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10 Ways to Escape Burn Out

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Burnout is a real risk. We need to take it seriously to look after ourselves, ask for help, and simplify everything.via @ParentingJunkieTweet This

Are you finding yourself in survival mode, feeling like you are running on empty and worried that you might be leading yourself to burnout? If you’re not sure where you fall on the burnout spectrum, go check out last week’s episode on the 10 signals that you might be in survival mode

Now that we know the signs, it’s time to get practical and do something about it. 

Survival mode is like the fuel light coming on – and if we heed it quickly it’s no biggie! Woot, woot – we caught it in time and we can keep driving along our merry way. 
However, if we ignore it and don’t get into a gas station asap – then we run the risk of a far worse outcome. 

What we need to do is ensure that our expectations meet our level of support, and work on both sides of that equation. On the one hand, we need to be realistic about our expectations and, in some ways, lower the bar. But we can also work on increasing our level of support or perhaps reducing our level of responsibilities. 

Let’s dig in and talk about how 10 ways to conserve energy and recharge so that we can push ourselves out of survival mode and thrive:

  1. Simplify everything [02:22]
    When I’m in survival mode, that is the time that I break out the cereal for dinner and do the simplest laundry routines. It’s a time when I don’t get fancy with anything. If there’s anything you’re doing that’s a little bit extra, that’s an expectation you can immediately drop, and you should! The reason is that you need to conserve your energy. So when you’re in survival mode, simplify. Simplify your routine, meals, shopping, expectations of yourself — everything.
  2. Use More Screen Time [02:56]
    If I’m locked down for weeks on end without any help, I allow myself to increase the amount of screen time in our home. If it gives you the hour to rest, do your work, clean, or whatever else you need to do, then it’s so worth it. We all have a complicated relationship with screen time. You may feel uncomfortable with a lot of screen time, as I do, and that’s okay. But compared to you burning out, yelling at your kids and damaging the atmosphere in your home, I think more screen time is a much better option. 
  3. Lower Your Learning Expectations [04:05]
    You might have a lot of pressure around things you want to do every day with your children — that could be virtual school, reading, homeschooling, et cetera. You need to take a deep breath and realize that the priority when you’re in survival mode is your sanity, the atmosphere in your home, and the relationships between you and your kids. If those things are going to suffer, it’s not worth it for the sake of a few more books or lessons. A lot of homeschool kids make up an entire year of schooling in a couple of weeks in the summer with some extra help. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with the rat race. Instead, prioritize your family’s happiness and your sanity. 
  4. Lower Your Presence Expectations [05:03]
    You likely have a goal to be present with your kids, to look them in the eyes, to play with them, to read to them, and just be with them. When you’re in survival mode, that can be very hard to do because you’re not really feeling present yourself. You’re feeling frazzled and overwhelmed and you’re much more likely to get triggered. So you might try to play with them, but then get annoyed and end up yelling at them. In that case, maybe it would have been better not to have tried to begin with. When I’m in survival mode, I think to myself, ‘If I can have one minute of presence a day with my child — if I can look them in the eye and be there with them and tell them I love them once a day — then I’m going to release any expectations for the rest of the day.’ The rest of the time I’m going to focus on increasing my level of support, getting my stuff done, calming my nervous system, caring for my basic needs and needs of my family. One minute a day of presence will do much more for your child than you realize. Release the unrealistic expectations of yourself. 
  5. Write Out Helpful Scripts [06:31]
    If you’re having a particularly hard time — maybe you lost your job or you’re mourning the loss of a grandparent, for example — it can be very stressful when our children keep asking us questions that we don’t know how to answer, like “Where is grandpa?” “Why are you crying? “What’s happening?” or “Why can’t I buy a guitar?” “Why can’t I go ice skating?” Those questions can send us over the edge when we’re already in an emotional state. What I would recommend is writing down a script to keep in your back pocket. When your child asks those questions, you simply say your script, and you’re done. The way you structure the script is in two parts. The first part is the bare bone facts, and the second part is a bit of coaching for optimism and resiliency. The bare bone facts go something like, “We can’t spend the money on that right now because I’ve lost my job, and we need to conserve our money.” We’re not piling in a lot of emotion, just stating the facts. Then we introduce some optimism so it doesn’t become too scary or worrisome for them. That could be something like, “This is normal. It’s happening to a lot of people. We’re going to get back on our feet, and we’re still going to have a lot of fun as a family.” Here’s what that looks like if you’re mourning the loss of a grandparent. You could say something like, “Grandpa died. His body stopped working, and that’s why I’m so sad. We’re all going to miss him terribly.” Then, the coaching might be something like, “We’re going to hold onto his memories forever. We always have the amazing times we’ve shared with him to talk about.” 
  6. Ask For and Accept Help [10:11]
    This is a hard one for many of us. We’re in this hyper individualistic society. We want to be able to do everything by ourselves. When we’re in survival mode, it can be even harder to ask for help because we’re vulnerable and we don’t want to be seen that way. However, imagine your friend was having a hard time and they asked you for help. Wouldn’t you be so happy to help them? It wasn’t until my fourth child that I was willing to accept a meal train from my community. It’s such a beautiful tradition and I don’t know why I was so individualistic and insistent that I didn’t need help. When I accepted it, it was such a sweet thing and I could see that people were so happy to be in a position to help me. It reminded me that it feels good to give and you should give other people the opportunity to give to you when you need it. Don’t feel shy to ask vulnerably and honestly by simply saying, “Hey, I’m having a hard time. Is there any possibility you can help me with this? No pressure if not.” I think that’s missing in many of our cultures, and it’s a bit of a tragedy of the modern world. The way we make sure that can be part of our lives is to allow it in and accept it. When people are offering, don’t brush them off. Take them up on it and thank them!
  7. Let People In [12:11]
    Share with people how you are feeling. Often we have this front, like, “I’m fine. Everything’s good.” I’m not suggesting going on a rant or complaining the whole time. But if you are the type of person who needs to present a very polished front, and you’re having a hard time, just authentically, honestly, vulnerably say, “I’m having a hard time right now.” That can help people know to not pile more things onto you. Maybe it’s your boss, a coworker, your partner, a good friend, a teacher or whoever else is leaning on you. They may need to realize that right now, you have less resources and you’re less capable of being that support figure. This might mean saying “No.” When people ask you for extra favors, or to join a board meeting or head up a project, you need to be realistic about what you can and can’t take on right now so that you can conserve your energy and get through this period. This will help you get back to thriving and being that person who’s able to do more for others.
  8. Prioritize Your Self-Care [13:29]
    When you’re in survival mode, it’s even harder to take care of your basic needs — sleeping, eating, moving your body — that kind of thing. But ironically, it’s also more important because you need all the energy you can get. So really ask yourself if you’re making the best use of your time. Could you potentially be taking better care of yourself? Are you spending time scrolling on Facebook at night? Are you zombie-ing out? Are you eating things that are making you feel like rubbish? If you do those things, it’s understandable — you’re in an emotional state and we all have our escapes. However, it’s sabotaging you even further. When I’m in survival mode, I notice that I’m reaching for sugar and screens a lot more, and I’m much less likely to go out for a walk or do my yoga. I really have to catch it and remind myself to do those things, because if I neglect them, I can see the cascade effect. When we’re in survival mode, we need to look at the trajectory of where our behaviours are leading us — like, if I carry on down this path of not taking care of myself, it will lead to burnout. It’s my responsibility to avoid that outcome, so that means putting down my phone, going to bed earlier, treating my body right. These things help me to feel better, and that will spiral me in a better direction, and will equip me to get out of this slump that I’m in.
  9. Improve Your Self-Talk [15:20]
    When we’re in survival mode, we feel like we’re failing. We feel like everything’s falling apart. We feel like everything’s an emergency. We get more triggered so we tend to behave more badly than we used to. We start to tell ourselves that we’re a failure, that we’re messing up, that nothing’s going right. “Why does this always happen to me? Just my luck” rather than “I can do hard things. I’ve gone through things before in my life and I’ll get through this as well.” All this negative self-talk drags us down rather than coaching us up and helping us overcome. When you’re in survival mode, notice how you’re talking to yourself and start to coach yourself as you would your child. If your child is going through a tough time, how would you tell him or her that they can overcome it? I would say things like, “You’re strong. You can do this. Look on the bright side. Look at how much you’ve already accomplished.” Focusing on that optimism is going to help us pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get going on the things we can control and celebrate our wins. That is going to change the trajectory towards something more positive.
  10. Enlist Your Children’s Help [16:50]
    It is wonderful for children to feel like they are part of the household, that they are needed, and that they are important. We’ve come a long way in terms of ensuring our children’s comfort, that they are well cared for, and that they are treated with respect. But sometimes, we don’t expect enough of them. If you are in survival mode, this is a great time to expect your children to help you — to do chores, put laundry away, pick up their plate, clean up after themselves, put on their shoes, fetch water, et cetera. Explain to them that there is a lot going on and you need their help. Whenever I’m in a period where I’m extra stressed, have no help or lots of work to do, I tell my kids that I need them to be great helpers and do all the things they’re capable of doing. Even from as early as two years old, children are able to do quite a lot of things for themselves. It’s also very healthy for them. They feel capable and like they’re contributing to the household. Don’t take that away from them.

If you are currently in survival mode, I hope that these 10 tips help to rein you back in from burnout. Remember, that’s a real risk and we need to take it seriously to look after ourselves, ask for help, and simplify everything we can.

I’d love to know if these ideas resonated for you, and if so, which one you must want to put into action. Leave a comment below and join me over on Instagram @parentingjunkie!

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