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Do People Wear You Out? 3 Simple Steps to Prevent People Burnout

Do People Wear You Out? 3 Simple Steps to Prevent People Burnout

Do you get exhausted around other people? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you’re an introvert, a highly sensitive person, or simply someone who feels other people’s emotions, sometimes being around others–even those you love–can leave you desperately reaching for the quiet sanctity of a bathroom stall. It’s common for people to depend on bathroom stalls as their “sacred shrine” of solitude. If you’ve ever retreated to a bathroom or private room during a social gathering and closed the door only to feel a sudden sense of relief in your mind and body, you may be known as someone who emotionally empathizes with others well.

According to Daniel Goleman, author of the book Emotional Intelligence, emotional empathy is the ability to feel what another person is feeling “in an instantaneous body-to-body connection”. It’s as if the other person’s emotions are contagious. Goleman says, “When people lack the ability to manage their own distressing emotions, it can be seen in the psychological exhaustion that leads to burnout.”

There’s an old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, which is also true when it comes to people burnout. It’s easier to not put yourself in a potential situation where you’re going to get burnt out than it is to try to be happy when you’re already burnt out from people. Here are three steps to ensure that you enjoy the time you spend with others and avoid situations where you won’t:

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1. WHO – Identify the people who generally tend to suck the living energy out of you.

Let’s say, for example, there’s an old needy friend from high school who you’ve outgrown, but still keep in touch out of a sense of obligation or guilt. You can release them, knowing that neither of you are serving each other or the friendship. While you might think you’re helping, by allowing them to constantly dump their emotions on you, the truth is you’re enabling them to remain stuck in their habitual patterns of emotional distress.

If you’re unsure whether the individual(s) is important in your life, then ask yourself the following question: “Would I deeply care if this person didn’t visit me on my deathbed?” Yes, it sounds morbid, but imagining yourself on a deathbed will help clear up a lot of uncertainties and eliminate those who aren’t as important to you. But if the concern involves your children or other loved ones who do add meaning to your life, the tips below will help you manage those needs.

2. WHAT – Identify the circumstances that generally lead you to anxiety, stress, and being emotionally overwhelmed.

If the circumstance is unavoidable, pay attention to the subtle signs of impending burnout. If you’re visualizing an escape hatch magically appearing underneath you or the sudden spontaneous combustion of the person in front of you, it’s too late. You want to be aware of slight shifts in your energy before it overwhelms you.

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You can do this by constantly checking in with yourself and how you’re feeling. Take what author Tara Brach calls a “sacred pause” and reconnect with that within you that’s present and mindful. Doing this throughout the event helps you remain grounded in your own energy so you’re not mindlessly swept away in other people’s energy and end up feeling like you were hit by an emotional Mack truck by the end of the night.

Find ways to take mini solitude breaks so you can recharge. For example, if you’re at a dinner party, volunteer to wash the dishes or clean up. It will give you quiet reprieve to be in your own blissful head space, replenish you for the rest of the evening, and also endears you to the host.

3. WHEN – Identify the times when you have less patience, tolerance, or emotional resilience.

For me, when I’m hungry, I get “hangry” (hungry + angry = hangry). My blood sugar goes down and my hands start shaking. Physiologically-speaking, the brain perceives this as a life-threatening situation and when you’re in physical survival mode, checking in with your emotions is the least of your concerns. So when I’m “hangry”, I know that my emotional tolerance is lower and I make it a point to stay away from people. In recent times, I have learned to cope with my hanger by carrying snacks around.

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Some other common times include when you’re tired, in a hurry, on a deadline to get something done, or going through your own emotional challenges. If you’re experiencing any of these, don’t put yourself in a potentially draining situation. For example, if you know you turn into a tired and grumpy pumpkin around 10 pm, don’t plan to stay out later than 9:30.

Set clear boundaries and stick to them. Instead of carpooling, drive yourself around so you have control over when you leave. If you’re on a deadline for a project and someone calls to talk, tell them you only have 10 minutes and will call them back later if needed. The guilt you may feel for not being there for someone is far better than the frustration, anxiety, and exhaustion you’ll feel if you don’t stick to your boundaries. With practice, the guilt lessens and the other person learns to independently deal with their own issues without using you as an emotional dumping ground.

Be open with your loved ones and don’t expect them to be mind readers. In the same way that some sponges absorb more than others, everyone’s emotional absorption capacity is different. Know your susceptible levels and express them in advance.

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The bottom line is to identify the people, circumstances, and timing that often lower your emotional tolerance and avoid them if possible. If it’s not possible, set clear boundaries and have regular self check-in’s throughout the event so that you don’t get to the point of burnout. That way when you do accept a social invitation or spend time with others, you can actually enjoy yourself.

Featured photo credit: Mike Wilson via unsplash.com

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Tree Franklyn

Emotional Empowerment Coach

Do People Wear You Out? 3 Simple Steps to Prevent People Burnout

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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