Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon
Francine did such an amazing job discussing how we can start to nurture ourselves by taking time to pause and consider if we can take on another task or responsibility. When we take that pause, we check if we can take that next thing on and decide if the burden outweighs the benefit. Therefore, it is so important to create space to not do something, even if it will upset others. By taking on the job of caring for others, it can be so easy to feel responsible, or even guilty, when others ask us to add one more thing to our plate that is beyond our capacity. Sometimes, it can even feel like the guilt or responsibilities we feel are harder to manage than the burnout itself.
What can we do to validate and manage these feelings, while also making sure to care for ourselves? All feelings are valid. It is how we react to them that dictates how they interact or affect our lives. We want to acknowledge and validate all feelings, but then pause to know how to move forward, all while keeping in mind these feelings may appear opposite. For example, I want to talk to my friend about their hard day but had a tough day of my own, so I don’t know if I had the capacity to truly listen that day. If I lean into my feelings of guilt and responsibilities of a friend, I may feel it is just best to get the call over with. However, in the long run, these decisions will only increase our burnout. The decisions of who we can prioritize in the given moment will not end. When we make a decision motivated by the desire to avoid a negative feeling, instead, we will find ourselves even more burnt out. If we continue to react to the guilt, it will also continue to be felt. When we validate and then nurture, regardless of our decision in the end, we not only decrease burnout, it will help us practice caring for ourselves first!
This can be such a hard practice to keep up and is tough to start. Sometimes, decisions we make can only be evaluated well in hindsight, revealing how our choices affected us long after the fact. This is when we must practice the pause, validate the emotions, and think about what we can do for the next time. This is a continuous practice throughout life! Do not feel discouraged, pausing does not feel natural at first when we are accustomed to making quick decisions in our job. Those quick decisions save lives in our job, but we can and should take off that hat when we step back into our personal lives.