19/09/2016 05:40 BST | Updated 17/09/2017 06:12 BST

How To Nurture Yourself When Burnout Takes Its Toll: Putting The Oxygen Mask On First

Have you been dealing overwhelm, stress and burnout with increasing regularity over the last year or so? I have. I can recount endless horror stories from friends and loved ones, or old colleagues who feel completely rung out. The thing about burnout and overwhelm is that we put up with the symptoms and warning signs for far too long before we do. It could be that we're not aware what those signals are, putting a brave face on things, fearing that if we that we can't handle the pace then we'll get 'found out'. Or, we may simply tell ourselves that we should toughen up. Believing that unless something dramatic happens that forces us to stop, or we get diagnosed with the physical or mental effects of nervous breakdown, then we have to put up and shut up -- carrying on regardless of just how bad, sad or mad we may be feeling.

It can be utterly terrifying and debilitating. You may not know upside from down, or right from wrong, and you certainly don't trust your ability to make the right decisions. It can feel as though you will be letting everyone down unless you carry on regardless. My personal story with burnout left me living life on a constant knife's edge of anxiety. As if every day of my life had been an abyss of poor choices, and self-loathing. The daily fear battle I was fighting around the impact have on my future was real.

What is burnout?

In this post from Psychology Today, it states that

"Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to:

physical and emotional exhaustion

cynicism and detachment

feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment"

What are the symptoms of burnout:

  • Lethargy -- feeling tired, or without energy most of the time -- leading to chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • The inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of appetite, or over-eating (mindlessly consuming)
  • Any kind of dependent or addictive behaviour: alcohol, drugs, sex, eating
  • Anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Physical symptoms; chest pain, headaches, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), skin conditions (psoriasis, acne, rosacea)
  • Constant headaches, colds, or illnesses that won't shift
  • Feeling constant tension or irritability that leads to anger
  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness
  • Maybe you feel some of these symptoms, Maybe you feel them all. Maybe it's become such an intrinsic part of every day life, that you just haven't considered the impact it to be anything more than 'stress'.

    Putting on the oxygen mask first

    This is where the idea of nurture and self care comes into play. However much it feels as though we need to spend our time looking out for everyone else first, our self care comes first. Full stop. The secret to being that super hero we think we should be, is to don the cape for ourselves first. That way, when you are in full power you have more energy, health and capacity you are so much more able to be of service to other people, having first been of service to yourself.

    Here's 15 questions (plus a bonus question at the end) for you to work through, which are designed to help you identify where -- and how -- you can take the time to put on your oxygen mask:

  • In which area(s) of your life are you aware that you need to slow down?
  • Who are you giving all your time and energy away to?
  • Where do you need more adventure, excitement and creativity in your life?
  • How do you want to feel more often?
  • What are those things that you wish you could more of / less of?
  • What does self-care mean to you?
  • What would you do to make yourself feel good / happy / relaxed / cared for if you had all the time and resources in the world?
  • What does having fun mean to you?
  • What can you do when you are at your absolute best?
  • What's the 1 degree shift needed to spend more time on your own self care?
  • What can you do to make sure you get better sleep and relaxation?
  • Be completely honest with yourself, even if it's really tough: What can you give up, let go of, stop doing?
  • What can you start doing to honour and nurture yourself?
  • Who can you get to help?
  • What commitment are you going to make to ensure that your self-care is honoured?
  • How will you celebrate taking the first step towards putting your oxygen mask on?
  • Blush Love Retreat has been created as the antidote to overwhelm. Join me for a week in Portugal 22-29 October, to help you slow down, connect in and savour life.