Physical Care to Prevent Burnout: Self-care for Advocates Series 4

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book. This is from the section on physical self-care:


Put down the sugar bowl baby. Trust me it’s hurting you more than you think.

I can pretty much promise you that if you spend your hard earned money and whatever lunch break you get on fast food or sugary bready things you are hastening your crash landing.  We tell ourselves that we’ll just answer one more email, go get one more cat/dog, check one more voice mail, stop and chat with one more co-worker until our time to eat is past and we don’t eat at all or we stand at the communal junk table in the break room eating day old cinnamon rolls and eating the salt off of stale pretzels. Don’t laugh, I’ve done it!  I’ve lived off Lean Cuisine, Cup O’ Crap…I mean Soup, sourdough pretzels, pudding cups from the emergency room fridge and every kind of drive thru known to man. It’s abominable the things I’ve eaten.

Here are a few Commandments for feeding yourself on shift or doing some heavy rescue work:

  • You must eat.
  • You must eat real food.
  • You must eat every 4-5 hours and that doesn’t mean 7 M&Ms and those gross orange cracker things with pseudo-peanut butter in the middle.
  • You must not eat fast food unless there is nothing else within 100 miles. Even then you’re better off with a bag of almonds from the gas station.
  • Make a grocery list. Go to the store. Buy food and take it with you to work.
  • Really seriously please don’t drink or eat anything with artificial sweeteners and if you are reading this while slurging down a liter sized Diet soda put it down and go get some damn water.
  • Limit your refined sugar even better get rid of it. Skip the Snicker’s and eat real peanuts.
  • Buy an apple. Eat the apple.
  • Pre-cook chicken breasts, slice and put them on pre-made salad greens. Place it all in a bowl. Take it to work. Do NOT tell me you can’t afford the pre-bagged stuff and then go spend $7.00 on one crappy meal at McMyClothesDon’tFit.
  • Save your indulgent meals for your family and friends when you can slow down and talk to each other and really taste your food.
  • Inhale your meal if you must – just make sure what your inhaling is good for you.

When I quit working full time and went to part-time I was literally stunned at how much our lifestyle didn’t change that much since I wasn’t eating out all the time due to exhaustion and the inability to decide what to buy at the store to cook for later.

Don’t believe that sugar is impacting you? Give it up for two weeks and watch yourself go through a serious detox that most alcoholics will give you props for surviving. Your brain will turn to mush or get mushier. You will feel like a for real Zombie. You will crawl the walls with cravings and hallucinate babies Trainspotting style.  You’ll weep you’ll rage and snarl at everyone around you until…

You realize you are sleeping soundly for many sweet hours in a row.  Your mind has gone so quiet and still you’ll pinch yourself to make sure you are still alive or haven’t gone stone deaf.  Your emotions will be what you have heard referred to as normal but it’s been so long since you felt that way it will all feel brand new again.  Your clothes will suddenly expand in the wash and fit you again and you will wonder how you could’ve been so addicted to a little white powder. Not cocaine! Sugar!

The longer you refrain from the Devil’s sweetness the more you will be able to resist the siren call of that communal junk table.  You won’t have to babble incoherently making multiple excuses to not go to the office birthday parties because you know your will is new and weak and you don’t want your boss to see you dive head long in to the carrot cake screaming, “Cream cheese frosting rocks!”  You’ll be able to go and recognize that a moment on the lips followed by a descent into an emotional roller coaster is not at all worth it and you’ll politely decline and it will be ok.

It will get easier and your clear thinking will astound you and maybe make you sad for how many emotional outbursts weren’t “you” at all but the result of a physical system made deranged by a sparkly white neurotoxin.  Do this for yourself and for Pete’s sake don’t become a sanctimonius jerk and insist everyone else give it up too!  I beg you on my own knees that you to simply and quietly enjoy your new found peace and quiet that is unless someone asks you why you’re suddenly completely dressed and showing up to work 15 minutes early with an actual smile on your face!

Now go Grasshopper and make thee a decent grocery list.

The Obvious:

Exercise. Period.

Fun Things to Do With Your Body:

No not that, this isn’t THAT kind of book!

Pet your pets. They love it, you love it, it’s awesome.

A friend just gave me an adult coloring book and I just about fell over from joy. Coloring! So relaxing and fun and to my surprise there are a lot of adult coloring books at your local bookstore. I was given one with tattoo designs because my friend is smart like that.

Get on the floor and play with a child or pet. It’s fun!

Walk for the fun of walking. No counting steps or  measuring time, do this under a full moon and listen. Do this through crunchy fall leaves. Do this in the snow and listen to the soft shuff shuff sound your boots make.

Paint your nails. Even better have some friends over and you can all paint your nails. You can do this if you’re a guy too because hey I’m not here to judge.

If you like mechanic stuff rebuild a carburetor. I can tell you that you have to concentrate and will forget all else.

Disassemble something and put it back together. Try not to disassemble a pistol and then lose some dang springy thing so that it has to go to a gunsmith for repair. Sigh.

Cook a meal start to finish. Go to a farmer’s market and smell things and buy colorful produce. Come home and really focus on preparation. Go slow. Taste deeply. Added bonus if you do all this for someone you love.

Hug a friend. Read a book with a friend quietly, preferably in a park. Be like Tonka and Hoot below: hold tails and enjoy the traffic in the parking lot.

What else can you do physically for fun? What did you do as a kid before movement had to have a “purpose”?


15 comments on “Physical Care to Prevent Burnout: Self-care for Advocates Series 4

  1. Michelle, this is awesome! Articfical sweeteners are horrible! I can tell when I’ve eaten/drank them and do whatever I can to stay away from them! And all your suggestions on fun things to do–all those things are what give me a peaceful repreive from a long hard day. Miss you already!! 🙁

  2. Guilty! And you’re totally right. Sugar is a horrible stress relief. It gives you a short high and a long low.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book! When is it coming out?

  3. I admit it. I’m a sugar-a-holic. It’s something that I continually attempt to quit and frequently fail at. You are right on the money – it has to go. It is so bad for people in a lot of different ways. I actually do enjoy physical activity. I love to dance and box, but you can’t out train a bad diet.

  4. I want to read a book or watch a whole movie without my hand constantly reaching out to the side for the candy I like to munch. Well, the kind I say I’m going to suck on and not crunch but then wind up crunching and reaching until it’s all gone and I don’t even remember putting most of it in my mouth! Love your article, I’m going to buy and apple and eat it 🙂

  5. I’m enjoying this series – great topic and help for those dealing with the never ending upsets that come with the world of animal welfare.

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