Constant fatigue. Exhaustion. Migraines. Stomaches. Brain fog. Irritability. Impatience. Lack of focus. Disengagement. Discouragement. Distress. Unmotivated. Frustrated. Cynical. Sleep-deprived. Stressed. Unhappy. Uptight. These are the symptoms of burnout I experienced during the most stressful season of my life–5 years ago.
As a wife, mother of a two-year-old and 12-year-old, full-time employees, graduate student who commuted to campus 50 miles away—I endured many sleepless nights researching and writing. And I endured many work days struggling to keep my eyes open while I drove back and forth between work, school, daycare, elementary schools, my in-laws home and church.
Between cooking dinner, helping my daughter with homework, grocery shopping, paying bills, working, parenting, housework, volunteering, commuting back and forth to school at night after work, reading, writing and studying into all hours of the night– I was emotionally drained and exhausted from all of life’s demands. And to top it all off, my number one support (my hubby), wasn’t available to me and our kids during this season because he, unfortunately, worked a 3-11pm shift.
But my husband and I were like 2 ships passing through the night (through no fault of his own I must add). But I was determined to push through my days– through all of my physical and emotional exhaustion. Through Loneliness. Crazy Traffic. Busy Grocery stores. Buzzing Daycares. Unexpected Dr. appointments. Terrible Sick days, low days, snow days, parent-teacher conference days, car repair days, car break-down days and yes even holidays. I even had to push through rebuke and judgment from others who believed I was not honoring God with my time because I didn’t attend church on many Sundays.
On many occasions, I had to stay up all night to get my course work done and on many mornings I’d hear the birds outside my ‘office’ window, chirping to announce the dawn a new day. Unbelievable. It was only by God’s grace that I was able to carry that load. And it was only by His grace I didn’t have a nervous break down because of that load. God truly was the source of my strength during this extremely stressful season. And thank God for my amazing bonus parents (in-laws) who helped care for my kids during this season. I could not have made it through that season without them. For realz. (I love y’all Cruzes).
If you haven’t already noticed, I am a HIGH achiever by nature. I’m very driven, ambitious, and laser-focused when it comes to reaching my goals. But it does come with a cost. You see– in that season of my life, I was so focused on getting everything done that I’d work straight through my days and nights, barely eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, or drinking any water. Now y’all know that’s not wise or healthy!
I can recall my legs cramping up from sitting in the same position for hours on end and my eyes being so weary and blurry from staring at my computer screen. That’s how focused and determined I was to get through graduate school. I was SUPER stressed–but still I pressed. (Be sure to check out this post to learn what was driving me to the point of unrest-and light-weight craziness). I was literally unstoppable. (So I thought).
As you can imagine, I was super stressed for a long period of time. And experiencing prolonged periods of stress are detrimental to our health. During those four years of my life, I have no doubt my cortisol levels (stress hormone) were very high. To help me navigate this season, I starting taking B-12 shots to help boost my energy levels. But I had to stop taking them because they boosted my heart rate! One more thing I didn’t need.
Never in my life had I felt so overwhelmed, exhausted, irritable, lethargic, forgetful and uptight. I rarely laughed or took time to ‘smell the roses’ as they say. But I was determined to finish my race. I refused to cease and desist. I can even remember my brother encouraging me to take off a semester from school to regroup.
But I didn’t listen. I pushed on. Because “I am woman. Hear me roar.” In hindsight, it was such ridiculousness. I simply didn’t lead that season of my life very well. SMH. But now I know better. Being under chronic stress wreaked havoc on every aspect of my wellbeing. Elevated cortisol levels not only interfered with my immune system, blood pressure, learning, and memory, they also increased my anxiety and caused me to often feel depressed.
Self-Care is an attitude toward ourselves that says “I am more than worth it.”
So, if you’re reading this and you are currently experiencing many of the same symptoms I listed at the beginning of this post—you may be on your way to an emotional crisis, nervous breakdown or burnout. Don’t try to push through it.
Listen to your body and take the necessary action to ensure you can be around for yourself and loved ones for the long haul. Reach out for help. Seek professional counsel if you need to. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s one of THE BRAVEST things you can do. Start taking personal responsibility for your emotional health. Learn how to manageyour stressand emotionaldistress in a healthyway.
Don’t allow yourself to get to the point of depression, hopelessness or a nervous breakdown. Don’t let yourself get to the point of feeling like you’re losing your mind. Act now. Get help. Make emotional self-care a priority. Create an emotional self-care plan today and commit to it DAILY.
Here are some practical emotional self-care strategies I’ve since learned to practice in order to strengthen my emotional well-being and feel my best emotionally.
The core of self-care is not selfishness or self-indulgence– it’s self-examination. Creating a self-care plan first starts with self-examination. It’s hard to implement an effective self-care treatment plan if you haven’t first identified your root problems. So what are you waiting for?
Your future self needs you to take care of your current self. You only have one life to live. Why not choose today to start living your best life today? Make the decision to prioritize your mental health and well-being. Because you, my friend, are more than worth it.