This entry is more like a journal entry than an SEO optimized blog post aimed at teaching you something specific. There are definitely nuggets of wisdom in the following paragraphs, but as I was writing about my own recent experience, I thought that it would be important to share with you. I teach about stress and overwhelm and I consider myself to be a specialist on the way to becoming an expert in the matter and yet… Here I am finding myself in burnout and totally overwhelmed. But why?
First of all, no matter what speciality or expertise someone has, they are still human. Dentists can get cavities. Doctors get colds. Nutritionists don’t always avoid donuts.
But how did I get here? Part of what I teach when it comes to stress and overwhelm is having really good self awareness. Know your cues. Know the signs that you are approaching high stress and know when you are doing alright. This is sometimes referred to your window of tolerance. Anything above the window is too overstimulating, high stress. Anything below the window is too little stimulation. This can be depressive symptoms, low motivation, fatigue… all of which can also be symptoms for being above the window of tolerance as well.
But I digress. How did I get here?
If I look back over the past couple of months, it started when I filled my practice. I was aiming to get to 12 sessions per week and I got to that number. It only took me a week to realize that 12 was actually too many for me. I immediately felt some of the beginning signs of overwhelm come back into my life- fatigue in the middle of the day, not sleeping well at night, feeling like my mind is racing.
But- I carried on. I know that any type of change will need some time to get used to. After a couple of weeks, the feelings didn’t go away, but I pushed on. After all, I had new clients and money was good- can’t stop now.
That was the first thing.
A few weeks after I filled my practice, my partner and I decided to foster a dog. This is something that we have talked about for a while and the perfect dog opportunity came up. While the dog himself wasn’t an added stressor- having to care for two dogs by myself was. My partner leaves the house for work and I work from home. So morning and afternoon walks fell on me and my responsibility.
I quickly learned that walking two dogs is not as relaxing and mindful as walking one dog. Especially when those dogs like to play and play rough. So my daily walking routine, that was once a stress reliever became another source of stress. And not to mention the dogs escaped the gate a couple of times, which was a mildly traumatic experience, and there were a few times when all three of us were bleeding, just because of the nature of which the dogs played.
My dog likes to go outside and just sit in the grass, which is something that I try to make time for daily. The foster dog didn’t like to sit outside, he liked to walk. Now, I know that I could have left him inside and gone out to sit, but then I’m adding more time to my schedule by having to take each dog out separately (which I did a couple times, just as annoying and only a little bit less stressful). So I went from being able to prioritize grounding and sitting, to not being able to and adding another stressor.
That was the second thing.
Then the war in Gaza started. To be perfectly honest and transparent, I usually choose to remain mostly ignorant on news like this. I will have enough awareness to know that something is going on but I don’t like to dive into it too much because it quickly becomes overwhelming for me. This time, however, I decided to educate myself. And I went down a rabbit hole. And then another, and another. And I couldn’t stop.
I literally put myself into a freeze state because I overloaded and overwhelmed my system.
That was the third thing.
So how did I let this happen as a stress management specialist? Like I said before, I’m human!
Stress management isn’t about perfection and about never experiencing stress. God, I wish it was. It’s about having the tools and self awareness to take care of yourself when times do get stressful. I didn’t use my tools. I didn’t use myself awareness. I basically went against everything I teach. And no surprise, it lead me straight into overwhelm.
Why is stress management so important?
Because first of all, overwhelm and burnout SUCK. It really sucks to be so tired that you can’t make it through your day. It sucks to be irritated that your clients show up to the session. It sucks to want to cry all the time because you’re at the end of your rope and don’t see an end to it.
I also have thyroid issues that make my body sensitive to stress. My immune functioning dives down if I get too overwhelmed. I have painful skin issues that come up. My joints hurt. My muscles ache. My digestion gets thrown off. All these things happen to me because of stress. It is important to me to feel good and enjoy my life, which is why I try to avoid all this shit.
So after spending a little bit too long in overwhelm and freeze states, what is my solution?
Dial everything back as much as possible. Unless you have a vacation coming up or PTO to use, it can be hard to fully unplug from everything when you need to. And when you work for yourself trading time for money, it can be even harder to do so without having proper savings in line. So I did what I could:
I allowed myself to do nothing but nap and rest in between session.
I basically began doing the bare minimum in my business.I saved all of the energy that I could to be able to show up for my clients.
I continued doing what I could for myself- I kept going to the gym and moving my body.
I kept drinking water and eating good foods (until you see my confession below about what I ate over the weekend).
I journaled… sort of. Still struggling to get back into that habit.
And then this weekend, I took the opportunity to do very little above nothing. I didn’t even make proper meals for myself. I ate cheerios and noodles. I ordered delivery. I still moved and got outside, but then I spent the rest of my time binge watching Modern Family.
And I feel better. I don’t feel 100% but that’s ok because you can’t get back to 100 in a weekend- that is not a realistic expectation for anybody.
I am grateful that my schedule allows me to have multiple full days that are not client facing- I teach yoga, which is a different type of energy, and I do back end work on some days so I don’t have to worry about showing up for anyone else.
Stress management isn’t just about self awareness and knowing what you need. It’s about self compassion and allowing yourself to be human, to mess it up without beating yourself up.
A special message to any entrepreneurs out there, trying to build a coaching business and struggling against the stress of imposter syndrome: Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you aren’t allowed to teach about what you struggle with. The fact that you struggle with it or have struggled with it in the past makes you a better teacher. The perfectionism of needing to have made you way through it is bullshit. Yeah, I don’t want you to be stuck in the thing that you’re trying to teach me about, but if you still have a human experience once in a while, that’s ok. That’s actually preferred. What would you think if I told you that I never experience stress? Hopefully, you wouldn’t trust me and you would move right on.
So as much as I hope that you are aware of your stress cues and coping skills, I also hope that you are compassionate toward yourself when they don't always work. Because sometimes you need to try new things. Sometimes you really are doing too much even though it doesn't even feel like it. And sometimes you are stressing yourself out over nothing.
Remember what Seneca said:
"We suffer more in imagination than in reality."
I sent parts of this blog post out to my email list this week. If you're an ambitious millennial and want weekly stress management and self care skills sent directly to you each week- you can sign up here.
Kaylin is an online self care and stress management specialist. She is obsessed with all things wellness, and through her programs empowers ambitious millennial women to transform their relationship to stress so they can overcome self doubt and achieve their goals with confidence.
Learn more about Kaylin here.