Sometimes the stressors of life catch up to us and we feel overwhelmed. Juggling responsibilities and trying to take care of ourselves in the process can lead to feeling exhausted and drained. But what happens when those feelings go deeper and we are not only overwhelmed but simply burnt out? Psychology Today defines burnout as:
A state of chronic stress that leads to:
- physical and emotional exhaustion
- cynicism and detachment
- feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
And for the black community, black burnout is different from regular burnout. I define black burnout as not only dealing with regular life stressors, but the added toxic stress that comes with being a member of a disenfranchised group that consistently has to navigate socioeconomic perils like: racism, workplace discrimination, increased likelihood of health challenges, constant exposure to murders of black people by police and a host of other bullsh*t. You feel me right? Black burnout is exponentially more challenging than regular burnout. And my black burnout has me feeling like those barbecued “burnt tips” I keep hearing about.
I’ve been under a constant stream of stress for much longer than I care to deal with. It’s manifested in difficult ways including irritability, impatience, cynicism, a change in eating and sleeping habits, i.e. eating way more and sleeping less–never fun. It’s an overall feeling of “I hate life right now”. It doesn’t feel good and though I’m slogging through it I’m obviously not at my best. I’ve felt robotic and detached. Like many of us I’m great at masking my internal turmoil when I must, to get through. You know black people know how to put on a game face and get out into the world to get sh*t done. We’ve mastered that. But we deserve more than that.
We deserve to feel whole, secure and damnit we deserve joy! Life isn’t just about working and paying bills and navigating bullsh*t. So if you’re experiencing black burnout, let’s take a look at some steps we can take to get our groove back.
Get Your Mind Right
First, recognize that you’re burnt out. Then take some steps to address the physical, emotional and psychological toll life’s circumstances have taken on you.
Working out, eating well, hot baths and meditation are some great ways to address the physical aspects of burn out. And for the emotional impact of burnout, Chicago based psychotherapist, Tolaya Geredine, suggests an exercise to clear out negative and harmful emotions stemming from the prolonged stress. Geredine says:
Write down all of your negative thoughts. Then crumple them up or burn them and throw them away. Don’t even let them sit in your house in the garbage. Replace them with just as many affirmations for your life. Try to think outside of the box for your positive affirmations, preferably choosing the opposite of the negative thoughts you wrote down. Put the positive ones in a space where you can read them daily. It may not be easy, but this is how you cognitively restructure.
And, I’m all for therapy. Therapy can be short term. So if you have access to EAP through your job, call ‘em up and get some support. If you feel you need more extended sessions, locate resources for therapy in your area. Try the mental health directory on Therapy For Black Girls to find a therapist in your area. (Men can use this too!) If you are uninsured or cost is a concern, consider a support group which are typically free. You don’t have to go it alone.
Take a Therapeutic Trip
A vacation sounds wonderful right? But if financial struggles are part of what’s stressing you out then it’s probably not doable right now. But ah, there may be hope! I found a weekend wellness retreat for women given by the YMCA that I’d like to attend. They provide scholarships. Do some research to see if scholarship opportunities like this with additional groups may be available near you. Or, try Groupon or other discount services and do something like book a discounted massage. Any pleasurable and relaxing experience where you feel taken care of will help.
Create a Safe Haven
If you can’t get away, create a get-away. Try a therapeutic staycation. I believe in mental health days, so take time off work, especially if it’s the main source of your burnout and create your own oasis at home.
Some things you can do at home to create peace and balance in your life to give yourself the space to heal are:
- Get your Netflix on! Or check out some great movies (and books) from the library. Treat yourself to a mental and visual escape.
- Get in some workout time. Whether you just go on some walks or do yoga or Zumba, whatever you like, the endorphins from working out will boost your mood.
- Eat some good food. No explanation needed. Get your grub on with some healthy, enjoyable dishes and maybe try and new recipe.
- Clean the house. I know this may not sound relaxing, but creating external order generates inner peace.
- Rest, my dear. If you truly can’t manage any tasks, it’s ok to do absolutely nothing. There’s nothing shameful or lazy about resting your mind, body and spirit.
Give Yourself a Break
Practice self-compassion and give yourself credit that you are doing the best you can. Forgive yourself for whatever ways you feel you may be failing. Recognize that in fact, you are showing up for yourself in the best ways you can at the highest capacity you can handle right now.
Black burnout is real. And you are your most important resource. Give yourself to yourself and put yourself first to restore your beautiful mind, body and spirit so you can get back to enjoying and continue creating your beautiful life.
Let me know if you’re experiencing black burnout and how you’re addressing it. I wish you peace, wholeness and joy!