Self care and burnout…why?
I became interested in the notion of stress and burnout through my own professional and personal experience! Now I am really committed to offering information and practices that can help others either avoid it or recover from it.
Culture, self care and burnout
Our culture generally does not value self-care. It certainly does not encourage it to be at the top of the list of “things to do for success”. Our society sees self-care as selfish, self-centered or extravagant. If we do it at all it is one of the first things to go if you are cutting back due to lack of time, money or someone else’s need.
This can be a problem for anyone but it is particularly relevant. When you live in the world as a care-giver, to neglect this aspect is to sign up for trouble physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Poor Self care and burnout have a foundation of false beliefs
A major source of self-neglect, related to society’s lack of support is our deeply ingrained belief system. When we think about self-care we quickly run up against our beliefs about deserving, about what is of value, about the value of the self, about deserving.
It seems that we can run into this wall of beliefs so quickly and unconsciously that we don’t even notice it as we redouble our efforts to help and do more. So our lack of self-care quietly rests on a foundation of uninspected beliefs that silently conspire to bring us tension, conflict, unprocessed feelings, confused thinking and spiritual emptiness.
Whether you are a caregiver or not you may be carrying a deeply hidden belief that you dos not deserve to spend time taking care of yourself when there is so much to be done or others who are relying on you. However, this is exactly what is needed. We can only give to others that which we have cultivated within ourselves. Giving from a stressed, battered or empty cup is a fertile breeding ground for resentment, relationship conflict and ill health.
Lack of self care and burnout are real consequences
It is easy to think that stress is some amorphous idea that has no real consequences. Not true! Stress has very real effects. It not only affects our physical health, it also muddies our thinking, generates troublesome emotions, blocks creativity and the capacity for effective problem solving, promotes compassion fatigue and produces tension in relationships.
What is less obvious than the physical ramifications of poor self care is a gradual, deep erosion of the Self that has profound ramifications on a person’s ability to feel joy, experience happiness, see beauty or find purpose and meaning within life. Slowly over time by focusing so totally on others you gradually lose yourself. The stranger that is you awakens one day and wonders what happened. What happened to your ideas and plans? What happened to your hopes? What happened to your bright dreams? The needs of others can be great, necessary and overwhelming to the point of drowning a caregiver’s needs unless you TAKE CARE.
Self-care and burnout resolved
When we have a balance of giving and receiving we can offer care for others from an open heart that energizes both the giver and receiver. We have had centuries of messages that tell us self-sacrifice is noble and spiritual. This historically has been a way to keep people (especially women) from claiming time, space, the right to have/ receive real care, to truly matter and to claim personal efficacy (personal power). It’s time to not only inspect those ideas and beliefs but to upend them with a commitment and routine of deep self-care that nourishes and sustains. What will be your first step?