by Judith Orloff, M.D., author of “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People“
Are you experiencing work overwhelm? Or even full-blown burnout? You’re not alone.
Today, a whopping two out of three full-time workers are wrestling with burnout, according to a recent Gallup study. To boot, the World Health Organization (WHO) now classifies work-related burnout as a “syndrome” and an “occupational phenomenon.”
But what does that actually mean in the real world?
Workers are reporting feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, lower confidence in their performance, less motivation and more negativism, and a greater likelihood to take a sick day or even visit the emergency room, explains Gallup and WHO.
All to say, there may be a legitimate reason – and not just lack of pep or positivity – for feeling like you can’t work another minute, particularly now, when escalating speed, stressors, and supercharged connectivity encompass the workplace.
This is especially significant if you’re among the tens of millions of us who are empaths — highly sensitive people – or other caring beings with intensely “attuned” systems and, likewise, some unique special needs.
The good news? You can learn how to self-soothe when you’re feeling overwhelm at work, when things on the job seem to be spiraling out of control, or when you think that you just can’t take it anymore.
To kick-start the process, I suggest a practical daily practice drawn from my book “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People“. Alongside the daily practice, use these eight simple strategies to help in your journey.
1. Use conscious breathing.
As soon as stress hits, immediately take several slow, deep, and deliberate breaths. Such conscious breathing helps expel tension so it doesn’t get stuck in your body.
2. Engage in positive self-talk.
Don’t let negative or fear-based voices get in the way of believing in yourself. Instead, improve your self-talk: “This is a transient situation. I will realize the best way to handle it, and everything will be okay.”
3. Be your own witness.
You are larger than any anxiety, fear, or self-doubt. Tell yourself: “I am not this emotion. I can calm and center myself. I can detach from this state of overwhelm. And I can witness my own experience.” This will relax you and offer a new and different perspective.
4. Accept others’ experiences, actions, and behaviors as their own.
We all deserve the dignity of walking our own path. By making this a personal affirmation, you can accept people for who they are, appreciate their life experiences, and avoid feeling responsible for their actions and behaviors.
Envision white light emanating from the crown of your head — and darkness flowing out the bottom of your feet. This is just one of many visualization techniques that reduces overwhelm and results in more positive, productive energies.
6. Use essential oils.
Essential oils have the ability to calm, invigorate, heal, and protect us. I recommend lavender oil because its properties are known to help treat anxiety, stress, restlessness, and more. You can breathe the oil in with deep inhalations or massage it into your temples, between your eyebrows, and around areas like your neck and shoulders, where you may physically carry stress.
7. Place your hand over your heart.
Just as mothers console their babies by patting their chest, you can comfort yourself by placing your hand over your heart. The heart is the center of unconditional love, and by simply touching it, you can activate endorphins – ‘happy hormones’ – throughout your body.
8. Practice self-compassion.
Your thoughts make a profound difference in your life. So rather than beating yourself up when you experience overwhelm, exercise self-compassion instead. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Seek out me-time. Nurture yourself with rest, relaxation, and if possible, bodywork or spa treatments. Tell yourself that you’re doing your best. And, whatever you do, never fail to cut yourself some slack.
Additionally, you can consider other ways to self-soothe. Cuddling with your partner. Spending time with family and friends. Doting on your kids or pets. Taking a leisurely drive. Walking in nature. Curling up with a good book. Binge-watching your favorite TV show. Savoring a special meal or drink. Meditating. Praying. Volunteering. Or whatever it may be that really resonates with you.
What’s most important is to know that with a practical daily practice and some simple strategies, you can self-soothe – and stop work overwhelm.
Judith Orloff, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author, a member of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, and has a Facebook Empath Support Community with more than 6,000 members. She has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, and in Oprah Magazine, the New York Times and more. Her new book, “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People”, draws from her own experiences as an empath to share the secret to well-being.