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Feeling burnt out? First aid first things first

Burn out is caused by running on adrenaline. You are used to rushing and constant 'busyness'. You feel simultaneously exhausted and buzzing, depressed and/or anxious.

Whether you are burnt out because of work, or because of your personal circumstances, you have learnt how to ignore yourself and carry on regardless of how you really feel. As a result you eventually get physically, mentally and emotionally worn out.

Like medical first aid, emotional first aid aims to:

  • Prevent further harm.
  • Aid recovery and healing.
  • Provide comfort and reassurance.

The first thing you need to do is to allow your body recover. The stronger you feel physically, the easier it is to mentally and emotionally recover. It is not advisable to stop day to day life suddenly. You may find it impossible to stop without crashing, so allow your system to slow down gently. Try and slow down, find some gears other than full ahead or stop.

Rest often, and find a balance with doing activities that you find relaxing or interesting, but not too stressful or exciting. You are trying to lower the adrenaline levels in your body and not keep stoking them.

Develop good, healthy eating and sleeping patterns. Sugar and caffeine fuel the ups and downs, so try and avoid them. Develop a gentle routine and plan your days to include 'self care' time.

Focus on activities that put 'fuel back in the tank', rather than depleting yourself more. Have a massage or pampering baths, go for walks in the countryside or by the sea, cut the lawn, cook, DIY, exercise, get outside and be in touch with nature, walk the dog, garden, socialise with friends or family.

Provide comfort and reassurance

Be kind to yourself, and stop bullying, blaming and beating yourself up. Learn to be kinder to criticising yourself.

Be kind and patient with yourself and examine the stick you use to beat yourself with.

Work out what it says on the stick - "you are not good enough", "nobody really likes you", "you are not worthy of the good things in your life", " that isn't perfect", "you should have done more / better" - and then get rid of it!

Replace the stick with something more useful, something comforting, supportive and not so harsh. A cushion, blanket, a mantra, uplifting music, a book and caring people. Find some ways of being kind and encouraging towards yourself. If you are stuck, think how you treat other people when they need some encouragement or help.

Allow yourself to be 'nourished'. Stop giving so much and let other people or your environment give something back to you. Learn to receive.

What is the first and best small change that you will do right now? Repeat throughout the day.

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