Before we begin, think about these questions in regards to self-care:
- What is one thing you do in the morning for self-care?
- What is one thing you do after work/school for self-care?
- What is one thing you want to do for self-care, but you never get around to it?
Where are we in the year?
For most students, the long Winter Break just ended, and we are transitioning back to a typical school schedule. Some parents were able to join their children with an extended break over the holidays, and are also transitioning back to a work schedule. Others have continued to work through the holidays and never actually received a significant holiday break.
It can be extremely difficult and exhausting meeting our academic and work needs without engaging in self-care. Without self-care, we may experience the phenomena known as “burnout.”
Burnout describes what happens when a student or professional becomes increasingly “inoperative.” In other words, burnout commonly is described as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced performance. It can take many forms; rigidity, irritability, feeling helpless, or quickness to anger. As burnout worsens, its affects can take a more serious turn; paranoia, self-medication, or being closed off to all feedback.
We may not pay full attention to the reality of burnout until suddenly everything seems overwhelming. We may lack the knowledge of what is transpiring to assess our experience objectively that would enable us to take proper measures to restore balance to our lives.
It is important to address this complicated exhaustion before the feeling of depletion leads to dysfunction and beyond.
What’s the answer?
Self-care can be defined as the balancing activities in which people can engage to preserve personal longevity and happiness in their relationships, and their careers. By engaging in self-care, we can assert our right to be well and reintroduce our own needs into the question. It’s common to feel guilty about needing to take care of ourselves, but it’s also the healthy and healing choice in order to take care of others when we need to.
Keep in mind, no single technique will relieve all of your stress. However, by paying attention to our physical and emotional self, we will increase our ability to effectively manage stress as well as our resilience, or our ability to “bounce back.”
Activities of self-care span a wide range and can include:
- Start the day with a relaxing ritual. Instead of jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least 15 minutes reading something that inspires you, writing or drawing in a journal, stretching, or meditating
- Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. Eating right, regular physical activity, and getting plenty of rest can lead to the energy and resilience needed in order to deal with life’s hassles and demands
- Be creative! Participate in personal endeavors that are non-school or professional activities. Creativity is a powerful defense against burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby.
- Ask for support from mentors or a peer group. Explore how other people find their balance wellness between their academic or professional life. You have a lot more control of stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help regain your balance.
- Set boundaries. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time and don’t overextend yourself. This can be difficult, but just remember that saying “no” allows you to say ‘yes” to other things that you truly want to do.
- Take a break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect from all screens and technology. Put away your phone, laptop, and stop checking your emails.
- Take time for self-reflection. Identify what’s important in your life and live in a way that reflects it.
- Prevention can also be extremely helpful for stress and burnout. For example, identifying natural self-care strengths already present in your life and learning how to apply these and additional strategies more consistently can help you grow, develop, and survive school or your career.
Our lives may never be stress free, but there is so much you can do to make sure you are appropriately engaging in self-care in order to improve your well-being, while helping alleviate work/school related stress that can lead to burnout.
Remember those self-care questions at the beginning of this article? After reading more about burnout and self-care, do you have some new ideas? I hope so!
Dr. Adam Share is on the staff of Athans and Associates. He supports his clients through discovering personal strengths to build confidence, and engages clients in the therapeutic process through play and support therapies. Interventions may include cognitive-behavioral therapies, non-directive play therapy, music, art, and mindfulness-based therapy approaches. Dr. Share utilizes a systems approach incorporating all aspects of the individual’s environment into the therapeutic process.
Adam Share, Psy.D.
Athans and Associates
Behavioral Health Care
32 Main Street, Park Ridge, IL