Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular coach and speaker.
Question: I am so stressed out that I’m falling apart physically. I’m sick, tired, worried and grouchy most of the time. In this state, I’m not the greatest parent and my marriage is struggling. The problem is I can’t change my situation. I have to keep this job and I have to keep giving to my family. So how do I change my feelings, outlook and behavior when I’m stuck in this situation. My stress isn’t going anywhere, so how do I handle it better?
Answer: The Urban Dictionary defines burned-out as “What occurs when you overwork yourself into a state of limited mental acuity, depleted emotions and strength completely drained from your body.” You sound burned-out and running on empty. You cannot live for extended periods of time without serious negative effects on your body and spirit. You also can't show up for others when you have nothing to give.
Even though you can’t change the situation that is causing your stress, There are lots of things you can do that would make a huge difference and fill your emotional tank back up.
First, you must identify all the things in your life that are draining your tank:
Work you aren’t passionate or excited about
Obligations others have placed on you
Lack of sleepLong "to do" lists
Emotional, physical or psychological suffering
Worry about challenges
Fear of failure or fear of loss
Understand that you (and you alone) are responsible for maintaining and refilling your emotional tank. If you don’t do this, you will soon run dry and have nothing left to give. You cannot make it your spouse's job or your parent's job, you must own this.
Some people struggle with self-care because they associate it with being lazy, self-indulgent or selfish. It is very important you don’t think this way. Keeping your own tank full is not self-indulgent, it is wise. You also perform better with a full tank. You are more creative, effective, giving and powerful when you are filled up emotionally.
Self-care is not self-indulgent. It is a sign of self-respect.
If people in your life don’t get this, that is not your problem. Even if they are bothered. If they reset you for this, they probably need some self care too, but feel too guilty to take it.
Also, if you have given too much for too long, the people in your life may have grown accustomed to your giving all the time and they now take your sacrifices for granted. They expect you to give without ever taking care of you.
The only way to change this (so they appreciate you more) is to show them that you are valuable and take care of yourself. This may mean saying no and on occasion sacrificing their needs for yours. They may not like this at first, but they will respect you more in the end for doing it, I promise. Though don't go overboard and become selfish either. You must find a healthy balance.
Here are some signs that your emotional tank is running low and you need more self-care:
Lack of motivation
Being quick to complain or get offended
Having a hard time focusing
If you are feeling any of these, you may need to make some changes and create more balance in your life. Here are 20 things you could do — no matter your situation — to fill your tank:
1. Stay away from draining people as much as you can. When you can’t, remember their bad behavior is about their fears about themselves, it’s not about you. Don’t let anyone emotionally take from you. You have the power to protect yourself. There is another good article on KSL about this you ought to read.
2. Don’t settle for counterfeit bucket-fillers like alcohol, drugs, pornography, romance novels or other things that make you feel good in the moment, but make you feel worse later on. Choose real, positive, long-term bucket-fillers like the ones below.
3. Start each day with some "me time." Even 20 minutes to exercise, read, meditate, pray or plan your day in peace and quiet will make a big difference.
4. Get plenty of sleep. (See a doctor if you have trouble here.)
5. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables, and avoid packaged, chemical-laden foods.
6. Exercise at least three times a week. Even 5-15 minutes of exercise is beneficial.
7. Get outside in nature more often. Breathe the clean air. Unplug from all the electronics for a while every day.
8. De-clutter some part of your house or office. Clean organized space brings clear peaceful energy into your life.
9. Simplify and drop some stuff. What are you doing that isn’t necessary? What are you doing that you could delegate? You may need to start saying no and setting some boundaries. Talk to a coach or counselor if this is hard for you. You may need to learn how to say no in a kind way so you don't feel guilty.
10. Keep learning, growing, stretching and reading. Self-esteem soars when you are constantly working to become better and learning new things.
11. Get a creative outlet or take up a hobby that allows you to create, write, build, dance or sing.
12. Serve others, perform random acts of kindness. (I know this doesn’t seem like self-care, but when I give $5 to a homeless person, it makes me feel fantastic.) I do it for me and it fills my emotional tank.
13. Work on staying present in the now. Don’t waste today worrying about the past or the future you can’t change. Plan for tomorrow from a place of wisdom, not a place of fear or worry.
14. Choose joy now. Happiness in this moment is a choice. Practice choosing it.
15. Choose gratitude for everything that is right. Sometimes focusing on my blessings changes my whole attitude.
16. Laugh more. Laughter really is the best medicine.
17. Cuddle, hug, have more sex, get a massage — physical touch fills your tank.
18. Take vacations as often as possible. You won’t believe how much more clarity you have at work when you come back. Even short weekend getaways make a big difference.
19. Remember the real reason, meaning and purpose for challenges, trials and difficulties in life. Life is a classroom, and the universe is conspiring to help you grow. When challenges arise, choose to see them as interesting lessons or classes, but they aren’t tests and your value isn’t attached to them. Trust the universe that there will be a solution and you are going to be stronger, better, wiser and more loving at the end of this.
20. Perform an “emotional autopsy” on this situation. Ask yourself questions to get to the bottom of how you feel and why. There is a great worksheet on my website that steps you through doing this.
Parker Palmer, in the book "Let Your Life Speak" said, “Self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.”
You can do this.