You may know the saying - what you suppress, your body will express? And never has that been more relevant than it is right now.
Burnout and exhaustion are becoming more and more common as we continue to spend longer periods of time enduring various types of lockdown restrictions, working from home and trying to juggle personal and professional life all contained inside our homes.
In this Part 1, I will share some insights into how to better understand why you could be feeling exhausted and in Part 2 I will share three practical things that you can do to help shift the stress and exhaustion.
In the past, we could go to the office and at the end of the day as we drove back home, we left the office behind us. Maybe you went to the gym before going home, or got some groceries, and by the time you walked through your front door, you had decompressed and were ready for time with the family or your partner.
Now we no longer have that option and things are vastly different. Stress levels are rising, and tempers are flaring. It is totally normal considering the context we find ourselves in.
Our homes are no longer the sanctuary that they used to be – that sanctuary away from work where we could rest and restore in the evenings and on weekends. For many of us, the confinement of our homes and our routines may make it harder to fully express and release pent up emotion.
At the beginning of this article I said, ‘What you suppress, your body will express’, then think – what are you suppressing?
We suppress emotion, and although we may like to think that we are cognitive beings that on occasion feel, the truth is that we are emotional beings that on occasion, think.
Emotions are automatic, instantaneous, they affect everything, and they happen automatically, often beyond our control.
Emotions are a neurological event, which means that they engage the entire nervous system. Many of us might have a particular stressor or an emotion to something, and the truth is that we often cannot express that. As much as we may want to, it is not always appropriate to scream and shout or get angry.
I am not going to go into reasons why we do not express all our emotions, some of them may be related to social appropriateness or just not being able to have the time or the ability to do it. However, if we do not fully go through the stress cycle, it can then cause challenges because our nervous system is not just in our brains.
The marvel and intelligence of the body is that the nervous system happens from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, and if the emotions that we feel engage the nervous system, we need to speak the language of the body, not just thoughts and what the brain says, because we often put the brakes on these emotions, right?
Now, as we cannot always change what is happening around us, these stressors could just increase, and they are certainly not going to go away. What we need to do is look at how we can enhance our resilience and our ability to fully express our emotions so that they do not cause us to get stuck. Or feel like we could explode!
Authors, Dr’s Amelia and Emily Nagoski wrote a book called ‘Burnout: The Secret to Solving the Stress Cycle’ and in it they speak about how our emotions are a bit like a tunnel.
Going through a tunnel you have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and if you travel through the whole tunnel, you get to the light at the end of that tunnel. However, many of us are getting stuck somewhere in the tunnel, and that is what is causing the challenges. By suppressing or applying the brakes we stop inside the tunnel.
To quote them because this is key, "Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion."
Are you fully expressing your emotions? I know I do not always get a chance, and I can feel when I do that. Over time the body keeps the score and what I suppress ends up expressing itself and sometimes it isn’t very elegant.
Emotions can be messy. You can choose to ignore the mess, get upset by the mess, or to blame and shame. Or, you can try and stay curious and kind and explore ways to not only clean up the mess with ease but perhaps avoid it in the first place.
So, what does one do? In the next article I will share three things that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine to get started – and they also have a rather cool acronym too – AIR.
Before you go … You are not alone. We are in this together. You are also doing great. We are all doing great. We are doing the best we can with where we are and what we have. And that is AMAZING.
Brown, B. (Host). (2020, October 14). Brené with Emily and Amelia Nagoski on Burnout and How to Complete the Stress Cycle. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Cadence13. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-emily-and-amelia-nagoski-on-burnout-and-how-to-complete-the-stress-cycle/