Ongoing Stress Management
We’ve spent time in this course talking about sources of burnout, and how you can rebuild your life in recovery after burnout. As we discussed yesterday, one important strategy is to recognize that life is hard, and prepare for how to manage those difficulties effectively. Today, let’s review a few strategies you can use for ongoing stress management, so that you can stay engaged and feeling good, even when you’re feeling the drudgery of the daily grind.
Learn from the Aussies
In our last lesson, we talked about facing the reality that life is hard, and no one really wants to do chores. The psychological problem can be that all those things that have to be done (take the dog to the vet, wash the dishes, do the laundry, take out the recycling) can pile up and feel overwhelming, and even when you’re not doing them, they can seem to hang at the back of your mind, weighing down the rest of your life. The Australians have invented the fascinating strategy of the GYLIO  – it’s an hour a day, or a day a week, or a week a month, where you “Get Your Life in Order.” Instead of thinking all the time that you should be doing these things – you make a dedicated appointment with yourself and get them all done – and that way, you free up mental space for the rest of your day, week, or month. Make doctor appointments, organize your pantry, take the donations to the local charity. Sweep the deck clean, and give yourself back some mental space. This directly addresses the psychological problem of “attention residue,” and a GYLIO appointment with yourself is like running a defragmentation tool on your computer, to clear up processing space. Try it and notice how you think more clearly, and feel less stressed!
Connect with Others
Since one of the characteristics of burnout is a sense of detachment and disconnection from others, connecting with other people can be an important part of both recovery and future burnout prevention. During or after a pandemic, when the world has changed to wear masks and avoid handshakes, it may feel like social connection is both dangerous and unrealistic, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Two strategies to consider are, first, to nurture your relationships with those closest to you – for instance, your spouse, your roommates, your children, and your parents. And second, to tap into the power of virtual connection to find a way to still feel engaged with others. Call a friend you can’t see. Text regularly to check in. Join a social media group for people with common interests – a virtual book club, movie club, or gardening club. Feeling connected is more about the quality of your interactions than the actual characteristics or quantity of them.
Decide from Your Wise Mind
Sometimes, our biggest source of stress is the space in our own heads. Meditation teachers talk about the monkey mind, the tendency for the brain to jump around from thought to thought like a monkey in the jungle. When you’re facing a decision, it can be hard to know where to start. Dialectical Behavior Therapy teaches the concept of Wise Mind.  Your Emotional Mind is what you’re feeling – the worries that might hold you back or the excitement that might make you rush forward without thinking. The Rational or Calculator Mind is where you examine the facts to make a decision based on logic – which doesn’t give you time or space for what you do or don’t like, what brings you joy, and what matters to the people in your life. Your Wise Mind means bringing your emotions and your logic together to make the right decision, at the right time, for you.
As you’re thinking about how to move forward after burnout, and how to make the best decisions to prevent a recurrence of burnout in the future, you’ll want to focus on Wise Mind decisions that balance what feels good with what logically makes sense. Go back to the list of fears you wrote out yesterday. All your fears are coming from your emotional mind.
Take fifteen minutes today and think about, first, what your calculator mind computes for each of those fears.
And then, spend another fifteen minutes and just sit in mindfulness (which we talked about in Lesson six) to give your Wise Mind time to find the balance between your emotions and your logic. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at how to proceed if your Wise Mind thinks it’s time for Big Change.
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