Self-Care Fatigue in The Age of Burnout

Sick of “self-care” yet? With this phrase becoming one of the most-overused since the end of the pandemic, it’s all too easy to start feeling overwhelmed with all of the suggestions on how we’re meant to be taking care of ourselves – like these actions and activities are just ONE MORE task on an ever-growing list of to-do’s.

We’re being constantly bombarded with advice and suggestions on the necessity of self-care. Everywhere we turn — social media posts, corporate emails — we’re reminded to prioritize personal time. But during an era marked by unprecedented levels of stress and persistent uncertainty, it’s understandable that some may grow weary of this ever-present, all-too-cheery advice.

We all know the significance of self-care cannot be undermined, so if you’re finding yourself emotionally drained by just the thought of “engaging in self-care”, it may be time to explore resources that can rejuvenate your spirit and rekindle your energy. But how do you do this when you’ve reached your limit with all of the self-care chatter?

Self-care is about deliberate actions — it involves proactive engagement in activities that foster resilience, well-being, and general health preservation. All of us practice self-care to some degree. However, the difference lies in the consistency and intentionality of this practice.

If you find yourself exhibiting signs of exhaustion from the persistent emphasis on self-care, you’re not alone. This phenomenon, termed “self-care fatigue”, signifies a broader feeling of exhaustion. People are emotionally worn out — tired of hoping for a return to normalcy and then tired when faced with actually returning to that normalcy. There’s exhaustion from being home-bound, fatigue from endless virtual meetings, and stress from juggling childcare and work at home. In essence, there’s a universal sense of exhaustion and irritation.

Enter the quest for an easy and magical solution! Turns out it’s this catch-all phrase: SELF-CARE. But when we’re constantly being presented with messages about self-care that include things like eat well, sleep more, exercise regularly, read more books, listen to music, walk in your bare feet in the grass, drink less alcohol and more water, get outside, take bubble baths, and more… the pressure from trying to check ALL OF THESE additional boxes can become stressful in itself. When mental and physical fatigue sets in, meeting these daily goals seems like an uphill task.

During the pandemic, focusing on what we couldn’t control became second nature. Keeping this type of focus can deter us from directing our energies towards the elements within our control, such as our behaviors and decisions. The best and most valuable self-care messages aim to ground us, offering a momentary way to reflect and rechannel our energies.

Self-care doesn’t guarantee immediate change in our circumstances, but it does provide us with the daily energy reserves and resilience needed to navigate the tough stuff.

So the next time you see messages about the “importance of self-care”, consider this: take what you need and leave the rest. If you’re already doing the best you can to get more rest, eat better, and move more, chalk it up as a win. If you’re too overwhelmed to do any of that and what you really need right now is an evening on the couch, watching a Netflix series with a glass (or 2) of wine, realize that that too is an act of self-care. Be kind to yourself and indulge in whatever form of self-care you truly need for today.

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