bath or doing a face mask, or getting in a good workout or meditation session. Just make sure that you set aside time for self-care each day, and treat it like a non-negotiable part of your routine.
  2. Set boundaries: One of the biggest challenges of working for yourself or having a demanding job is maintaining a work-life balance. That’s why it’s essential to set clear boundaries between work and personal time, and stick to them. Turn off your work phone and email notifications outside of work hours, and make sure that you’re giving yourself adequate time for relaxation and rest.
  3. Get plenty of restful sleep: Sleep is so crucial for our physical and mental health, and it’s also one of the first things to go when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and try to establish a relaxing bedtime routine that will help you unwind and get some quality rest. And don’t forget to limit your screen time before bed! I’ve started reading books again rather than scrolling on my phone and it’s made a huge difference.
  4. Connect with others: Building strong relationships with friends and family is essential for our overall well-being, and it can help us feel supported and reduce stress levels. So, make time for social activities, whether it’s a girls’ night in, going for a walk with a friend, or trying a new activity together. And if you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, consider joining a support group where you can connect with other women who understand the challenges you’re facing.
  5. Take breaks: Regular breaks throughout the day can help you recharge and avoid burnout. Easier said than done when there is always ‘one more thing to do’, and this is the part I find most difficult to stick to – but it works! Step away from your desk, take a short walk, stretch, or do a quick mindfulness exercise to refresh your mind.

Stop, reset or step away. “Jacinda says no to burnout” claimed one headline. Sounds like a good idea to me.

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