When your life has been on autopilot for so long – waking up, going to work, reacting to others’ needs – it can be easy to slip into a rhythm that is dictated by the outside world. With so much to react to each day, finding time to connect back to your own needs can be challenging. And with the backdrop of a global pandemic and confronting police violence and systemic racism as the US is experiencing now, it can be difficult to focus on our own needs. You may yearn for the time when you felt like yourself, doing things you enjoy and living a life you control.
So when the world is upside-down and you’re feeling disconnected, what can you do? First of all, there can be several reasons why you may be feeling off your game, but in this post we are going to focus on things within your control – such as work-induced burnout and stress. In our work, we’ve found that prolonged exposure to stress (often associated with burnout) is one of the most common reasons people report “not feeling like themselves”.
In this post, we’ll walk through common things you may experience when you’re not feeling yourself and ways you can get back to what matters most to you.
Know what symptoms to look out for:
When we’re disconnected from ourselves, it can be difficult to pause and notice what’s changed. Sometimes we just feel “off” but when we try to identify what the cause is, everything can feel intertwined. Perhaps you’re stressed about new changes in your job or maybe you are missing out on your normal summer activities. With so many new things to adapt to this year, analyzing each and every problem may feel like an impossible feat. Instead of spiraling down a rabbit hole of trying to identify what’s causing your stress, let’s start by checking in with some of the things you’re experiencing physically. Bringing your attention back to the body can be a more approachable way of getting back on track. These are things that you may experience when you’re not feeling like yourself.
It is exactly how it sounds – as if a fog has entered your mind, creating a fuzzy connection between you and the rest of the world. You forgot something your spouse said. Simple tasks feel difficult to manage. You are zoning out, stalled for how to respond to questions. Brain fog can take the form of many things, but the way it’s often described is that you don’t feel as sharp in your thoughts. According to Harvard Medical School, this can often be due to deeper health issues including anxiety or depression, medication reaction, an inactive thyroid, or low levels of B12.
When we aren’t at 100% our patience can easily wear thin. Irritability is a common symptom of stress and overwhelm, and can be the fastest way to identify something is off. If you snap at a coworker or shoot off an angry text message to a partner, you’ll likely get feedback about your mood swings. But if not, take time to note when you are reacting to someone’s comment versus responding. Are you giving a thoughtful response or are you taking the opportunity to exert some pent up energy? Is there heat in your chest, a tightness in your throat, or soreness from a clenched jaw? Mood swings are completely normal when life has been chaotic, but noticing where you physically feel it is a great indicator of whether or not you’re taking time to respond or you’re just reacting emotionally.
Sleep is the likely the fastest way to determine where you are both mentally and physically. And the trickiest thing about it is you can easily get caught in a loop, where sleep ignites a bad mood and your bad mood diminishes sleep. Take time to note what your sleeping patterns have been like. Are you waking up ready for the day? Are you taking more naps than normal? What is your energy like when you go to bed? If you’d like more insight into waking up refreshed, check out our recent post.
How to feel like yourself again:
Recognizing any changes in your physical and emotional well-being is critical to feeling better. And though there could be several root causes to why you’re not feeling yourself, it’s important to step back and address these issues mindfully. If you are experiencing large bouts of sadness and loss of hope, please seek medical attention. However, if you are experiencing these issues in a more acute way, it’s possible you could be experiencing burnout due to a recent build-up of stress. Here are some ways you can connect back to what matters most to you.
1. Start with your physical health.
When in doubt, start with your body. When you aren’t feeling like yourself, it can often feel like an “out of body” experience. So the best way to get things back on track is to get back into your body through exercise, healthy eating and restful sleep. It can feel like too much to take on external factors, but you always have a choice when it comes to how you take care of your body. Start by journaling to make note of your current habits. Then pick one thing, for example going to bed on time, and start there. The key is to start small and to move forward with compassion.
2. Get back in touch with what’s important to you.
When we give so much of ourselves to others (or to our internal stresses), the things we loved about life can slip away. Pause for a moment and write down the parts of your life that you are grateful for – the things that bring you joy. It could be a hobby, a physical activity, or perhaps just some quiet time to read. If you’re having a hard time pinpointing something, take a look at our Burnout 101 articles that go in depth on how to get back in touch with what you want.
3. Get a new perspective.
Whether it’s turning to family and friends or to a therapist, talking to someone about what you’re experiencing can help. It may be scary to feel out of tune with who we are, but sharing how you’er feeling out loud may offer some relief. If you don’t want advice and instead just want a sounding board – make that clear. People close to you may not always need to share their thoughts in order for you to get a new perspective on things. Sometimes just talking through it can help you see more clearly.
4. Incorporate joy in your routine.
Sometimes it can feel silly to go through the motions of being happy when you aren’t feeling happy, but oftentimes – it works. Even though you may not feel like yourself enough to experience joy, do it anyway. Break the cycle of feeling disconnected by jumping into things that brought you absolute joy before. Say yes to virtual game night with friends, answer the phone when a loved one called, dance silly to music you enjoy – all of these things may not feel natural at first, but eventually something may strike and you’ll start to feel like your old self again.
We are experiencing unprecedented events in the world, and it is completely normal to feel unlike normal yourself – it’d be wild if everything remained the same. The key is to take it day-by-day and make small changes that keep you moving forward without overwhelming you. If you’d like more advice on how to avoid burnout and wake up feeling refreshed and like yourself again, subscribe to our newsletter.