June 1, 2022 | 18:00 | Community
Many people associate summer with holidays. Surely everyone wants to spend this time to the maximum benefit – including their mental health. How do you feel that emotional exhaustion is near? What happens if you ignore self signals? How to fill a vacation if there is no opportunity to go on a trip? We talked about this and many other things with Anastasia Kidrovskaya, clinical psychologist, Gestalt therapist and author of the Telegram channel on self-actualization in this world “Come, let’s stay together.”
– Anastasia, in recent years we hear the term “emotional exhaustion” more and more often. Is this really the scourge of our time? Or is the scale of the problem exaggerated?
– As far as I notice from the requests of my clients, crowding fatigue is a really urgent problem. Here, first of all, exaggerated expectations of themselves affect. So, it seems to me that this is not an exaggeration, but a fact.
When did the concept of emotional exhaustion become particularly relevant?
– I think that’s a really long story, it’s now more covered, people are more aware and understand that what used to be called laziness and whimsy can turn into exhaustion. I think that since the 1990s, when we penetrated Western culture and personal psychotherapy, these problems began to take their place in the information space and get their names. Although, of course, the problem itself, simply without a clear definition, appeared earlier, because a person is prone to “achievement”, and this inevitably leads to burnout.
For many, exhaustion is a sign that it’s time to go on vacation. This is correct? Or is it better to act preemptively and let yourself rest when your emotional background is more or less stable?
– The question itself, of course, already has an answer. It is not recommended to exhaust the body and psyche to the extent that it takes years to recover, not just a week or two.
Fatigue can cause other problems, too. My clients have experienced panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depressive episodes.
Every action we take is aimed at meeting our needs. Any of our activities – professional, social, etc. I see burnout where “I” overrides “I want”, “I choose”, “I can” – this is likely a long-term nature. In many ways, when people decide whether or not to go on vacation, whether to reduce the load, and in general – whether to engage in activity – this “no-choice” is sometimes more exhausting than the loads themselves. I think many people are familiar with fatigue that occurs for such reasons.
How do you know when fatigue approached?
Fatigue has three characteristics. The more you are in the house, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
- Physical and emotional exhaustion, decreased motivation – we might think of it as laziness, the effect of the season, etc. – a long-term feeling of a lack of healthy energy and vitality to perform activities. We have to force ourselves to do something. It’s okay to put in the effort, but when it’s too much, it’s worth worrying about.
- Spacing, meaningless – When you lose your meaning, do something, but don’t understand why it’s necessary. People often call such actions “on the machine” – people in this state work, study, communicate. This is a kind of separation.
- A decrease in the quality of work – if you used to do what you should, and you see efficiency, and over time, the activity is no longer full.
If we try to highlight the feelings that deserve attention, which tell us that something is wrong, the first sign is irritability. If stress begins to exceed an acceptable level, irritability becomes the first thing the psyche is trying to cope with. One of the functions of irritation is to “get rid” of what does not suit us. If these feelings are ignored, indifference will appear – this is a more difficult story. It is as if the person is no longer there, people sometimes say about this “the shadow of the person remains”. It is better to seek help even at the stage of irritation, because the stage of apathy is more difficult. Somatization may come next – psychosomatic illnesses come. The body begins to respond – someone is choking, someone’s heart tingles, etc. – and this is a deeper level of distress for the body when the body is already physically reacting.
I rely on this rule: the rest is the same as the work part. This is the passive part of doing active work. In our culture, there is a distortion of thinking – there are situations that stigmatize comfort.
– How to be able to stop yourself and prevent an unpleasant encounter with burnout?
If a person can stop himself, he will do so and will not come by himself to a place where his restoration and self-care are excluded. Perhaps, something is arranged in such a way that it is difficult for a person to stop himself. The difficulty is that a person, due to various (often very deep) processes, stops noticing his feelings. Here I recommend not to flirt and not to create the illusion that everything is under control. This may resemble the behavior of an addict, because workaholism is also an addiction, which is only accepted and encouraged socially. In such cases, psychotherapy can help, because the problem can be much deeper than the construction of a work and rest regime. I often see this with my clients.
– And what could be such deep problems?
– It can be, for example, a decrease in sensitivity to oneself, when a person does not recognize the signals of oneself. Also, a critical attitude to oneself and inflated expectations is nearby – this is a kind of narcissistic process, another scourge of our time. All of these situations require deep study. I want to emphasize that these are not situations in which self-help is enough, because our internal mechanisms serve to maintain the already built system, and when creating a new relationship with ourselves, help from a psychotherapist is important.
– How long will it take to rest for someone who, plus or minus, managed to notice fatigue in time?
Of course, there are no standards here. But this metaphor came to mind – it’s like going to the bank for money: if you take a loan and pay it off in a short time, the interest will be lower. The longer this loan is not repaid, the higher the interest, and some people get into a real debt gap because of it.
And if we talk about the emotional state – when you do not give this “benefit” for a long time, then the question will not be about vacation that lasts even for a month, but about restructuring your lifestyle. You will have to live with different symptoms, and adapt to them. This will impose certain restrictions and reduce the quality of life.
– This year, I think many people have a situation in which, for various reasons, the holiday will take place at home. How to make this vacation as useful as possible for yourself?
“Our happiness does not lie in owning a particular thing. Yes, of course, for many, a vacation is associated with a trip, a change of scenery, etc. – it would be great if this were available to us, but satisfaction does not depend on the embodiment of this very idea. In order to face less disappointment And not taking a vacation in mental therapy, I would suggest respecting your need for rest and looking for a broader option to fill this need.After all, if we want something new, it may be a long-awaited pastime, a trip somewhere near our city, and much more. Setting a goal to work all year long without straightening your back, so you can spend a week or two at sea later, doesn’t make perfect sense.The ability to be amazed and curious is the key to our feeling happy and included in life.You can be surprised not only at sea or in another country .
I want to share with you the formula of British existential therapist Simon de Block, which he described in his article “The Cure for Everyday Life: Bringing Surprise into Our Daily Lives.” The author reflects on the importance of surprise (wonder) in our lives. The ways he suggests developing surprise might be self-help tools to reduce everyday stress.
- Writing (letter) – You can start writing practices, come up with wish lists, or start keeping morning pages or gratitude notes.
- Observe (observe) – this element is closely related to the first. It is about observing yourself and what is going on around you. For example, you can look at your home in a new way.
- Nature (nature) – to get in touch with it further, summer contributes to this. Engaging in nature – even in urban environments, this is possible thanks to gardens and reservoirs, for example.
- Dialogue (dialogue) is a very important point. It is possible to fill those gaps in communication with the people we interact with a little while you are busy at work. Talking from the heart to the heart is different from empty talk. Perhaps this is a good moment for new acquaintances – and it is also a great form of relaxation and fulfillment.
- Exercise (exercises) – not just sports, but everything related to the body. For example, walking. I assure you that the body will respond with healing. Physical and mental renewal are very close to each other.
- Reading (reading) – I think this can extend to art in general. You can study creativity that already exists in our own or other cultures.
– Turning off notifications in work chats on vacation, not answering calls from colleagues – is this normal? After all, many condemn such behavior.
It is important to be able to set boundaries. If I have agreements on vacation time, these are exactly the planned limits – and it is a good idea to keep them all as is.
“The world is not going to fall apart from this, am I right?”
– I did not find such stories in my work. In time, the person should recover. If you have a lot of responsibility, it is a question of being able to delegate. Otherwise, the recovery is unlikely to complete. By the way, they often come to psychotherapy with the inability to delegate – these people are not able to lower their control due to many deep mechanisms.
Is this related to the so-called control whims?
Yes, these people often have the idea that no one can do it the way they do it, everything will fall apart without them. The deeper the belief, the more terrifying it is to try to relinquish control.
Life is broader and bigger than work. After rest, you will be more productive in your activities after a full recovery. Summer it is important not to miss it, even if it is working. You can still get time to meet all the joys of this season.
Interviewed by Sofia Shachlova/IA Dialog