This time of year is notorious for bringing a rush of anxiousness. The days are noticeably shorter, routines shift from carefree to swamped, and to-do lists begin to outpace the time to do anything. At least that's how it feels when the endless summer nights are ending.
Anxious feelings can be motivating to some degree––some people work best under pressure––but when anxiety settles in, it can have detrimental effects on the mind and body. Too much leads to increased heart rate, racing mind, poor sleep, inability to focus, and tension throughout the body.
So, while it may be tempting to kick into high gear and power through this seasonal transition, it may better advise you to double down on self-care. If this seems counterintuitive, you may need to reframe self-care.
We're not talking about the Calgon-take-me-away bubble bath version of self-care (though bath time may very well be on your self-care list). Instead, we're talking about all the ways you take care of yourself and meet your needs to be an optimal human.
You probably already know that to show up as the best parent, friend, partner, employee, boss, or any title you carry, you first need to make your health a priority. This means physical, emotional, and mental health should all be intact.
Many have struggled with this during the pandemic. Now, with in-person activities and school on the horizon, the potential for burnout remains. The ideal way to handle burnout is by avoiding it altogether.
Even the Dalai Lama agrees, saying, "... If you feel "burnout" setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself."
That's some advice we can get behind. “Withdraw and restore” may sound like a lot so, here are our top tips for incorporating these concepts into your daily routine:
Make health your top priority.
Raise your hand if the first things you sacrifice when you're busy or overwhelmed are sleep, exercise, meal prep, or time to relax and recharge. (Raises hand.) To avoid burnout, start by keeping your basic health needs on track by getting enough quality sleep, moving your body daily, eating nutritious food, and taking a pause when you need to.
If this conjures up visions of trying to make hours of workouts and cooking happen, remember that every little bit counts. So, if you don't have an hour for exercise, go for a fifteen-minute walk. Don't want to spend your Sunday peeling, chopping, and roasting? No problem! Make sure you have some healthy smoothie ingredients on hand and nutrient-dense snacks. A quick green smoothie and a handful of roasted almonds will give you plenty of energy and satisfaction in very little time when you need something fast.
While scheduling blocks of time for yourself is ideal (see below), it's not always possible. But don't skip your decompression time altogether. Even a few minutes of deep breathing can make a shift in your mind and body. For an extra spa-like boost, why not take it up a notch and apply some essential oils? Oils like lavender and cedarwood are known for their calming, sleep-inducing qualities, so they're perfect for adding to your pre-bedtime ritual to help you sleep better.
Make time for downtime.
Schedule time for yourself like you do for anything else that's important. If you don't, it's all too common for that time to magically disappear into mundane tasks and habits.
For many, this is an area heavily affected by mindset. If you're conditioned to think that taking time for yourself is indulgent or even lazy, you may find yourself saying things like, "I'm too busy," or, "I don't have time." It's not your fault! American culture tends to reward overachievers and those who burn the midnight oil, but, spoiler alert, there's no prize for being the busiest or most stressed.
If you have the mindset that you don't have time, look at our recent article on why you need breaks and exactly how to find the time for them. It will help you get honest about your priorities and finding more time in your schedule. It may be as simple as putting down your phone or walking away from the TV.
A little organization goes a long way.
Instead of lying in bed thinking about everything you need to do and remember in the morning, make those things part of your pre-bedtime routine. For example, take a few minutes to tidy up the house, make sure your to-go cup is clean and ready, prep snacks and lunches, check your calendar, and know where your keys are.
These are tasks that you'll do one way or another, but by having them done the night before, you can rest your mind and create ease to the start of your day. You'll probably fall asleep faster, too, knowing you won't be racing around the house in the morning, looking for your keys or a shirt that isn't wrinkled from spending two days in the dryer (you know it happens!)
The real key to avoiding burnout is staying true to your routine even when––especially when––the pace of life picks up. So, be consistent with taking care of your body and mind, and schedule time for you.