Struggling to switch-off? Stop trying!

The last Friday before Christmas is almost upon us. The end of the working year rushes into sight and the promise of a hefty break wafts into the room.

Tips for switching off floods social media with the obvious suspects of mindful breathing, CBT strategies, meditation and yoga – but what if these relaxation techniques just don’t work for you?

What if trying to relax stresses you out?

If you’re struggling with feelings of anxiety or are going through burnout you might feel frustrated and a bit hopeless that nothing really works to truly calm all that inner-buzzing.

And whilst therapists, gurus and self-helpers tout the benefits of quietness and turning inwards, for those who have experienced trauma or raised in an environment of dysfunction, having external stresses suddenly taken away can actually feel overwhelming. Rest and relaxation can quickly become fraught with sensations of restlessness, muscle fatigue, cramps and general fidgety agitation.

In a nutshell, doing nothing to find your inner-peace may well be counter-productive.

So what can you do when your off-switch is firmly wedged on? My clinical supervisor talked today about going with the flow of your own internal tick-rate, that is, if you’re a person used to running on adrenaline coming to a sudden stop can feel a bit like someone has unplugged your treadmill mid-sprint.

She suggested to me that high-energy types (such as myself!) may ultimately feel more relaxed by engaging in something of an equally high energy. Interesting concept.

Personally I like to drum (Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, anything beefy and loud..) which paradoxically keeps me still, present, engaged and mindful. Others may find intense physical activities relaxing. Maybe throwing yourself around the living room screaming to Slade in your Christmas undies is your thing. Whatever works, works.

Don’t be fooled into thinking switching off needs to be a certain way. If sitting watching Netflix actually fills you with wall-climbing tension, listen to the feelings and take care of your body.

Find your own groove. And a very Merry Christmas.

What Burnout Really Feels Like

There’s a lot banded around about burnout. Self-care feels like the buzzword of the moment. However as someone who has been struggling with burnout for at least three years now, I will tell you this. You cannot and will not remedy burnout by country walks, hot baths or positive affirmations.

Burnout is not being tired or having a busy period in work. Burnout is a measurement of your immune system’s fucked up-ness. You do not heal fucked up-ness by reading a book or cuddling kittens. That is called looking after yourself. And it most certainly does not fix burnout.

If you are going through this, I empathise with you. If you can avoid this, do so at your earliest convenience for once you fall down the rabbit hole you can’t climb out of it that easily. All the therapy in the world will not fix the physical stuff (sorry, Sean – my therapist) and your only chance of escaping is waiting patiently for sand to fall into the hole until you can feel daylight on your face once again.

If you haven’t had burnout here is what it feels like to go through it.

  1. You will feel angry. Your constant exhaustion will be met with unhelpful advice from others such as, try getting enough sleep, or, maybe you’re sleeping too much. Trust me, in recovery there is no such thing as too much. You will wake up tired. Everyday. Forever.
  2. Your GP will likely fob you off for many years suggesting you really have a mental health issue but without running adequate tests for deficiencies or other things such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
  3. You will ache. Everywhere. Usually around the joints, but there will be muscle stiffness too. Your gait will change and you will hobble like the Old Woman Who Lives in a Bloody Shoe.
  4. You will forget things. I recently forgot my boyfriend’s name. Fortunately he is a very good understanding boyfriend and this was not in the context of bed.
  5. You will pee all the time. Perhaps over 15-times a day. You will keep a fluid intake diary and wonder where the hell all the extra fluid comes from. You will get in bed at night and pee several times before you are allowed to fall asleep. You will pee in the night.
  6. You will be clumsy. You will knock into things. Tables, chairs, dogs. You will most definitely knock into things in the middle of the night whilst you go for a pee.
  7. You will have the concentration span of a gnat. If that gnat was pissed up on its work’s Christmas-do.
  8. You will have brain fog. Your brain will feel like the inside door of a tumble drier without the ability to de-fluff it.
  9. You will have no sex life. Sorry. Facts.
  10. You will forget what you wanted to write for number 10.
  11. You will be stressed, overwhelmed and miserable at times. Your GP will then remind you that you have depression, even though you are simply miserable from chronic pain and exhaustion.
  12. You will only be able to tolerate anything in incredibly short bursts before hitting THE WALL. The Wall can be observed in toddlers and baby animals. Mid conversation can suddenly come to a grinding…
  13. It may take years of rest, therapy, self-care, medical support and love from your friends and family to get though it. It may feel like you’ll never get through it but bit by bit some of your vim will return. Vim by vim.
  14. You will realise that you have to let go of certain traits. Tidiness, organisation and perfectionism will simply have to go. You will not give a rat’s arse about spelling mistakes and eventually give up on editing blogs because the words scramble aimlessly around the screen whenever you read them anyway.

#burnout #selfcare #mentalhealth