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The fine art of doing nothing will help reverse burnout.

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H Hopson and Ted Hagen/Tribune News Service

Do you feel guilty and highly uncomfortable when you do absolutely nothing? Maybe you fidget and squirm, looking for your smartphone to scan for incoming text messages. Or, do you itch to check your e-mail?

Learning to relax is not that simple. Most of us stay so busy, pushing our stressful emotions to the background, that working on our relaxation techniques will create anxiety at first!

"When I started taking 30 minutes a day to sit in my recliner, I actually felt worse in the beginning!" says a banking executive we'll call Ralph. "All of my fears, problems and personal issues started jumping into my brain."

Those of us who feel heavy and bogged down are suffering from emotional burnout, most likely. We've worked, planned, fretted, stayed up late, and gotten up early so long, our mental health is crying out for some relief.

Being in a burnout stage means it takes more and more energy to keep up our lifestyles. We never feel energised.

These tips can help you back away from overall burnout:

lPractice doing absolutely nothing in small increments. Take actual breaks from work throughout the day. Or, sit on your patio at home for 20 minutes just taking in the view.

lStart giving something back to yourself. Would you enjoy reading a magazine centred on one of your hobbies? Or, would you enjoy taking a drive in the country?

l Try to obtain "closure" on past problems. Maybe one of your businesses failed, or perhaps you've come out of a bad relationship or marriage. Staying busy is a way to avoid dealing with these issues. Get with someone you trust and talk out this kind of pain. This way, you can relax more readily.

"I literally drain myself with compulsive busyness and making to-do lists," says a pharmacist we'll call Alex. "I only work 40 hours a week, but I've killed three marriages! I cannot relax and just enjoy being alive."

Alex says he was raised to keep busy and work hard. When he gets home from work, he has real trouble kicking back to relax. He does admit, however, that he "drags through life" and feels overwhelmed.

"When I was a young newly-wed at 28, I could get up at six, go to work, clean and cook, and find time to watch a movie three nights a week," says a nurse we'll call Evelyn. "But now, at 56, I can't find the energy to do my laundry or clean my house at all. I worry about my six grandkids, the upcoming presidential election, you-name-it. I am so tense, others can feel it. I went for a massage at the spa, and I was so tense, I think I crippled the massage therapist's hands!"

Think of your brain as a computer that needs to defrag. A busy mind is scattered. It burns energy to keep worrying about 20 things on 20 different tracks.

"I knew I was cooling my burnout when I caught up my messy house by noon one Saturday," says a friend of ours we'll call Janice. "I had rested a lot the prior week, and I got up at 7am on this particular Saturday and sailed through my chores. Once I took a shower, I felt like taking a long walk. I was really surprised when I didn't feel tired when I went to bed that night. I slept like a baby."

- Judi Light Hopson is the executive director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe at Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.

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Publication:Gulf Times (Doha, Qatar)
Date:Apr 17, 2016
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