Choosing self-care over burnout

What is burnout? Well, I think the easiest way to think of it is like a computer, where you have lots of tabs and programmes open and it freezes. The processor can no longer function with all the things you are asking it to do at once, and so the only way to fix it is to crash out and force a complete reboot of the system. 

Our minds operate in the same way. We take on far too much and our brains try to keep up with the demands, but if we push it too much or for too long, it simply forces us to stop. We feel overwhelmed. Exhausted. No longer able to cope. 101 things still to do on the to-do list and no idea where to start. 

Burnout may be seen by some as being ‘run down’ or letting things get on top of you, but you may be surprised to know that it is a mental health condition that results from prolonged exposure to stress. And many of us will know this cycle far too well. I know this cycle far too well. 

So why do we do it? I ask myself this question all the time. Having suffered from my own mental health in the past and since going on to study the subject in-depth, why is it that I keep slipping back into ill-health unwittingly? 

Well for me, it is a bit of a balancing act. You see, having suffered from depression for many years, I’ve found that being busy can help. I like having a purpose and I love to help people. I keep saying ‘yes’ when I should be saying ‘I’m sorry I can’t take that on right now.’ Instead, I keep taking on more work or attending more social activities. Not wanting to let anyone down and convincing myself I have time for everything. That I can cope. And for a while, I can. 

But the more you do, the less time your body has to rest and recover. So all the time that you are keeping on top of things, your body is feeling the strain. And when I am tired or lacking time, what is the first thing I compromise on? Food. 

At a time when I should, at the very least, be giving my body the nutrients it needs to thrive, to fuel the energy I need to keep going, I see this as a shortcut to save some much-needed time and reach for the ready-meals or the takeaways. Unsurprisingly, the tiredness continues to creep up on me. 

And I remember once saying to my tutor that I wanted to cook healthy meals but I never have the time. She said something so poignant that I have reflected on this many times since: “But busyness is a choice.” How true is that statement? For me, I strongly believe in choices, so much so I have “Everything is a choice” tattooed on my wrist. And yet here I was playing the victim of my circumstance. 

Each time I reached for the takeaway or ready meals. Each time I didn’t cook fresh, healthy meals. Each time I used the time for something else. Those were my choices. 

And maybe I could keep going with the number of tasks I take on. But the fact is, we can’t plan for everything. The number of times I have thought that I would have been fine if x didn’t happen. Like if I hadn’t had got ill, or a relative hadn’t gone into hospital, or a friend hadn’t needed my support, or a whole host of other fire-fighting activities that you don’t plan for but need your immediate attention and focus. That takes you away from all the urgent tasks that are now overdue on your to-do list. 

Or when I recognise that I have taken on far too much but I can’t be honest with myself and so instead think, “You only need to do it for this long”, or “Once you have finished x, everything will feel so much better.” But by this point you are crawling towards the finish time, already on borrowed reserves. 

We speak to the public about burn-out, including what it means, the warning signs and ways to cope with, and ultimately prevent, feelings of stress, burn-out and overwhelm.

And when burnout hits, it hits hard. I am drained, exhausted. I feel completely overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do first as everything is now a priority. Everything has a deadline that has passed. 

I’m unable to think or concentrate. I have already sacrificed healthy food choices and the next compromise is my sleep. Getting up early and working late, but not being hugely productive as my brain is forcing the reset on me. And when I do try to sleep, I struggle to drift off, stuck in a pattern of overthinking. Any sleep I do get is often disturbed. 

I plunge into depression. Yes, that’s right. The one thing that motivated me into this cycle of behaviour was to avoid the dark grasps of depression, and yet, here I find myself back in it, with the self-critic in me saying that I am not good enough and to stop being lazy. And, how will the stuff possibly get done while you are sitting back doing nothing? 

Instead of facing the conversations I should be having – managing peoples expectations of what is realistic and what I need right now – I bury my head in the sand. Too ashamed to admit I can’t cope. Or to face the fact I have let people down. 

And I have come to recognise how unhealthy this cycle is. To a great extent, I have found a way to speak kindly to myself. I don’t chastise myself for my shortcomings but instead, recognise that my body needed time to rest. And in doing so, I can now prevent depression from taking over. By recognising that my mental health is declining, I can take a pause to address my needs.  

Hypnotherapy to support self-care

Fortunately, there are many ways in which hypnotherapy can support self-care and prevent burnout. Similar to meditation, self-hypnosis can be used as a way to practice daily relaxation. This can stop the build-up of stress and help provide clarity that supports decision making and prioritisation. 

It can also help you to visualise your future self so that you are clear on your long-term goals and are focused on what you need to do to achieve them. This can help with reducing your load, as you can start to say no to things that are not bringing you closer to achieving what you want from life. 

Hypnotherapy can also develop key skills, such as confidence and assertiveness, that can help you in feeling comfortable having difficult conversations or saying no to people. It can also work on improving your own core beliefs about your self-identity to challenge unhelpful thoughts that you are not good enough. Because we all matter. 

So next time you are hurtling towards burnout at the speed of light, take a pause and choose self-care instead. 

Have 10 minutes to spare? Join Hannah on this guided meditation for complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation.

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Written by Melanie Peak
Melanie Peak is a trained hypnotherapist and freelance writer for Hypnotherapy Directory. She is also a mental health blogger at The Balanced Mind (
Written by Melanie Peak
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