How to recover from taking on other people’s problems
In my work as a therapist I am seeing more and more people dealing with the effects of coping with too much for too long, without enough support and reaching the point of being completely over it.
Whether its nurses dealing with the needs of patients, parents responding to the demands of children, people looking after elderly relatives, or being the ‘go to’ person for all your friends when things get tough and they need a shoulder to cry on. It could be supporting a sick spouse, it could be managing a team through difficult times, it could be constant dissatisfied or distressed customers at work. Supporting and caring for others comes with a cost. And when that costs hits, it isn’t pretty.
What does it look like?
- Constant tiredness, yet having trouble sleeping
- a constant internal eye roll when others speak,
- loneliness but no energy for people,
- physical symptoms,
And so it goes on. A cheery list it is not? But added to this, what can also occur is a bit of an existential crisis.
How does it feel?
- Who have I become?
- I can’t be bothered with anyone else’s problems anymore?
- My kids really annoy me…
- I literally cannot be bothered helping…
- I can’t cope…. I’m just so miserable and moany and complainy.
Very simply, their and maybe your, tank is empty.
Sadly we are not superhuman with limitless emotional and physical energy for ourselves and others. We have a tank, or a battery, that just like a car or a mobile phone it needs to be recharged and rejuvenated on a regular basis.
The ideal rhythm of life would involve exertion and replacement of energy. Think of athletes with their rest days. We would deal with one draining situation and then spend time recovering and resting before we were ready to face our next. For most of us though, life just doesn’t roll like that. We are rarely given permission to turn off and tune out and often the one least likely to grant that permission is ourselves. We become our own worst enemy in perpetuating this cycle.
When we have reached this point of burn out, of totally over it-ness, or, we have actually decided we would like to avoid it in the first place, the only option left for us is to start to put ourselves first. This can be a foreign experience for many of us. We all love someone who looks after others first and themselves last. We never receive push back for this behaviour and in fact we can be encouraged to keep on in this way. But it is totally unsustainable and inevitably over time will breed resentment and despair.
How to start putting yourself first….
- Take an audit of your life – what is currently filling you up and what is depleting you
- Do some soul searching to find some more things that fill you up and prioritise these!
- Start saying no. Your tank is empty, unless the activity is filling you up you need to say no. This involves facing your fear of disappointing others but consider this, for everything you say yes to, you are accidentally saying no to other things anyway. Practice makes perfect, give it a go
- Practice self compassion. You have the skills, now turn them inward. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
- Practice meditation, or just silence. Tune in with how you feel and once you can identify what that is, turn your attention to what you need. Once you have this, prioritise getting this need me. This is the ultimate act of self care.
- Seek support. There is not reason or glory of facing this journey of recovery alone. You wouldn’t let anyone else do that, so why would you insist on that yourself?
To talk to me about fatigue, burnout, building a self care plan. Contact me here….