Episode #49: 6 Steps to Stress Management and Burnout Prevention
You feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed and chronically depleted. Constant change and uncertainty is wearing you thin. You want to feel better, but you don't know how. And you certainly don't have the energy to do it alone. Guess what?! You don't have to! In this episode I outline the 6 steps I regularly use to touch base with myself and recalibrate my stress recovery in order to feel calmer, more relaxed, rested and to stay well despite all that 2020, and life in general, keeping throwing our way.
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
Y’all I’m gonna be honest . . . because that is what you have come to expect . . . I did not wanna record a podcast today. I haven’t felt the creative juices necessary to write a podcast in several weeks and have benefited from having episodes already recorded to share with you.
In my email to my subscribers last week I talked about how many times I find myself needing to reboot in light of the constant uncertainty we are living under. To recap, I AM REALLY GOOD AT UNCERTAINTY. And yet, 2020 is wearing me thin. The truth is that every day was uncertain even before 2020 (or as my yoga teacher says, “every day is a surprise party”). But this year seems to have put all of the exclamation points on that reality.
My kids went back to school two days ago and no one knows how long that will last. And part of me thought I would feel a huge sigh of relief and part of me knew that was unlikely because every day is a new adventure even more than it was before.
I realize now too that I was not completely mentally and emotionally prepared to hold space for my kiddos as they navigate yet another familiar, and yet so unfamiliar, stage of their lives and year. While I anticipated that I might not feel relief about the start of school, I hoped that I would feel relief about the amount of uninterrupted work I got done the first day of school. And let’s be clear, I crushed it. And still, no relief. But, I think I can acknowledge that my lack of relief has a lot to do with the stories I was telling myself about how much work is yet to be done and how overwhelmed I feel about the imbalance between my aspirational “to do” list compared to the reality of my time and energy.
And so I thought I didn’t have anything to say. And then I realized that this very scenario is why I am creating an upcoming offering that I’m going to tell you more about today.
Do you know what your inputs are?
Do you know what your inputs are? Also known as recovery practices or stress management tools or self-care, etc. Our days, weeks and months are spent in a dance between the energetic outputs . . . the people, places, activities and behaviors that REQUIRE energy from us and the energetic inputs . . . the people, places, activities and behaviors that RESTORE our energy.
Our energy is a renewable resource that is also exhaustible.
Whether we are talking about managing our stress, recovering from a workout, hitting our next big goal, navigating the twilight zone time warp that is COVID-19 or living out the vision we have for ourselves and our lives, knowing and utilizing our inputs is a non-negotiable part of the puzzle . . . IF we want to stay healthy and well and maintain our capacity to live up to our highest good.
Our body is the vessel that holds our soul . . . our soul yearns to do its work in this lifetime . . . if we do not care for the vessel, our journey will be cut short.
One of the odd things about the human experience--or perhaps it is just the world’s crappy programming--is that, for many of us, the more depleted we are, the more likely we are to reach for a coping mechanisms that deplete us more than those that actually restore us OR the more we convince ourselves that we don’t actually have the time or energy to do the things that would actually restore our well-being to equilibrium. And so the vicious cycle continues.
I am going to cover a process today that I am building into a 6-week stress management and burnout prevention course that launch toward the end of September:
FIRST: Embark on the exploration needed to ground yourself in your why. Why does it matter that you stay well? Who are the people you want to be here for? What is the work you want to do? What do you not want to miss? What is the impact you want to have in the world?
SECOND: Assess where you are today. Where are you on the burnout scale? How do you know whether your energy expenditures are outpacing your energy inputs? What are your unique signs, signals and indicators that you are depleted or running on empty? Is the way you spend your time and energy consistent with your why?
THIRD: Dive deeper for clarity. Assess where you are on the scale between stress---recovery--or stagnation in each of the four sources of energy. Acknowledge the areas where you are doing really well and identify the areas where you need more support.
FOURTH: Take a gentle, yet honest, look at how you are getting in your own way? Where do you need to give yourself permission to acknowledge and respond to the unique combination of stressors in your life? What are the stories you tell yourself about why you cannot or do not deserve to invest in your own well-being? What are the easy wins that will allow you to reserve your energy for bigger challenges and opportunities. And so on.
FIFTH: Identify the energetic inputs that you can rely on to have a restorative effect on your well-being. Make and list, and a plan. Practice using these inputs and notice any shifts or differences in how you feel.
SIXTH: Identify and recruit systems, processes, people and habits you can put into place to support you on your well-being journey and learn how to reboot when you inevitably lose your way.
Here are a few of the things that we are NOT going to cover… I’m not going to teach you how to push through your limits unless we’re talking about limiting beliefs about your well-being and your worthiness. I am not going to teach you how to biohack your way through life. I am not going to tell you that in order to be successful you should condition your body to get up at 4 AM and function on 6 hours of sleep or less. I am not going to tell you that there is an easy or quick fix or a predictable path. I am not going to reinforce the culturally accepted norms around success, shoulds, self-care, well-being and worthiness.
Here is what I will do. I am going to reassure you that you are worth saving. I’m going to sit with you in the doubt and the stories that you have been programmed to believe about what it means to be successful and to be worthy, and I am going to help you challenge those stories. I am going to impress upon you that this journey begins again every day. And I’m going to remind you that the longer you wait to listen and respond to your energetic needs, the longer it will take to recover from a state of chronic depletion.
Let me give you some examples of what this process applied looks like in my own life.
FIRST . . . why? I am here to create safe and healthy workplaces and communities. I am here to heal generational trauma for myself and for my children. I am here to create strong, effective and resilient leaders and humans. I am here to hold space for others.
SECOND, how do I know that I am running on empty? The signs and symptoms used to be much more drastic when I was in the burnout funnel cloud, things like:
high blood pressure
weight gain, and
catching everything the kids brought home
Ultimately, staying in the burnout funnel took my hope away, triggered a multi-year mental health crisis and led me to make the decision to take my own life.
Now because of the journey I’ve been on for the last five years the signs and symptoms are much less extreme but just as important because they harken something much more dangerous:
when even the little things feel impossible
losing my temper more easily
my filter coming off and not because I feel safe but because I am too tired to mitigate my own words and emotions
losing my temper more easily
I can still easily default to not eating and my anxiety can crank up, and
sometimes it even goes so far as feeling like I’m back at the top of that burnout funnel cloud and it wouldn’t take much for me to be consumed by it.
FOUR, where am I in terms of expenditure and renewal of each of the four sources of energy:
Physically - I am crushing consistency on exercise, I am struggling with consistent eating (which will eventually have an impact on my ability to get stronger and recover from my exercise load) and my sleep is oh so close to where I need it to be. I am regularly reminded, however, that my ideal sleep volume is 8-9 hours per night.
Mentally - It is easy for me to spend time in my head which is not the same thing as stretching my mental capacity. Because I love ideas, and new businesses and knowing what people are dreaming up, and because I am also actively practicing law, and spending a fair amount of time imagining content for this business, I stretch my brain pretty regularly. I also still struggle to give myself permission to turn it off. My conditioning tells me I should be “productive” during all waking hours, and I regularly wrestle with and to try to lay down new pathways for myself here.
Emotionally - I am an introvert who recovers in silence who also has barely been alone for the last 6 months. I struggle to enforce “quiet time” for myself so that is still aspirational. I have been blessed by friends who have been checking on me regularly because I ASKED THEM TO (followed shortly by a vulnerability hangover) due to a specific challenge and opportunity I am navigating right now.
Spiritually - I am in a period of healing and expansion. My spiritual connection was strong for many years and then temporarily lost in the darkness when my mom died. I have a trauma history in the church as well that I have only recently begun to explore and heal. My expansion here is one of a tender and thoughtful reopening thanks to the work of a number of authors and leaders I have found over the last many years . . . Voices such as Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker, Doug Banister and Glennon Doyle. After many years of attempting a regular meditation practice, me and the Daily Calm have a bedtime date 99% of the time.
You might notice from my own self-review here that where we are on the stretch/recovery scale for each of the four sources of energy is a living, breathing experience, and we need to revisit our personal assessment on a regular basis in order to stay calibrated to where we can take our foot off the gas pedal and recover and where we may need to stretch.
FIVE: Because of the work I have done I have the following tools in my tool belt:
The ability to recognize that as my thoughts get darker or more defeated that it is only a temporary condition and that if I will access my energetic inputs sooner rather than later I can often mitigate and prevent a full-on spiral.
My go-to inputs--sleep, water, food, movement, meditation, time in safe relationships, and alone time--that I have now used so many times that I don’t have to have a prompt to remember them. That said, more than once I have written down (and encouraged others to do the same) what my inputs are so that I don’t have to stretch to remember them the more depleted I am.
I have practices that I use to calm my nervous system: grounding, meditation, weight lifting, walking the dog, curling up with a blanket and a cup of tea, breathing exercises, and emotional processing supported by a friend.
I gratefully have a group of friends with whom I have cultivated authenticity and trust. I tell them the truth about how I am and, because I recently asked for their support on a specific journey of mine, they are also now armed with the knowledge of the energetic inputs that will help me right the ship when I start to fade. Recently, when one of those friends asked me how I was, I said “I am not eating,” and so, she has made it a practice to check in on me regularly to see what I am eating. I also reached out to my coach at the gym and said I need for you to consistently ask me about my food intake. Those are just a couple of ways that I am asking other people to support me in my own well-being when I know that I am starting to struggle.
And a newer practice and likely a silver lining of COVID19. . . I have continued to be forced to be much more transparent and to communicate regularly with my ex-husband/roommate and children about what I need in order to stay well.
SIXTH, listen to any one of my podcast episodes and you will likely hear a story about how I continually learn, re-learn, reboot and begin again after losing my way or finding an opportunity to go deeper and wider on my well-being journey.
I started this episode with an acknowledgement that I didn’t want to record today because I didn’t know what I had to say. And I am ending this episode with a renewed commitment to give myself some space to rest, now that the kids have gone back to school, and to enjoy a little quiet around the house for as long as it lasts.
I am so excited about bringing this program to you so that you have the awareness and tools you need to better support your own well-being journey in an intentional way.
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I look forward to being back with you next time!