Perhaps it starts with you losing your sense of engagement with your work, your children or your vital relationships. Perhaps it is because you have too many distractions—increasingly electronic postings, emails, texts or phone calls. Perhaps it is because you have too many demands and responsibilities, and not enough time to do everything you need to do. Or maybe you are doing too many things that feel trivial or lacking in importance.
The next thing you know, you’re feeling listless, demoralized, depressed or burned out. Your work performance declines, your personal relationships begin to grow disconnected, and you feel increasingly dissatisfied with your life. Your involvement and enthusiasm recedes, you feel less alive and you quit caring about people and activities that used to matter to you.
If this describes you, even some of the time, you are suffering from symptoms of burnout—which means you are not doing enough self-care activities that replenish your mind, body, spirit, life goals, desires and hopes.
Self-care activities are the actions we take that give meaning to our lives, or that further our long-term goals, or that feel reinvigorating, energizing or exciting. And they’re different for each of us. You might find a day at the beach restorative, where I may need to travel to someplace new. A hike in nature may regenerate you, whereas I may need to go camping and canoeing. None are bad choices, but some will speak more loudly to you than they will to me.
Here are some things you can do in order to create self-care activities that speak to you.
First, you could take a break in your day every 60-90 minutes to do something refreshing for 10 minutes, such as walking around the block, meditating, listening to music that energizes you. Second, you could plan a luncheon with someone you’d like to be with. Third, set aside at least one hour a week to reflect on your short, medium and longer range goals—so you’re not just doing what is urgent, but also what will feed your soul, spirit and long-term dreams.
Fourth, always have something in front of you that you’re looking forward to doing (taking a road trip, reading a novel, completing a house project that you’ve never gotten around to, planning a visit with close friends or relatives, going to a bed and breakfast for a weekend getaway). Fifth, how about adding romance to your relationship this weekend?
Make some time—even small amounts of time—to do things that you find energizing or exciting. Find something to look forward to this week, this month and next month. And limit the amount of electronic distractions that you allow. They don’t feed you—they deplete you.