The Expert Corner
“Beating Burnout: It Shouldn’t Be the New Normal”
You navigated back to school and changing routines. We’re speeding towards fall and then the holidays and it’s easy to feel like life’s obligations just keep piling up. In the best of times navigating all the responsibilities of family life can be challenging. Layer in a pandemic and less time to care for yourself and it’s a recipe for extreme stress, burnout and just not feeling (or being) our best selves.
Managing stress and beating burnout can start with a few simple foundations. As the owner of Black Cat Yoga, I focus a lot on not just meditation but the small things we can do in any moment to manage our responses, get control of our systems and hit pause on the anxiety spiral we might find ourselves in. Before we get into the practical tips, let’s start with a few fun facts.
Our brains seek comfort in the known. Habits, routines, repeated thoughts – even when stressful or negative – is our brain’s standard operating procedure. That’s why it can seem so hard to break a stressful pattern, shift your mindset or start and maintain something new. Here is where the work begins and where with a few easy tools, we can see amazing shifts in our lives.
When we know how our brain works, it requires intention to navigate around this pattern. Think of it like negotiating with a toddler. You know what you want, what’s best for the situation and how you think you will get there – but that little cherub stubbornly fighting you may need some creative convincing to get to that end result. We must apply that same creativity to how we manage stress and mindset within ourselves. Don’t worry – it can be a much easier process than you think!
So where do we start? Anxiety, challenging thoughts, worry, fear or anger… the arc of a strong emotion is 90 seconds. We normally exist in that space for longer because we start to spiral. It’s the patterns of “yes, and…” “yes, but…” “and then this will happen…” Right in the middle of this storm is a great place to start. Knowing that strong emotion will only last 90 seconds, our goal is to break the spiral rather than continue it. My favorite place to start (and tip #1) is connect with your breath.
Start with your breath
When overwhelm builds, negativity spikes or your mind starts spinning taking the focus and firmly placing it on your breath can stop the train. So what do we do? Take a giant breath in and a giant breath out. Really get into that sigh. Then try to make your breathing rhythmic. It will calm your nervous system and bring some balance to your mind. Still struggling? Focus on an element of the breathing: you can use counting (breathe in 1, 2, 3; breathe out 1, 2, 3) or listen to the sound of your breath in and out of your nose; or finally notice how it feels in your chest. Try it. In just under two minutes you can change how you feel and divert your attention from that stress response. Sounds too easy? Like building a muscle, change comes from repetition. The more you can practice this the easier it will be to catch yourself in a spiral and hit pause before it gets out of control. Over time, you’ll be able to more smoothly manage the ups and downs in your life.
Next, get connected to your body. (Tip #2). In times of great stress, busyness and change we can get so caught up in what’s happening externally – it’s the kids, the pets, the spouse, the laundry – that we can lose connection to our bodies and how/where we respond. Take your breath practice from above and layer on some self-connection. One of my favorite tricks is actually feeling the breath move my hands to add a sensory aspect to this calming technique. The simple gesture of putting both hands above your heart or one hand on each side of your ribcage quickly shifts your focus and encourages you to step out of your mind for a moment and become more connected to your body. Notice you’re breathing really quickly and high in your chest? Overwhelm might be saying hello. Focus on the feel of your hands on your body and imagine sending your breath there. You’re not only soothing your system, you’re practicing another tool to bring calm in moments of stress.
Get connected to your body
Finally, try meditation and mindfulness. (Tip #3) Starting a meditation practice can sound daunting but it’s much more varied and accessible than you might expect! No, you don’t need to spend 3 hours a day on a cushion in total silence. You can choose to experience guided meditations (a great place to start for beginners), listen to instrumental music while you focus on your breath, and even take short classes to build a foundation. The key is consistency. Everyone can carve out 2-3 minutes per day, even if that’s locked in the bathroom pretending to be “busy.” Set a timer, close your eyes or shift your gaze down and notice:
- How does my body feel?
- What’s happening in my mind?
- How is my breath flowing?
Then imagine all that shifts to the background and you open your awareness. Thoughts will pop up – acknowledge them and simply try to let them pass. Before you know it that timer will go off and you’re done for the day! Start small. I lead a weekly live class and encourage my students to do at least one practice on their own over the course of the week. Soon you’ll notice it’s easier to close your eyes and settle in.
As parents, we model so much for our children. Creating a tool kit to navigate stress and challenge can be an important first step to not only prioritize our own wellness, but is an easy way to help our kids learn their own ways to manage anxiety and stress.
Curious and want to learn more?
Join me for a free weekly meditation class (live and virtual) – Saturdays at 7:45am. Can’t join live? Reach out for the recorded version to do on your time.
Want something you can do with your girlfriends or spouse? Our monthly Nidra + Sound workshop is a guided de-stress and relax experience. Both are great places to begin.
Attend the Wellness Open House on Saturday, 10/16 from 10am – 12pm! More information can be found HERE on the LAM Calendar.
*This post is sponsored by Black Cat Yoga