Some weeks ago I procured and read The everything Guide to Adrenal Fatigue. One of the main consequences, is that I’ve changed how I think about my body. Rather than just experiencing how I’m feeling, I’ve started to consider it in terms of chemistry. Not very sexy, but a good deal more useful! Here are some things I have learned so far that may help other people dealing with forms of burnout, stress, and depression.
I cannot tell the difference between depression and exhaustion when I am feeling them. I also often confuse anxiety with pain. If I tackle the pain and the exhaustion, I feel less depression and anxiety. If I take the pain and exhaustion seriously as issues, I am less likely to want to call them depression and anxiety, and thus I feel more able to do something about them. I have stopped thinking of myself as a person suffering from fatigue and started thinking of myself as a person who really needs a rest. This is helping me make changes. Other people’s mileage will vary depending on what the underlying issues are.
Thoughts and feelings are connected. If I let panic get a hold of me, I can run my body into the ground. If I let myself feel pressured, even making lunch can bring the threat of burnout. I have to slow down, take deep breaths, try to put things into perspective, and not let myself be panic stricken about what I haven’t done yet. I’m not actually on fire, it just feels that way. If I can control my thoughts, I can get in control of everything else and change something of how I am feeling. I have been in situations I could not control, this fear is a legacy from that, but I am not there now and need to learn to be gentler. People who are actually on fire need actual help, and will not be able to change things by thinking about it. I have been there, I need to recognise the consequences.
I need the good stuff. Happiness is not a luxury, not something I have to earn, not an optional extra. It is key to my viability. I need things that make me happy and leave me feeling good. I must not, therefore, squander my precious downtime on things I find stressful or miserable. I have to stop doing what other people want me to do and start doing what I want me to do. I have to trust the people close to me to support me in this and I must be less willing to tolerate people who don’t really care whether I am happy or not.
I have to stop using sugar and caffeine as a crutch to keep me upright when I’ve burned out. I need to handle exhaustion with rest, not with using stimulants to keep pushing myself ever onwards. I can have sugar and caffeine, but I need to treat them as recreational drugs, not as things I am dependent on.
I have to recognise when I can’t do what’s wanted, or don’t want to, or haven’t the energy, or the inclination and so forth, and say ‘no’ to people sometimes.
I have to be aware of the pressure I feel around money, work achievements, social engagement, the need to be a really fantastic activist and all the other things that would cheerfully suck me dry if I let them. I have to hold my own boundaries. Other people cannot be relied on to hold those boundaries for me, or to respect them. My body is a finite resource and needs treating that way.