Are You Running On Empty? How to Overcome the Pattern of Self-Neglect (Read Time: 3 min.)

School 8When more is asked of you than you can give, how do you respond?

When you feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends and quickly losing steam, what do you do?

When you hear your body screaming for rest but you push it to keep going, what is usually the outcome?

When I coach women breadwinners and every third session begins with a report of a new cold, flu, illness, or complete stress attack, I find myself wondering, “What is it with this neverending cyle of burnout?”  And I’m not speaking as a coach.  I’m talking as a woman who too rides that wave of taking on more than she can chew, staying up later than she needs to, burning the candle at both ends, being forced to rest, resenting the rest the whole time, finally giving in to sleep, and, after a few days, beginning again.  It’s a vicious cycle and it rarely produces the performance level we expect it to.

All of this running on empty leads eventually to a place called burnout.  Burnout is a form of physical, psychological and spiritual abuse of the self.  It’s a way of reinforcing the “not good enough” belief by driving yourself to work harder than your body can handle for longer than it ought to at a pace that you know you cannot physically sustain for long periods of time.  By pushing your body to the brink, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy where your inner critic gets the pleasure of saying, “See?  I told you you couldn’t get all of this done… You’re so weak… You aren’t up to the task… Oh yeah, wait til they see you fail…”  All of that inner taunting leads us to go harder, faster, for longer and, before we know it, here comes the flu… and four days in bed.

What this all boils down to is a pattern of self-neglect, a pattern that reinforces a deep sense of unworthiness and an even deeper belief that your best will never be good enough.  It’s pervasive in women and especially noticeable in women breadwinners who live on the go and find themselves feeling guilty for not being able to be stellar in every area of their lives all of the time.

So how do you get rid of this pattern of self neglect?

How do you stop running on empty?

1) Identify where the deprivation is coming from.  In a wonderful book called “The Art of Extreme Self-Care”, Cheryl Richardson asks some powerful questions about deprivation: “Where do I feel deprived?  What do I need more of right now?  What do I need less of?  What do I want right now?  What am I yearning for?  Who or what is causing me to feel resentful and why?  What am I starving for?”  Journal your responses to those questions.  Before you can develop solutions, you have to know what the REAL problem is.

2) Clear the decks.  If you’re running on empty, you’re doing too much.  You’ve got too much on your plate and it’s time to let some stuff go.  If it won’t matter a year from now, the task that’s got you stressed out needs to be in someone else’s hands, on someone else’s minds, or completely out of your life.  Although you will disappoint others when you say ‘No’, saying ‘No’ is a requirement if you’re going to have peace of mind.  Keep ONLY what is important and valuable to you on your daily agenda.

3) Ask for help.  Asking to have your needs met is strength, not weakness.  Stop expecting other people to read your mind.  Stop thinking that other people will jump to your rescue the same way you jump to theirs.  People will live up to expectation you have for them and if you ask for nothing, to them, it means you need nothing.  Ask… and you shall receive.  And if you ask and someone doesn’t reciprocate, keep a mental note of that the next time that person is trying to incovenience and stress your life to get their needs met.  Friendship is a two way street.

4) Give yourself space to breathe.  You need time to yourself.  You need time to simply BE.  That can happen in a forest.  It can happen in a hot shower but if you’re burnt out and stressed beyond belief, the last thing you need is to be surrounded by people who are pulling for your time (even if they are the people you love most).  Take time away for yourself.  Just you… Don’t worry.  You’ll love the company.

Did this post help?  Pass it on and share it with other women breadwinners you know:)

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