“What’s up with you? It’s as though you don’t even like yourself anymore.”
If you’ve heard this recently, pay attention. Someone who cares about you has noticed that you haven’t been showing yourself the love you need.
And here’s the thing. You may genuinely believe you love yourself. But your actions speak louder than words.
For instance, when I had all the signs of burnout, I would have sworn to you that I loved myself, yet my actions said otherwise.
I didn’t make time to look after myself. I felt worn out; overwhelmed; burned out. And it took me a while to figure out what I needed to do to recover.
I was slow to realize that it was important for me to change my perspective in order to kick my burnout recovery into gear. Deep down, I knew I had to stop neglecting myself. The remedy had to be self-care. But first, I had to understand what self-care is… and what it isn’t.
What Self-Care Is
Self-care is the way you express your love through your daily interactions with yourself: how you eat; how tenderly you bathe yourself; the clothes you choose; and, how you talk to yourself. This is all self-care, and reflects how much you love yourself.
Having a daily practice of caring for yourself – during which you listen to your body, tend to your needs and desires, and treat yourself like you would a beloved child – cultivates self-love and balance.
Because self-care is so crucial for burnout recovery and your overall well-being, in my next blog posts I’ll be covering the 6 essential self-care areas: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensory, and adventurous. You know I’m passionate about self-care, and I can’t wait to share with you.
What Self-Care Isn’t
Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that you force yourself to do, nor is it something you don’t enjoy doing. As noted psychologist and burnout expert Agnes Wainman explained, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes from us.”
More importantly, self-care isn’t a selfish act either. It is not only about considering your needs; it is knowing what you need to do in order to take care of yourself so that you can take care of others as well.
This is really important to understand: if you don’t take good enough care of yourself, you won’t be able to give to your loved ones either.
Yet you can also have too much of a good thing.
One Self-Care Mistake to Avoid
I’m clearly a huge proponent of self-care. Yet I urge you not to schedule too much self-care at once. Anything you do in excess will cause overwhelm. That includes self-care. And when you’re overwhelmed, you’ll find it hard to consistently care for yourself.
Take one of my clients, who decided to create two self-care processes, one for the morning and one for bedtime.
She chose to implement 6 items into the morning routine and the same for bedtime. When I asked if she felt comfortable with this, she said yes.
After a week, I checked in with her. She had not yet incorporated her self-care processes into her schedule, and she was beating herself up over it.
We talked about how she could make this new venture more fun and more manageable, and she decided to focus primarily on her bedtime process at first. The plan was that once this process became a habit, it would be easier to implement a morning process too.
She chose 2 or 3 self-care items for bedtime, which allowed her to relax into and enjoy her new routine. Instead of feeling pressured to add self-care into her schedule, she was able to have fun with her new practices and build them gradually into her daily routine. Over time, her days began to flow with greater joy and ease.
How To Create An Effective Self-Care Routine
A great starting point is addressing your relationship with your body. We women tend to push our bodies as though they’re machines. I’m aware that’s what I did. Because you may have been neglecting your body and what it needs, my suggestion is to start a self-care practice where you connect with your body. As you have probably noticed already, when you ignore your body’s messages your body always manages to get in the last word.
Start with baby steps. For example, add one new self-care item to your routine every 1-3 weeks or as each item becomes a habit.
Or, alternatively, consider a time limit. Begin with your entire list of items but only give 5 minutes for each one. Then increase these time frames as desired every 1-3 weeks until your routine is flowing and feels effective.
Yet if you’re not sure how to get started or if you still have questions, here’s a practice of mine you can use.
My Simple Self-Care Practice
My From Burnout to Balance Simple 10-Minute Daily Self-Care Practice was essential to my burnout recovery.
This practice has been shown to:
- Increase mindfulness, well-being, self-confidence, and personal power
- Increase your ability to concentrate
- Cultivate a greater resilience to stress, a positive mindset, and a sense of hopefulness and calm
- Decrease stress and stress-related symptoms like frustration, mood swings, feelings of overwhelm or lack of control, anxiety, depression, low energy, headaches, body aches and pains, muscle tension, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and frequent colds and infections
- Reduce or even stop worrying
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Click here to get My From Burnout to Balance Simple 10-Minute Daily Self-Care Practice, where I walk you through it step by step…
With this practice, you can can start right away to deepen your self-care and start your recovery from burnout.
But that’s not all I have for you. Sign up for my mailing list, and you’ll receive regular tips and advice on burnout recovery, self-care, special events, and more.
“Why did they ask me to do that? I don’t have time! Don’t they know how busy I am…and did I really just say YES?!”
If this sounds like some of your internal monologue, I want to offer you support with setting personal boundaries both as a way of self-care and to overcome burnout.
Personal What, Now?!
Many of us women were never taught about personal boundaries or, if we were, we inferred that setting a boundary meant putting up a wall between ourselves and others. Like when you’ve had all you can take, you snap, “That’s it! I’ve had enough!” in your frustration and resentment.
By then, of course, it’s too late. Snapping a protective wall into place is the antithesis of a healthy boundary; it’s reactive rather than proactive, and is a protective measure rather than a thoughtful means of caring for yourself.
But why is it so difficult to figure out and set healthy boundaries?
You weren’t taught to. Most of us weren’t.
Let me explain.
Healthy Personal Boundaries Fly In The Face Of Conventional Wisdom
At its core, a healthy boundary is a principle that you live by. Brene Brown defines boundaries as simply what is and isn’t okay for you.
Sounds simple, right?
Except you’ve probably received a lifetime of confusing messages about what is or isn’t personally acceptable for you. We women get a lot of “shoulds” – we should feel a certain way, choose certain professions, behave in specific ways in order to please others and be rewarded. Which sets up a vicious circle:
You push yourself to conform to society’s conventional wisdom of how you should be. Yet you feel like you perpetually fall short, leading you to push yourself harder. You wind up feeling like you’re never quite up to standard…which stresses you out and leads you down the path to full blown burnout.
To top it off, we’re also given strong messages that self-care – which is essential to setting boundaries and overcoming burnout – is selfish and self-indulgent.
In other words, if you’re uncertain about your true principles, and confused about your boundaries, it’s not your fault!
How To Skillfully Set A Personal Boundary
Since your personal boundaries rest on the foundation of your life principles, I encourage you to take some quiet time to identify your most cherished ones.
For example, let’s say upon reflection you’ve realized that quality time with your family is something you deeply value. Yet over and over again, you’re asked to take on volunteer work that cuts into your family time. You agree because, well, they’re good causes. Yet even as you agree, you feel resentful, which is a sign your boundary was just violated.
I want you to practice saying out loud, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t have room in my schedule to take that on.” Practice it by yourself, or role play with a person you trust. Practice saying this until you can do it calmly. Be prepared to repeat yourself. And, if you can, smile while you say it.
There’s no need to explain or justify your response.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s something you deeply value?
- What personal boundary might you set now to honor that more fully?
Send A Powerful Signal Of Self-Care With Healthy Personal Boundaries (And Bring Yourself Back From Burnout)
The simple action of setting a healthy personal boundary will make you feel freer. You’ll be caring for yourself in a powerful way when you demonstrate your commitment to your boundary and its accompanying principle.
And can you intuit how graciously setting a boundary will help you overcome burnout? You will have taken a step toward lessening your overwhelm and stress, both signs of burnout. And you’re sending a signal to the Universe that you’re important. You matter. Your principles matter.
While this may in theory sound like a simple step to take, I know how scary it feels to move past years of heavy social conditioning. You don’t have to do this alone. When you sign up for my email list, you’ll receive regular support and advice including:
- Why self-care and self-love are essential for health and well-being
- Powerful practices to love and care for yourself
- Opportunities to join group events
Plus, I’m here to support you. Comment below and share your responses to these two questions from above:
- What’s something you deeply value?
- What personal boundary might you set now to honor that more fully?
Let’s inspire each other to set healthy personal boundaries for ourselves.
“Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.” – Anne Wilson Schaef
Are you the queen of perfectionism?
People could hardly stand to be around me. I was unbearable. Everything had to be done the way I did it, or it wasn’t done correctly.
But if you’re pitying the person on the receiving end of my perfectionism, know that I was harder on myself than anyone else. Everything had to be perfect, so I could never be satisfied with anything I did. Because, let’s face it, there’s no such thing as perfection.
As perfectionism took its toll on my health and well-being, I realized I needed to be okay with “good enough.” So I began to catch myself whenever I was being a perfectionist (which was almost all the time). I would stop what I was doing and say, “It’s okay if it’s good enough.”
At first I would find myself clenching my teeth while I declared, “Okay, it’s good enough! I’m done.” I would make myself move on, even when it was very challenging. But over time I relaxed and stopped clenching my teeth.
Still, there was a catch.
Just When I Thought I’d Moved Beyond Perfectionism, Guess What Happened?
After many years of “good enough”, I had gotten pretty good at catching any perfectionistic tendencies before they caused trouble. And then, I started dating my now-husband, Dean. He began to visit me in South Florida from his home in New York State. Maybe you can guess what happened!
From what I recall, it started with the dishwasher. Well, it’s my dishwasher so, of course, I would know the only right way to arrange the dishes in it. And my husband is a wonderful man, so he would load the dishwasher for me.
One day I opened the dishwasher to put something in. To my horror, it was in complete disarray. Things that should have been in the bottom rack were on the top, and vice versa. The big plates were blocking the water access, and… well, I could go on and on.
I hustled into the living room and said to Dean, “Can you come into the kitchen so I can show you how to load the dishwasher.” He just looked at me kind of amused. “Honey, I know how to load a dishwasher,” he said. To which I responded, “I believe that you know how to load your dishwasher, but this is my dishwasher, and I need to show you a few things.”
When he said calmly, “You know, it doesn’t have to be perfect,” that was when it hit me that my perfectionism had reared its ugly head. I paused for a moment. Then I laughed. “Okay!” I said, “Then can I show you how it can be good enough?”
We had a good laugh over that.
Luckily, in this situation, we were both able to have a sense of humor, so it actually brought us closer together instead of driving us apart.
Yet you probably know that the long-term results of rampant perfectionism aren’t nearly so benign.
Why Chronic Perfectionism Can Put You In Full-Blown Burnout
The impact of perfectionism is that you are never satisfied. Your energy is drained; you feel overwhelmed, like you’ll never catch up; you’re forgetful and have a hard time focusing; you have difficulty sleeping; and you lose your sense of enjoyment in life.
As well, some of the largest costs associated with perfectionism may be in terms of poor health. A longitudinal study following a sample of Canadians over 6.5 years showed that perfectionism predicted earlier mortality! This finding held even after controlling for other health risk factors such as pessimism and low conscientiousness.
Yes, perfectionism can cause you to die sooner than you would if you let go of it.
But for most of us, unrelenting perfectionism can be a recipe for chronic stress – a major contributor to burnout.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on beneath the veneer of perfectionism.
What’s Under The Mask Of Perfectionism
Underlying perfectionism is the fear that you’re not lovable if you make a mistake.
You feel that you won’t be or can’t be loved if you’re not perfect.
Most of us developed this belief early in our childhood; long before we were ever conscious of it. By the time you’re an adult, perfectionism is deeply etched into your being and taking a toll on your health and happiness.
You may not be satisfied with anything you do, convinced that no matter how hard you try it just won’t be good enough. You may also fear that someone will agree with you. The irony is that you will find whatever you’re looking for. So if you look for imperfections and believe they’re there, you’re going to find them.
Maybe you fear making a mistake. And when you do (because we’re human and we all make mistakes), you’re convinced you’re unlovable. You tell yourself you’re dumb; a fool; an idiot – leading you to feel even more unworthy of love, which causes you to stop caring for yourself. And so you drive your self-worth into the ground in a spiral of self-loathing.
Can you see how insidious this belief is?
Now let’s take a look at the remedy.
The Antidote To Perfectionism
Since Wikipedia defines perfectionism as “strain[ing] compulsively and unceasingly toward unobtainable goals, and measur[ing] … self-worth by productivity and accomplishment,” you can see how you unwittingly tank your feeling of self-worth when you don’t measure up.
And lack of self-worth means you’re not loving yourself. You can’t love what you don’t value.
Thus, the remedy to perfectionism and its accompanying feeling of being unlovable is surprisingly simple, yet powerful:
Love and care for yourself no matter what.
Here are examples of what I mean:
- Schedule time for self-care such as soaking in a hot bath, reading your favorite book, or getting a massage
- Exercise daily; even a 10-minute walk will support your well-being
- Eat nutritious food
- Establish a practice of saying affirmations daily
Here’s a powerful affirmation that’s appropriate to perfectionism:
“I give up being perfect for being authentic. All parts of me are lovable, and it’s safe to share them. Authenticity is the key to genuine connection with myself and others.”
Through the years, I’ve coached many clients who were perfectionists. By focusing on self-love and self-care, they’ve been able to release the need to be perfect and the seriousness of purpose that accompanies it. This has allowed them to embrace fun, joy, and authenticity more often and with greater ease.
I’ve put together a list of 23 of My Favorite Self-Care Activities That Take Less Than 15 Minutes for you to refer to as you focus on self-love and self-care. Sign up here to receive this gift right away!
It’s Time To Let Go Of Your Perfectionism
You know perfectionism can wreck your health, put you into full-blown burnout, and rob you of the joy that’s your birthright.
It’s time to let it go. For your sake, as well as for the sake of people who love you and care about you.
As well, trust me when I say that people actually find you more lovable when you screw things up! When you’re authentically imperfect, you invoke your humanity. Others like to see that you too are human, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to be around a perfect person all the time.
I understand that letting go of your perfectionism may seem daunting. But I also know when you make a conscious commitment to yourself, your life will dramatically improve.
If you desire to be supported by me in your letting go, I encourage you to join my free From Burnout to Balance 7-Day Self-Love Challenge.
During these 7 days, we’ll look at what’s really going on beneath the signs of burnout. I’ll give you simple strategies for how to turn things around so you can get on the path towards balance and enjoying your life again…
If you’re ready to break out of the burnout cycle and desire to be…
- Relaxed and confident, knowing you’re tending to the most important priorities
- Energized, clear and focused
- Calm, easy-going and peaceful
- Sleeping like a baby and waking up rested
- Engaged, inspired and passionate about your life
Join me by clicking here to sign up for my next From Burnout to Balance 7-Day Self-Love Challenge.
“I’m self-sufficient, I don’t need anyone, and I can get things done on my own without any help.”
If this sounds familiar, you’re probably jeopardizing your mental health and heading down the path to burnout.
Yet if you can acknowledge that doing everything yourself is neither sustainable nor desirable, you’ll be able to course correct – and improve both your mental and physical health.
I know it can be scary to admit you can’t do everything yourself, because I’ve been there. I remember worrying: What if no one believes me when I finally profess how hard it is to do everything myself? Maybe I’m just a complete wuss. If I come clean about how hard this is, am I negating my accomplishments? What if no one wants to help me?
It’s really frightening!
But when I’d burned myself out and had to accept that I couldn’t do everything by myself anymore, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I began to heal.
Why Do You Feel You Have To Do Everything Yourself?
When you think about it, isn’t it astonishing how we women get the message we’re supposed to handle every last little thing without help?
We feel this way for a variety of reasons. Common ones are:
- You like to consider yourself an independent, capable woman, able to do it all on your own
- Your perfectionist self stops you from asking for support because it seems like nobody can do things as well as you
- Or your inner critic stops you from asking for support, telling you that you should be able to do it on your own
- Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that you truly can ask for support; you can delegate, you can be part of a team rather than continue to do life as a solo adventure
These are all things I’ve done, so I get it! My mother raised me to be independent. Don’t get me wrong; independence is a stellar quality. I just took it too far.
Rate Yourself On The “All By Myself” Scale
Using the reasons I mentioned above, let’s take a snapshot of where you are now on the “all by myself” scale. This isn’t meant to judge; rather, it’s for you to get an understanding of your current state.
So, on a scale of 0-10, rate how often you try to do things all alone:
0: Not at all, never
10: All the time, always
Remember, there is no right or wrong, good or bad place to be right now. This number gives you a baseline of information. Acknowledging this without self-judgment is the first step to beginning to shift it. You can change this.
When I was on the burnout cycle, I was 9 on the scale of 0-10 when it came to doing things all alone. Can you imagine? No wonder I was burned out.
Since you’re not stuck at any point on this scale, let’s consider how you can change.
Where Would You Like To Rate?
Using the same scale and reasons, above, think about where you would like to be in 90 days. Would you like to do everything yourself:
0: Not at all, never
10: All the time, always
After you set your goal, here are a couple of assessment questions to ask yourself:
- How will you know you’re there?
- What will you be doing or choosing differently?
I encourage you to set this target with a number so you have something tangible to aim for. By setting a target like this, you bring it into your conscious, daily awareness, which lets you focus on allowing yourself to be supported in order to create the change you want.
For instance, when I thought I was Superwoman and tried to do it all alone, I was paralyzed by exhaustion and overwhelm. However, when I began to understand myself more clearly, I realized that not only had I been punishing myself, but also pushing away others who wanted to contribute to me. Once this awareness dawned, I experienced more ease, increased energy, and greater connection with others, which improved the quality of my relationships.
In other words, I brought myself back from burnout. You can too.
How To Stop Doing Everything Yourself And Come Back From Burnout
The solution is disarmingly simple:
Ask for help from others.
Whether you’re at the office or at home, when you learn how to ask for help, you’ll feel relaxed and confident. You’ll free yourself up to tend to your most important priorities, and you’ll feel energized, clear, and focused. As well, you’ll be calm, easy-going and peaceful; sleeping like a baby and wake up rested, engaged in, inspired by, and passionate about your life.
Any time you ask for support, you’re practicing a powerful form of self-love. You’re telling yourself and the Universe that you care enough about yourself to get help with whatever you are attempting to do, instead of letting yourself struggle alone with the weight of the world on your shoulders. This support also adds balance to your life, because you now have more time for self-care and the things you enjoy.
You’ll create more of what you desire in your life – without burning out.
Remove The Blocks Holding You Back
I know what you’re thinking…
“Whitney, I feel so blocked about asking for help.”
Simple though asking for support may be, there’s often a bunch of gunk that keeps you from reaching out. So, let’s dive in and de-gunk!
A. First think of a situation where you could use some help.
B. Then ask yourself these 4 questions:
- What keeps you from asking for support?
- What stops you from delegating a task?
- What would it be like to delegate?
- How might you delegate?
C. Take a few minutes to jot down your answers.
D. Next, write down your answers to the following questions:
- If you were to get someone’s support, what would the benefits be for you?
- What could you delegate and get support with, even if it’s something small to start?
Give this exercise a try. Then, consider your responses to the following questions and comment below:
Are you willing to delegate 1 small thing this week?
And if so, what is that 1 thing?
It’s Time To Get Support
Now that you know why getting support is vital, and how you can ask for it, I want you to imagine the new beliefs you’ll be able to tell yourself:
“I ask for help when I need it. I receive support as a way to care for myself. I support my happiness and well-being when I accept help.”
You’ll feel calmer and more at ease when you relax into the benefits of receiving help. No longer will you be overwhelmed and racing down the road to burnout.
Life will feel joyful again – and you’ll feel satisfied, knowing you’ve taken vital steps to restore your wellness.
It’s time to reach out and ask for help. And speaking of help, sign up for my email list to receive regular tips and techniques to bring you back from burnout and into balance. I look forward to supporting you!
Oprah once wrote, “Value yourself more.”
And the best way to do so? Take specific action to help yourself feel more valued.
I know it’s easier said than done. But the alternative – not valuing yourself enough – can lead to burnout; something no one wants for themselves.
Let me explain.
When you don’t take time for yourself each day; when you prioritize others’ well-being over your own, you’re not valuing yourself. You often end up not giving your body the attention and care it needs. You feel stressed and overwhelmed. You’re forgetful, and have difficulty focusing on or completing even the simplest tasks.
Plus, with all that stress, you can kiss a good night’s sleep goodbye.
Overwhelm; stress; poor sleep; forgetfulness; lack of focus; neglect of physical self-care: these are all signs of burnout.
And it can creep up on you almost before you realize what’s happening.
How You Can Devalue Yourself Without Even Realizing It
A few years ago, I had a self-care routine that was working great for me. I was healthy, happy, nourished and nurtured physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Then little by little, I let the demands of work erode my self-care until I had stopped scheduling “me” time and began to put work ahead of my own needs. I didn’t value myself enough to be my own priority – even though I knew better.
The slow but steady erosion of caring for myself was all it took for me to go off balance then burn out. Likewise, if you don’t guard your own “me” time, it could easily disappear, putting you on the path to burnout.
When You Question Your Worthiness
As I mentioned above, there are substantial costs of not valuing yourself. If you’re already dealing with or feeling the costs such as overwhelm, sleeping poorly, and not enjoying yourself, you may never actually create all that you desire. Then you end up wondering, why aren’t I getting what I want?
Well, how can you expect to get all that you’re asking for if on some level, you’re questioning your worthiness? When you don’t value yourself, you continue to hit glass ceilings with income, intimacy, and your overall ability to influence your entire life.
How Much Do You Value Yourself Right Now?
Here’s a simple, quick exercise you can do as an assessment of how much you currently value yourself.
First, on a scale of 0-10, rate how much you feel that you value yourself. Valuing yourself includes such activities as eating nourishing food, taking time for a walk in your favorite place, or meditating or other spiritual practice.
0: Not at all, never
10: All the time, always
Know that there is no right or wrong, good or bad answer. This number gives you a baseline – a snapshot of where you are at this moment.
Second, take a few minutes to hone in and get specific about where not valuing yourself shows up in your life. In your relationships? Career? Your physical health; food choices; financial health; with your family?
Acknowledging your current state, without judgment, is the first step to valuing yourself more.
The good news? You have the power to change your situation!
The Benefits Of Valuing Yourself
Let me lay out the benefits of valuing yourself and how that ties into balance and the deepening of self-love:
Your self-care practice is the demonstration of self-love. Then, the impact your practice has is that as you’re loving yourself, and as you’re valuing yourself, everything around you begins to change.
You begin to feel more relaxed and confident, knowing you’re tending to your most important priorities. You’re more energized, clear, and focused. You feel calmer and more peaceful.
Instead of being a stressed-out insomniac, you sleep like a baby and wake up rested. You’re happy, inspired by, and passionate about your life.
Best of all, you’re able to create more of what you desire!
For instance, you may actually begin to experience more intimacy with your romantic partner because you’re valuing yourself; that is, you’re being more intimate with yourself, leading you to more intimacy with your partner.
Because you’re taking time to love yourself, you’re resonating at a higher vibration. You’re more easily able to attract a soulmate (if you’re looking for one); or new clients, business opportunities, and just good things in general. All this is possible when you take the time and make the commitment to value yourself.
Keep reading; there’s more!
How Much Would You Like To Value Yourself?
Remember that scale from the exercise above?
Now, think about where you would like to be on the same scale in 90 days. How much more would you like to value yourself?
Here it is again:
0: Not at all, never
10: All the time, always
I ask you to set this target with a number so you have something to aim for. By setting a target like this along with acknowledging where you are now, you bring “value myself more” into your conscious, daily awareness. This helps you prioritize your time and commitment to truly create the change you want.
To start, I recommend setting aside 15 minutes each day for your self-care practice. Put the 15 minutes into your calendar and treat it as sacrosanct. The best way to show yourself and those around you that you are serious about valuing yourself is to honor the 15 minutes of self-care. Be like a fierce mama bear – nobody can take this special sacred time away from you!
“If you talk about it, it’s a dream. If you envision it, it’s possible. But if you schedule it, it’s real.” – Tony Robbins
To help you, I’ve put together a list of 23 of My Favorite Self-Care Activities That Take Less Than 15 Minutes – simply sign up here to receive it right away. I don’t want you to be stuck in trying to create a self-care practice and delaying your “me” time. I’m here for you!
“The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get.” – Oprah Winfrey
What are you grateful for?
When Oprah says the more grateful you are, the more you get, she’s right. And that includes more healing to help you recover from burnout.
I know what you’re thinking…
“Can practicing gratitude really help me get over being burned out?”
Truth is: yes, it can.
The organization Workplace Strategies For Mental Health cites numerous cases of people whose burnout recovery has been supported by writing daily in a gratitude journal to help them refocus their mind on the positive aspects of their life.
And digging deeper into the research uncovers some undeniable facts. Let’s take a look.
The Scientifically-Supported Benefits Of Gratitude
Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California–Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done much of the research on gratitude. A number of years ago they published an article, “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life,” about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being.
They followed several hundred people who were split into three groups and asked to keep daily diaries, as follows:
Group 1 – note events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things;
Group 2 – record their unpleasant experiences; and
Group 3 – make a daily list of things for which they felt grateful.
You’ll be astonished at the results.
Daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of:
- Optimism, and
In addition, those in the gratitude group:
- experienced less depression and stress,
- were more likely to help others,
- exercised more regularly, and
- made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.
These are all characteristics that will help you recover from – and prevent a recurrence of – burnout. And for ongoing support, click here to join my online community to receive weekly tips and advice.
What I’d Forgotten When I Was Burned Out
Several years ago, I found myself in full-blown burnout. I became so focused on trying to do too much that I stopped allotting time to my many feel-good practices, including feeling gratitude for all the blessings in my life. Then, when I was struggling with burnout, I felt frustrated: “Why me? Why am I so tired? Why can’t I do anything?”
I couldn’t muster gratitude for the burnout symptoms. All I could see were struggles and challenges. Blessings were nowhere to be found.
Does this sound familiar? You look at your life, and all you see is the negative.
Then, during one of my Somatic Experiencing practices, when I began to listen to my body, but this time with an intense desire to heal from burnout, I received a message that holding on to frustration was not going to support my healing. That message was a wake-up call for me.
Just then, a book on my inspirational bookshelf caught my eye. I hadn’t looked at it in more than a decade, yet it called to me. The book is titled Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach.
As I read through the first several pages of the book, the January 13th essay header, “Gratitude: Awakening the Heart,” grabbed my attention. The phrase, “The more I focused on lack and on what I couldn’t have, the more depressed I became. The more depressed I became, the more I focused on lack,” leapt out at me.
Can you can relate?
I’d spent day after day horizontal, struggling with burnout, feeling ever more depressed while focusing on what I couldn’t do. I was trapped in the cycle Sarah described.
Sarah went on to say, “At that moment I acknowledged the deep longing in my heart. What I hungered for was an inner peace that the world could not take away… I looked at my life with open eyes. I saw that I had much for which to be grateful. I felt humbled by my riches and regretted that I took for granted the abundance that already existed in my life. How could I expect more from the Universe when I didn’t appreciate what I already had?”
It was as though she was speaking directly to me. I, too, wanted that inner peace. But I had been taking for granted the abundance that was already in my life.
In short, I had forgotten to be grateful.
How Gratitude Helped Me Recover From Burnout (And Can Help You Too)
Writings by Christine Breese, DD, PhD, further confirm that a gratitude practice can help you with your emotional well-being. According to Dr. Breese, “… the practice of gratitude and appreciation is a powerful way to create a positive reality”. That’s what I wanted to create! I was determined to create a positive reality for myself.
As part of my healing-from-burnout journey, I began counting my blessings and choosing to refocus on being grateful for what I had, instead of what I lacked. Each day I wrote down 3 to 10 things that I was grateful for in my journal. My discovery of research showing the benefits of a gratitude practice inspired me to be consistent with my attitude of gratitude. Although it was difficult for me at first, that mental state has grown stronger with use and practice.
Through a consistent practice of gratitude, I started experiencing a greater sense of well-being. I felt less depressed, less stressed, more aware and motivated, and increasingly optimistic. Upon reflection, I now see that by giving thanks, I was also receiving that which I was giving thanks for in even greater abundance.
If you’re burned out, chances are you have a Type-A personality. You’re always on the go; forever busy. You don’t slow down to actually receive. Yet there is something powerful about practicing gratitude, not as yet another item on your to-do list, but as an invitation to slow your pace and receive all the blessings in your life.
With gratitude, you acknowledge the goodness in your life. In the process, you’ll realize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside yourself. As a result, gratitude can help you connect more strongly to something larger than yourself — your higher power.
Are You Ready To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude?
As you acknowledge appreciation for what you’re given, the Universe sees fit to give you more to be grateful for. You’ll manifest more good things in your life. This has been true for me, and I have no doubt it can be true for you too. In fact, research shows that people who are more grateful are happier, more satisfied with their lives, and less likely to suffer from burnout.
What’s 1 thing you’re grateful for? Comment below.
It’s so easy to get started with a gratitude practice… by sharing below!