The Blog

Is Your OFF Switch Broken? You Could Be Heading for Burnout

There is always a boss, team member, husband, children, parents, friends, someone else who needs some of your time, its so easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list every time. It feels like the right thing to do.

Can you remember the last time you really made time to relax?

Chances are that it was during your last holiday? Or perhaps it was last weekend?

Did you try to make time for yourself to grab a quick bath, read that magazine you bought or perhaps you even tried to make time to have a massage or attend a yoga class.

When it comes to time, somehow you find that its never your own.

There is always a boss, team member, husband, children, parents, friends, someone else who needs some of your time, its so easy to put yourself to the bottom of the list every time. It feels like the right thing to do.

Until you begin to notice how tired you feel all the time, you fall a sleep on the sofa in front of the TV but you find it difficult to get off to sleep at night. In the morning you feel as though you haven't slept a wink and so you rely on coffee or sugar to get you through the day. You find yourself becoming irritable or emotional at the smallest things. You begin to feel niggling aches and pains, seem to have constant colds or viral infections. But all little irritations really and so you carry on, you cope.

People are relying on you and you don't want to let them down. Taking time for yourself seems selfish.

But if you never make the time to relax, you actually lose your ability to do so at all. Staying continuously switched on means that your body never returns to a calm neutral baseline state.

You are effectively rewiring your system to be ON all the time. This means that your body is constantly in the fight or flight mode, always ready, always listening, always alert, you are wired and ready for action all the time.

This in turn means the adrenal glands are working 24 hours a day, pumping out the stress hormone cortisol, consistently high levels of which have been linked to indigestion and fatigue as well as diseases like depression, anxiety, IBS and heart disease.

The longer you go without relaxing, the bleaker the picture becomes research has shown that in attempting to cope, and ignoring the signs the body is sending women are more likely to succumb to destructive habits, like alcohol, drug and food abuse.

In fact women often use food as the only way to comfort themselves and to cover over the signals their body is sending them and this combined with the bodies natural tendency to store fat around the middle in times of stress means many women are carrying an extra half stone or more due to stress.

We often meet women for whom sleep has become an eventual casualty of this ON state.

Spending all your waking hours in this stress state is actually training your body and mind to remain alert, combined with the additional caffeine, sugar or stimulants you have taken to keep you going through the day so when it comes to bedtime you body's sleep system is so far off, sleep seems impossible.

This is ok for a night or two, but so easily nights become weeks, weeks turn into months, at The Body Retreat we have worked with clients who haven't slept for years.

Staying switched ON, being ON for everybody, never taking time for yourself, never being OFF is the beginning of a vicious cycle of burnout.

Quite literally burnout means your adrenal system burns out... sounds more stress or worry. Except that your adrenals are also responsible, for excitement, arousal, nervous anticipation, and other great stuff. A life without those would be very bleak indeed.

If you have been reading this and it sounds familiar then now is the time to stop and press the Re-Set button.

• First things first. Take stock. What or who is taking your time right now. Are there any things or people on that list who perhaps can wait a day or a week for your time? Just to give you space and time to really think.

• Next, look at your diet. If you have been over doing the caffeine, alcohol or sugar recently then you may want to consider a detox to help clear and balance your system. Have you been comforting yourself with food as your stress reliever? Its time to rethink your relationship with food.

• Next, make time for yourself. You may need or want to start small on this. So perhaps it only 10 mins a week. Dosn't sound like a lot. It can have a massive impact. Not so much the time itself but the very powerful message you are sending to yourself and others that you are worth your own time. But heres the ting, you need to be consistent. Start with 10 mins a week every week for a month, then twice a week and build from there.

• Lastly, and this is a biggy! Find help. If you are an ON addict then it will be hard to break the cycle and you will be twice as likely to succeed if you have support.