Life can be hectic. Between work, school, friends, family, bills, and other obligations, you may feel that the minutes that you have to yourself are few and far between. If you are in a helping field such as social work, nursing, or counseling, you may begin your day early and give so much of yourself in that shift that you may not feel you have any words left by the end of the day.
Everyone has days where they feel they are being pulled in a thousand directions. Those are the days where it seems that almost everyone you know is in crisis, and the only person in the world they can speak to is you. While it is understandable that you may want to try and hold space for everyone around you in crisis, being there all the time for everyone can be mentally and emotionally draining.
As humans, it is our nature to want to help ease the pain and worries of those we care about. As a result, we give a lot of ourselves each day to be kind and empathetic to those close to us. We fail to realize that our mental and physical needs are just as important, if not more so than those we are trying to help.
Your energy may seem endless to others, but beneath the smiles and positivity, you might be exhausted. The more you deny yourself time and space to recover or heal, the more you're likely to overextend yourself and end up with some mental or physical ailments as a result. Whatever you refuse to feel is trapped within the confines of your body, and this trapped energy often manifests in backaches, migraines, and other physical discomforts. Protecting your energy by recharging and spending it carefully is a lesson everyone must learn.
You don't have to be everyone's superman. Eventually, being available for everyone 24/7 will cause you to hit a wall where you must take time to yourself to recharge, and then you can't help anyone. Instead, follow these guidelines to protect yourself from burnout.
Set clear and firm boundaries: This act of self-preservation is a challenging task. Your friends and family may even get mad at you when you're no longer available to them all the time. That's okay—they'll be back, and when they come back in a calmer state of mind, explain to them that you'll still be there for them, but they need to practice taking care of themselves rather than relying on you to take on emotional, physical, or time burdens for them. This doesn't mean you can't ever help them. Instead, set boundaries regarding time and emotional drainage and stick to them.
Set aside time that is just for you: If someone calls, you do not have to answer the phone. Consider turning off your phone for a few hours. See how it feels to be completely alone: you may like it! Recognize that there is a difference between having alone time and isolating. If you find yourself isolating, reach out for mental health counseling or consider spending time with friends or family.
Recognize your emotions: Helpers are experts at compartmentalizing, even suppressing, emotions. You are aware that any reaction from you as someone tells their story could trigger more intense emotions. You have trained yourself to respond and not react. You are so good at shutting off your feelings that you often forget to turn them back on when dealing with your personal life.
Keeping our emotions trapped in your body has the potential to manifest into physical aches and pains. Your body continues to store those feelings you stuff down and forget about. People often complain about their hips bothering them and are unsure why. Your hips are like the body's junk drawer, which means this is the place where the body stores past hurts, traumas, and negative emotions.
Limit your exposure to negativity: Listen to what your body is telling you. If you don't feel comfortable in any situation or conversation because someone is being negative through gossip, judgment, complaint, or anything else, you do not have to engage. You don't have to make excuses or find a way to leave. Simply excuse yourself and leave the room.
Surrounding yourself with positivity takes practice, and it can be difficult on some days. There will be moments, and when they happen, remind yourself that some things in this world you cannot control. You will also have to remind yourself that, though you can't always control situations or how other people will react to them, you can control how you react.
Today's society seems to praise and lift those who give of their time and emotional space to the point of exhaustion. While helping people by doing these things isn't inherently bad, it becomes problematic when people start taking advantage of you and sapping your energy without giving you time or space to replenish it. This is especially true of people in helping professions, like nursing and social work. It's easy to view spending your energy for the sake of people close to you as a currency for their love, approval, and good image of you, but this is unhealthy behavior. Now is the time to start setting boundaries and putting yourself first. This can be hard for people to achieve on their own, especially if they view never saying no as part of who they are. SokyaHealth can help you protect your energy while still being available to help people in a healthy capacity. Call 866-932-1767.