I am essentially a case study in burnout. I am the woman that has gotten myself hospitalized more than once for burnout. I don’t mean that in a fake way. I mean literally in the hospital from exhaustion with IVs in my arms hydrating me. Every other year I do it to myself because I will go until I’m forced to stop.
It wasn’t until COVID when I was forced to step back that I had no other option of what to do with my time than to reflect back and dig into the why, the who, the what, and the when my chronic people-pleasing-yes-womaning kicked in?
I have realized that a lot of the busyness that I create for myself is a way to hide from actually confronting myself.
I am not a burnout expert, but a business owner on the same journey as you. I can only share what I am learning works for me as I figure it out along the way. I started new habits during Covid that have had amazing results. Every day I go for a car ride and I take that 15-30 minutes alone to actually confront my emotions rather than hide from them and making myself too busy. In taking this time I’m able to actually deal with the emotion and work through it rather than remaining stuck.
Today was one of those days where I had to decide what to prioritize. Real-time me was big mad at 4 weeks ago me for over-committing my schedule of the day. A client called me this morning, a breast cancer survivor who couldn’t make it out to pick up her art – I had to choose between making her wait or pushing myself to do a Mitzvah (Yiddish for Good Deed)
I always say “weigh the scales of my heart.” Where does my time need to go? What’s going to feel the best for me at the end of the day? Sometimes it is that I want to stay in longer and get myself ready, put on something cute, find cute glasses and curl my hair. Sometimes I want to go do a Mitzvah and sometimes I need some time to be still and get my mindset in order.
I’ve had to learn to be okay with myself as I exist and that means being okay showing up exactly as I am. That’s where body image and burnout tie into each other – so often we don’t recognize it, but one of the biggest signs of burnout is lack of self-care while simultaneously berating said lack of effort.
What is more important, taking an extra 15 minutes to relax and get my mindset together before I have to go to a meeting or doing my makeup and showing up physically the way that society expects me to show up?
I am currently in a state of burnout because I have chronic people-pleasing-itis. I am a work in progress.
However, when I spend time confronting my emotions, I dig in and can tell you all of my deep-rooted issues and where my need for outside affirmation all stems from dating back to childhood unmet needs…
If I didn’t consistently take time for myself, I wouldn’t know myself.
I quite often take the risk of showing up for work with the mom bun and acne on display to show my clients that I am very real, and can connect and understand them on a deeper level.
I finally recognize that for me, a lot of my burnout is a result of unresolved trauma within myself. I try to keep myself too busy to confront my own emotions, thoughts, and memories.
A lot of “avoidance by busyness” stems from fear for me. The fear of abandonment. I have no shame in talking about it. I think talking about mental health is extremely important and it’s one of the quickest ways that you can address, recognize and start to make moves to fix your burnout.
We make ourselves busy to the point of no return because we don’t want to deal with feeling things. We don’t want to confront ourselves. We don’t want to spend the time to figure out what’s going on inside ourselves and inside of our hearts, so we get busy and we say yes, then we say yes again, then we say yes again and again and again.
On this side of avoidance, we have big-time imposter syndrome and fear of failure.
When you feel comfortable with your own thoughts about yourself you can begin to change the way you respond to the person looking back at you in the mirror.
I’m able to look at my face right now and even though I know I’ve got acne and dark circles under my eyes, I’m choosing to look at my lips and my smile, and the tops of my cheekbones.
I can genuinely address myself in the mirror and be truly okay with what I see looking back at me because I have done and continue to do the work of self-confrontation.
Self-love, burnout, and body image all go hand in hand because if you can learn to be okay with what you see in the mirror, you can take a little bit of pressure off of yourself and take the extra time for your mindset vs the pressure of trying to fit societal standards.
This extra time can be used for anything you want as long as it is minutes you choose for yourself. It can even be the choice of putting on makeup. Some days that’s the choice that I make… Katie Jane Hughes is my favorite person to follow on Instagram. In the freebie guide that I have, I also list all of my other favorite Instagram accounts that I follow that help me get my day rolling and keep my mind in check. Some mornings I’ll choose my self-care time to be following along with one of her tutorials and doing my makeup. The important distinction is that I’m choosing to do my makeup for me, I’m not making myself busy just to fit a societal beauty standard, but enjoying the art and process of slowly blending colors and bringing a vision to life while addressing each feeling as it comes to me.
The distinction of choosing your time for yourself is the difference between burnout and inspiration.
We all just came from a global trauma where collectively we spent a year locked inside of our homes. Many spent a lot of time alone and thinking if you’re anything like me and my clients, you probably spent a great deal of that time beating yourself up with the pressure to succeed in the face of a global pandemic too.
When you can recognize that this was not a trauma that you realized on your own, but that it was experienced collectively, you can take a little bit MORE of that pressure off of yourself with a side of forgiveness for wherever you are after surviving a pandemic
Fluffy ideas tend to float away from me because I’m a very black and white thinker – I’m a tangible thinker. I need to break ideas down into digestible bite-sized concepts – What is ONE actionable thing that I can do today to make life easier?
One of my favorite lines to use with my clients is “I want to give you the best of me not what’s left of me.”
This is a line that I use in my emails often. There are times that I’ll need to be bluntly honest to my clients and an example of what I may say would be along the lines of “listen, I will show up. When I commit to doing something, I am there. It’s just whether you’re going to get the best of me or the what’s left of me”.
Imagine for a moment, a gas tank. I’m letting my clients know when we’re getting close to empty. You’re probably going to want to fill up this gas tank soon. Or we can just take a risk and go for it and see if we make it to the gas station. I’m down either way. We can refill or we can ride it out and see what happens. But that’s the choice that they have to make. Are they going to be a risk-taker that says ” Yeah, let’s just do it because I want to get it done”? Or are they going to be someone who has the space to wait and can say ” you know what? I want all of you. I want the best of you.”
Giving my clients this option has been really, really helpful. I’ve let them know my capacity, my availability, what I can handle, and what I can realistically do WELL. Sometimes my clients will say, you know what? I need it now. It’s for a wedding. I want the pictures to give to my husband on the morning of our wedding. I’ll take the “left of you” because time demands it.
On the other hand, people, more often than not, want the experience I offer. They want all of me. With that simple sentence, I’ve given my client the opportunity to decide for themselves based on allowing them to know my capacity
Another bite-sized action item that has changed my life is asking people in my world what their emotional capacity is.
When we start to enter burnout, a lot of it will come in the form of venting and emotionally dumping on the people that we love most. One of the rules that I have in my friend’s group is before any of us complains, we’ll literally reach out to our friends and we’ll say, “Hey, how’s your capacity right now?” Just that one sentence. “How is your capacity?”
What this question says is that I respect that you have your own life and that you might not be able to take on my problems right now, but I need to talk to you.
More often than not, my friends will reply with something along the lines of “I’m good, let’s talk now.” But sometimes “You know what? Let me come back to you after dinner. I’m really overwhelmed and I want you to have the best of me, not what’s left of me.” .
I’m planning my 2023 calendar year now. My 2021 is sold out. My 2022 is sold out. This means I have to plan two years ahead, which means I have to plan for burnout two years in advance. I have to create space so far in advance for myself that there are times where I really just need to tell a client when time catches up that “I am not on my A-game right now. I’m a woman of my word. I will show up. I will give of me to you, but I don’t want you to have what’s left of me. I want you to have the best of me – but I’m here to follow through on my word. What would you like to do – keep as scheduled or reschedule with an incentive?”
For those of us in the arts, it’s a little bit easier to be able to demand room for creation because creativity comes with a sense of personal emotional investment from the artist. I think those in standard business…it might be a little bit more difficult because expectations are black and white, but if you’re in the business of creating – any type of creative business, people are going to respect the brain space that you need because they want what you’re creating.
I can replicate for you, but I can’t create for you right now.
This is another sentence to memorize for my fellow creatives. This means you can come in and I can nail off these poses for you. No problem. I can do them in my sleep. But if you want me to create and see you and be present and be fully in existence, then I don’t have the capacity right now. My gas tank is almost empty. I’m running on fumes.
Simultaneously, you have to have a sense of responsibility in business. Much of self-care philosophy, I think, conflicts with being a responsible business owner.
I always tell people the state of a business isn’t that you don’t make any mistakes or isn’t that you don’t have to reschedule. It’s what you do when you have to. For me, anytime I have to reschedule, if it’s for any personal reason, I often offer my clients an incentive. I’ll give them an extra discount or I’ll give them something additional to show my respect for their time.
To me, the dignity of a business isn’t that they don’t make mistakes, it’s how they handle them when they do.
Vulnerability and authenticity are beautiful. Don’t lie to your clients, just be genuine. Let them know there’s no space in your brain when something is not working or you can’t create.
I have been able to start to be okay with saying “NO” a little bit more because of this – keep in mind I haven’t defeated burnout yet. I am a work in progress.
These are terms and little tiny, actionable items that I’ve started to implement into the daily routines that have helped my relationships and helped me start to tackle my own case of “over-yessing”
At the end of the day it comes down to recognizing capacity, the expectation that someone is going to be available when YOU need is unrealistic. It is about mutual human respect. It’s about saying I understand that you have your own life completely separate from me, but may I have a piece of you right now? Because I’m in need of you.
Your friends might not always have the capacity. I can tell you there are times when my friends message me and I will say “I love you, I am so tired right now, I can’t think straight. I want to be there for you, but I can’t. Can I call you in the morning?”
My responsibility to my word is taking the time for myself and then calling them the next morning.
It’s the ability to say, I don’t have the capacity right now and then following through when you do have the capacity.
This small shift has made such a difference in my friendships because I used to come home from a day where I had a client dump all of their emotions on me and I’d be holding all of their emotions on top of all of my emotions, and I just want to dump that on someone because I’m overwhelmed. It comes pouring out of me and that’s really unfair to people. It will cause distress in your relationships.
The ability to say, “do you have the capacity for me right now?” or “do you have the emotional capacity for me right now” says to the person on the other end of the conversation, I value you as an individual and understand the world doesn’t revolve around me. If someone is meant to be in your life, they will always come back. If they don’t, cut them out. They’re not meant for you. The people who love you will always come back when they have the space. You just have to let them. This is also a great way to find out who shouldn’t be in your life and who’s sucking the life out of you, an energy vampire.
Learning to identify energy vampires is crucial to avoiding burnout. It’s also important to recognize if YOU are the energy vampire to other people. I have been and it’s ugly to look at and it’s not fun to confront.
Self-care isn’t just yoga and bath bombs. Self-care and real self-love are hard self-confrontation.
One of my favorite songs is Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror. I listen to a gospel version of it every morning – if you want to make a change, you’ve got to start with the man in the mirror. There’s nothing else you can do if you want to change the world other than to start with yourself. So a part of this responsibility is not just looking at your friend’s capacity and looking at your own, but it’s taking responsibility for the times that you may have been the person in a relationship that is sucking the energy because you weren’t respectful of somebody else’s emotional availability
This simple recognition is the difference for me between being a young woman and a ‘grownup’. I’m in my mid-30s, but until I was 32, I did not have the ability to see that the world didn’t revolve around me. And that’s okay. Being able to make this differentiation helps you to know that there are other people feeling the same way and that if you have respect for other people, they’re going to give you the same respect back.
Holding space for others and holding space for yourself is not doing anything extraordinarily special, but in a world where we are constantly told to judge ourselves and compare ourselves against other people, creating a space that is 100% judgment-free and is empathetic of someone’s Individuality is a powerful thing.
My clients know that the second that they walk in the door, they’re safe. Because to me, if you’re a good person, you’re beautiful to me. That’s the energy and that’s the exchange that I get from clients and it’s also why the work that I do is so exhausting. How often are we really present in life? How often are we 100% here not thinking about anything else? How often that we don’t have to worry about what anybody else in the room is thinking about because we know that the entire room supports us? It’s really infrequent. That’s part of what Self Love Experience is. The pictures are just a reminder of the day, but the experience which you’re investing in, that’s the time, that’s the ability to see yourself through figuratively and literally a different lens.
The ability to, instead of looking at my acne, look at my cheekbones and my lips and my face and see myself in a completely different way. That’s the gift that I get to give to my clients. I help them to change the way that they look in the mirror and value themselves. When you have value in yourself, you’re not afraid of setting healthy boundaries, you aren’t afraid to be honest about your capacity, and you’re not afraid of people saying no because you know that you’ve got intrinsic value.
Self-acceptance is the only path to stop being a ‘yes person.’ Sometimes you’ll have to pour heavier into someone else’s cup before yourself, but when we weigh the scale of our heart we know where we can put our time and still thrive.
This is a FREE guide to improving self-love in 24 hours. A great first step in curating your most authentic and empathic life.
Follow my own journey on Instagram @thebodyimageactivist
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