5 Mindfulness Tips To Help Prevent Burnout If You’re a Caring Woman.
Most women I know can remember when being helpful and focusing on others left them with burnout and feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained.
It’s common for women to have a great deal of their identity tied up in our helping roles and behaviours.
Many of us have been taught that it’s better to put others’ needs before our own and that the road to being a good person is paved with helping.
The problem is that many of us get caught up in the trap that if helping is good, the more we do it, the more worthy we feel.
But there does come a time when helping becomes too much, and we’ve tipped the scale in terms of what is best for us and what is best for those that we’re helping.
What are some signs that we may be helping too much?
We begin to notice that helping leaves us feeling drained instead of energized.
Sure, there are times when intense help is needed to get through a crisis, and we’ll feel drained. But when it becomes a pattern, and we notice that our energy is low and we feel tired all the time, that is a red flag.
We focus on others and their needs at the expense of our own.
Our emotional, physical, and spiritual health may suffer as we put most of our energy into helping others.
Another thing to watch is when we notice that we are overly invested in the outcomes.
We tend to feel good when the other person is receptive to our help and is making some changes. Conversely, we feel disappointed when they are not making the changes in their best interest.
The other person relies on us more than they depend on themselves. This prevents people from taking ownership and responsibility for their life situations. It prevents people from living their own lives, learning from their mistakes, and, from a spiritual perspective, the natural flow of the Universe.
We feel resentment and guilt because a “good” woman always wants to help others and put their needs before ours. At least, that is what many of us have been taught.
We feel we’ve given up our dreams and desires to be there for others.
I see this in women who prioritize everyone and everything else, leaving no time for them to pursue their interests and passions. When this happens, we’re left wondering, Who am I?
The helping experience leaves us feeling “constricted” inside instead of “expansive,” open and peaceful.
Five mindfulness tips to help prevent burnout:
1. Bring mindfulness to your body, thoughts, and feelings.
We start by becoming mindful of what is happening inside us and how we feel about the helping experience. If we’re feeling resentment or drained, that may be a sign that we’re helping may not be healthy for us or the other person.
Our priority must always be healing ourselves first! We tend to get into helping relationships to heal ourselves without being consciously aware.
It is a subtle yet significant difference between helping others from a place of being of service because we have done our healing work and want to share from that place, as opposed to trying to fill a void that will never be filled by helping.
2. Use the “One breath for me, one breath for you mantra”
I love the “one breath for me, one breath for you” mantra. This practice was developed by Dr.Kristen Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer through The Centre of Mindful Self-Compassion.
When we are the “helping” type, we often give, give, and then find ourselves gasping for air. When mindful of this, we can practice the concept of one breath for me and one for you. This infinite process nourishes us, as we are here to help others.
3. Practice self-compassion when you’re stressed.
When we’re in a situation requiring intense helping that goes on for extended periods, practicing the self-compassion exercises I described in Learn HOW to Practice Self-Compassion And Be Kinder To Yourself is nourishing.
It gives us the tools to be there for others in their time of need while still being compassionate with ourselves.
4. Look for the lesson to create meaning around the situation.
I learned from my experience of helping that I needed to learn how to detach with love. I was taking on other people’s problems as if they were my own, and by examining this in myself, I transformed what I needed to within myself, not to feel so responsible for everyone else.
There was a little book of daily readings called Let Go Now: Embracing Detachment by Karen Casey that I found helpful when I was mindful of loving others while at the same time not feeling responsible for them.
5. Become aware of your underlying beliefs.
It’s life-changing to become aware of underlying beliefs that were likely developed in childhood and that set the stage for being overly helpful. This often comes from subconscious beliefs like “I will get approval, love, or self-worth from helping others.” It’s about becoming aware of how the past is impacting our present and working to shift the limiting beliefs.
It all boils down to awareness. When we become aware, we have the power to choose to heal what needs to be healed and do the inner work so that we are coming from a place of self-love and self-worth.
Everything in our lives is illuminated in our relationships. Our relationships with others always mirror what’s working and not working.
So, if we find our helping is not nourishing for ourselves or others, it’s time to stop, reflect, learn, grow, and make changes.
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(Original publication- December 2015, Updated- June 2020)