Tag Archives: self-soothing

16 Signs You’re Nearing Burnout

16 signs you’re nearing burnout

Alisa, November 29, 2016, Mindfulness and Cognitive Science, Neurobiology and Behavior, Self Care, 6

Does it sometimes feel like you have to hit bottom before you can really change? You can see the warning signs…the negative effects of overcommitting yourself are probably pretty predictable. But how do you take action now? (As opposed to when your body forces you to or when the next break gets here).

Burnout often happens in a cyclical fashion. With unsustainable habits it’s always just a matter of time before your tank dwindles down to empty again. But it’s difficult to make changes to those habits when it feels like you have to choose between having fun and sustainable energy.

Hold up, do we really have to choose between FUN and WELL? Screw that. I think the choice lies elsewhere, in fact, I demand it lie elsewhere. We just might have to dig a little bit to find it.

Recognizing the patterns

The cool thing about habits is that they can be easy to spot. Trigger >> routine >> reward. It’s always the same pattern. And your patterns, though unique to you, are also easy to spot. You just have to be looking. I’ve compiled a list of common signs of burnout. These physical, mental, emotional, relational behaviors signal you’re reaching the breaking point where your system (being your life) can no longer withstand the stress of the environment. You’re a bridge just waiting to collapse.

Signs you’re approaching burnout (based on research + personal experience):

1 Trouble sleeping / falling asleep

2 Tension in back + shoulders

3 Headaches

4 Hard time waking up in the morning (even after a full night’s sleep)

5 Lack of interest in normal activities

6 Low energy

7 Trouble focusing / easily distracted

8 Trouble regulating behavior (outbursts, losing chunks of time to scrolling social media, unable to stop eating or turn off the tv)

9 Reversion to “default” behaviors (previous transformations start to unravel)

10 Easily overwhelmed

11 Down / depressed mood

12 Easily frustrated

13 Prone to ruminating on interactions with others

14 Crying more than usual

15 Trouble identifying “why” you feel sad, angry, tired, etc.

16 Pulling away from friends / family

And I’m certain I’ve missed some.

Now if you’re experiencing these “symptoms”, there is no need to panic. This is a diagnosis or anything like that. My hope is that by looking at this list you will see that some of the things you do that are just a “normal part of life” are actually signs that you aren’t handling the stress you’re under well.

See, it’s not a choice between “fun” and “well” – it’s the decision to raise the bar on what fun really is.

Take action

Don’t let this be something that becomes “oh that’s interesting” and on you go. Choose right now to set a higher standard for the “fun” you let in your life.

The greater the responsibility you have to perform at your best, the more resolute you must be in your standard for wellness. From your nutrition to your free time, the stuff you do needs to set you up for better performance. Your classroom, your clients, your patients – they need you operating at your capability. Which means they need you well, not the bare minimum of “functional.”

1 Take time to write down your personal signs of declining wellness and what you currently do to cope with it — scrolling, tv, declining invites, dessert, hyper-cleaning or organizing, etc

2 Choose one of your go-to habits for coping with stress and get curious about it. Every time you see yourself doing it or feeling the compulsion, ask yourself why that might be happening and observe does this actually make me feel how I want to feel? Am I really getting what I’m looking for?

3 Develop a routine or ritual to go through when it’s been a long day – something that will help you feel the way you really want to feel. Read more about this step here.

Conflict in Relationships

img_5156Any type of stress, anxiety, anger, or conflict makes my pulling worse. It is a self-soothing behavior that helps me calm down and often dissociate from my feelings. Over the past few years, I have been working to use helpful strategies that help me relax without pulling my hair (which only leaves me feeling worse in the end).
As a high stress person, I have suffered with anxiety for most of my life. It still plagues me at times, but I have learned strategies to calm my mind and body. Taking a quick break from the situation, praying, practicing deep breathing, and trying to find a more positive outlook are some simple tools that have helped me.

If I catch myself being negative or getting stressed out, I try to take a step back and look at the situation objectively. In the past, I would catastrophize my situation. Now, I can identify those feelings and look for the truth.

  • Are my concerns based on truth?
  • Can I do anything about this?
  • Is there a more positive outlook I can strive for?
  •  If the worst case senario does play out, is it really that bad?

Beyond my stress and anxiety is anger that can cause relationship problems. The following article presents 3 ways to create conflict (and therein, 3 ways to avoid it). I know I am guilty of these and am making it a priority to avoid them. Reducing conflicts in our relationships, greatly increases our overall well-being.

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Three Sure Ways to Create Conflict

By Rick Warren

“Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them” (Proverbs 20:3 TEV).

Wise people are peacemakers, not troublemakers. Wise people don’t carry a chip on their shoulder. They’re not always looking for a fight, and they don’t intentionally antagonize other people.

The fact is, if you’re around anybody for any length of time, you’ll figure out what that person does that irritates you, and you file that information in the back of your mind as a tool to use when you get in an argument. It becomes a personal “weapon of mass destruction”! When you get in an argument, and that person says something that hurts, offends, or slights you in any way, then you pull out the big gun. You push the hot button. And it works every time!

You know what the Bible calls that? Foolishness! You’re not getting any closer to the resolution. You’re not helping the relationship. In fact, you’re hurting it. It is not wise.

Proverbs 20:3 says, “Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of them” (TEV).


We all use tools, tricks of the trade, and skills in relationships that are actually counter productive. They’re hurtful, they’re harmful, and they don’t get you what you want out of relationships. In fact, they get you the exact opposite behavior. But when we lack wisdom, we use them anyway.

There are many of these tools, but here are just a few:

1. Comparing. Never compare your wife, your husband, your kids, your boss, or anybody else, because everybody’s unique. Comparing antagonizes anger.

2. Condemning. When you start laying on the guilt in a relationship, all you’re going to do is get the exact opposite of what you expect. It doesn’t work. It’s foolish.

3. Contradicting. William James, the famous psychologist said, “Wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” There’s some stuff you just need to overlook.


The Bible says in Proverbs 14:29, “A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes” (TLB). Have you ever said or done anything stupid out of anger? Yes? Because when you get angry, your intelligence goes out the window. When you get angry, you say and do foolish things that are actually self-defeating.

Did you ever think about the fact that there is only one letter difference between “anger” and “danger”? When you get angry, you are in dangerous territory. You are about to hurt others — and yourself — with your own anger.

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What Causes the Urge to Pull

Here is another great blog post from Trichotillomania therapist and 20 year pull-free trichster, Claudia Miles (my role model).

As a psychotherapist who’s worked with hundreds of hair pullers, and as someone who personally suffered from daily hair pulling until I was 27 and has been pull free for 20 years, I know all too well the pain, shame and despair that pullers experience. I also know firsthand the frustration and hopelessness of trying *everything* to stop with no success. Or worse, having short-lived success–a day, a week, maybe even a month–and suddenly without warning you find yourself pulling again.

Maybe you pull your head hair, or your brows or lashes, or other body hair. My clients tend to be equally divided in that nearly half pull head hair and nearly half pull brows and/or lashes, a small number pull both, and the remainder pull from various areas on the body.

For those who don’t have Trich, also known as a “body focused repetitive disorder” (BFRD, and don’t understand it, but are close to someone who does, their own frustration and sadness about their child’s, friend’s, sibling’s or partner’s suffering may lead them to make constant suggestions (have you tried __ or ___), say to you, “Stop pulling, Honey,” if they see you do it, or try to “convince” you to stop by “reminding” you: “But Honey you have such pretty
hair..” “You don’t want to be bald, do you?” “Remember how upset you were about your lashes when you went to that dinner party, school dance, work, saw yourself in a picture, your friend asked you about it?”

As if you don’t already more desperately want to stop than anyone else could ever imagine. What’s hard to explain even to yourself is why you keep doing it, or why you do it at all. Why stopping seems so impossible when the behavior itself makes no sense. It just seems “crazy” or “gross” or you may feel “weak” and “pathetic”.

What others don’t know, and what you may not know, is that for people with Trich, hair pulling is a self-soothing mechanism (not an attempt to cause harm to yourself), and it feels pleasurable. It’s not an addiction to pain. The other even more important thing is that you are being prompted to pull by a physical urge that can best be compared to an itch. When people have an itch, they tend to respond to it without thinking or even being aware they are doing so. That’s why, if you have poison oak or chicken pox, you may not want to scratch, the doc may even say not to scratch, but the moment your attention is diverted (you’re watching TV or you’re on the phone), you “find yourself scratching.” And at that point, the need to “complete or finish” scratching is extremely compelling, even if you don’t want to. This comparison may help your spouse or parent or even you yourself to understand a little better what it is that causes you to start pulling in any particular moment. Either a physical or neurological urge occurs in a split second, as if you had an itch, and without conscious awareness you respond automatically. That’s why you may not have any idea of a precipitating factor.

Now, if it were that simple, it might well be easier to treat. But it’s important for pullers and their families to understand that this is not a willful behavior. Most people know what it’s like to respond to an itch and begin scratching, sometimes for a minute or more, before you realize what you’re doing. And most people also understand that, once you start scratching, poison oak for example, the craving to do so can overtake you, even though you know you shouldn’t. Most folks also know that, when at its itchiest, you may find yourself scratching, stop doing so, tell yourself, OK, I’m not going to scratch anymore, go back to
your movie, and find yourself scratching again and again. Imagine if this urge was daily and constant. Imagine if it resulted in hair loss. Yet no matter what you did, you would suddenly and repeatedly “find” yourself doing it. That’s, in short, what is happening to pullers. And because it as relieving to someone with Trich as it is for anyone to scratch an itch, you continue the behavior even when you’re aware. It is extremely important to understand that you (the puller) are not “crazy.” And anyone who experienced these urges, which occur in a microseconds, would respond the same way.

There are however, two other factors that come into play. I believe these urges have a cause that goes beyond that physical urge, and that are psyche comes to play a part in the constancy and intensity of these urges. Most people describe hair pulling as occurring in or even causing a “trance-like” state. This trance-like state kind of numbs one out emotionally, just like using a substance of some kind and also much like eating excessive amounts of carbs and sugar. This is why lots of people who have issues with weight may be engaging in what is called “emotional eating.” One may crave carbs and sugar in a way that feels like “regular” hunger. You may feel like you have to have a muffin or donut or cookie or hunk of sourdough bread. Yet underneath that craving, outside your present awareness, it may be fear or loneliness or shame that in a sense causes those cravings to happen. And once fulfilled, the emptiness or loneliness or shame is covered up.. Numbed out. So people tend to think that “their only problem is overeating.” Otherwise everything is fine. And this is exactly the same for hair pullers. The act of pulling numbs the longing or dis-ease, so it’s easy to believe that if I could just stop pulling, everything would be fine.

I work with people to get beneath this fallacy, generally dealing with issues like perfectionism, a lack of self love and self acceptance, or rather, a self-acceptance that is conditional. If they make a mistake, don’t finish their endless to do lists, aren’t thin enough, productive enough, accomplished enough or smart enough (which they rarely if ever think they are), they see themselves as unworthy, “lazy,” weak or just not good enough- And self love or acceptance is undeserved. That’s why many clients I see who have Trich and who generally also have this overly harsh, critical, perfectionistic attitude toward themselves tend to seek external validation since they are unable to give it to themselves. And this causes a pattern of people pleasing behaviors that also lead to living an inauthentic life, a life where one is not true to one’s self (since others’ opinions of their lives tend to be more important than their own.

Once my clients are able to access some of the painful feelings beneath the urges, and begin to experience greater self-acceptance and self love, two things happen: They begin to lead lives that are more authentic and true to themselves, and their urges to pull begin to diminish. And using mindfulness and learning to embrace gradual reduction rather than instant total cessation of pulling, they are able to slowly let go of some, most or all of tbeir hair pulling.