Women expect a lot of themselves: a strong marriage, healthy children, time to pursue personal goals and interests, etc. These are wonderful aspirations, but we also need to “get real” or risk burning out.
Physical and emotional burnout is a real problem, particularly in our community. LDS Living recently conducted a survey in which they found that 95% (of 1900 individuals surveyed) reported that they had experienced burnout (specifically in a religious/ spiritual sense). This is an epidemic that is affecting many of us, and clearly, something has to change. Here are 5 steps to prevent and avoid burnout:
1) Be Aware of Your “Ideal Identity”
Everyone has characteristics that they want to embody or ways they want to be perceived. These constitute what researcher Brené Brown calls an “ideal identity.” For example, maybe your ideal identity means having a perfect work/ life balance or always being patient with your children. Having your ideal identity threatened or being perceived in a way that you don’t want to be can trigger shame, or a feeling of being unworthy of love. The first step to avoiding burnout is recognizing what your ideal identity is.
2) Understand that Your Ideal Identity is Unattainable
It’s important to consciously accept that your ideal identity is never going to happen 100% of the time. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have goals or strive to be better, but instead to understand that working too hard for an unrealistic expectation can cause feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness. But by recognizing that an ideal identity is unattainable, you aren’t setting ourselves up for failure.
3) Know that Your Behavior Will Fluctuate
After understanding your ideal identity, the next step is to recognize that your actions and behavior will fluctuate. Some days you may be very productive, where others you don’t accomplish as much as we’d wanted. It’s okay to have an off-day! Since nobody is perfect, give yourself permission to make a mistake or not be as “good” as you had wanted.
4) Focus on Growth
Instead of feeling shame when you fall short of our ideal identity, choose instead to focus on the things you learned and progressed. For example, most all mothers have experienced a “bad-parenting” moment. While someone may figuratively beat herself up for losing our temper or doing something else wrong, the better approach is to ask “what can I learn from this?” (I’ve found that some of the best opportunities for growth come from situations that are difficult, even disastrous). Avoid burnout by focusing on the growth and progress you’ve made.
5) Notice and Honor the Signs of Burn-out
I think many of us are feeling burnout and not even knowing it: we find ourselves going through the motions and not really finding enjoyment or satisfaction in our lives. Our bodies can tell us when we’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Look for signs like aches, muscle tensions, headaches, excessive tiredness, etc. If you are experiencing burnout, remember that you are just as important as any other person, and that you may need a break, a rest, or a change. Work to take care of your physical and emotional well-being. Identify what it is that makes you feel alive and fulfilled, and pursue that passion or interest.
If you find yourself getting emotionally exhausted or overwhelmed, explore Dr. Hanks’s book “The Burnout Cure” for more tips and strategies to help you get your life back.