Fiona McKinnon is the co-founder & CEO at The Moment Company, a company on a mission to raise awareness and increase access to the benefits of short mind breaks.
How do you know when you’re feeling stressed or burnt out?
I think it’s important to separately define stress and burnout.
We all feel micro moments of stress throughout the day, from the moment the alarm goes off, to email notifications, watching the news and back to back zoom calls, we are subjected to shots of adrenaline so subtle that you perhaps don’t feel them at all. However, your nervous system is being triggered, your heart rate increases and you prepare to ‘fight or flight’
Burnout is the result of being subjected to stress over a prolonged period of time and tends to be associated with the workplace. Burnout means that you find yourself no longer able to keep up with the demands of daily life and can manifest itself as physical, emotional or mental depletion.
For me, stress feels like an increase in feelings of anxiety in approaching new tasks, being more irritable under pressure. I experience a sense of not being fully in control of my emotions and responses. I find it harder to focus, to make rational decisions, and I am aware that my outlook is more pessimistic than positive.
When I look back, I was not managing my stress levels or doing anything to counterbalance it for many years, and when I eventually reached my burnout, the experience was one of physical depletion. My body forced my mind to stop.
My symptoms of burnout escalated over the course of 2 years; disrupted sleeping patterns, a change in food cravings and eating habits, drinking more, feelings of despondency and frustration at work, stomach issues and most devastating of all, a susceptibility to illness. I contracted ecoli, giardia, norovirus and an allergic reaction to medication all within 6 months. I was exhausted and I was forced to completely stop and rest.
This point changed my life as I became curious to understand what happened to me and to prevent me reaching these extreme levels again by better appreciation and management of day to day stress. I started a mindfulness and meditation practice and also became sober; addictions and extreme behaviour being another symptom of stress and burnout.
Do you have a regular self-care routine? If so, what does it look like?
My daily routine evolves as I am always curious to try something new.
At the moment, I do 20 minutes of transcendental meditation before I get out of bed. I then move my body for 10-15 minutes of yoga/stretching and then it’s hot water and lemon before the first coffee of the day.
Throughout the day I practise regular mindful moments; a few deep rounds of conscious breaths between Zoom calls, taking my focus away from screens and onto my Moment Pebble. I believe that changing your perspective changes your perspective, so even if it’s just looking out the window, you are allowing your mind to take a pause.
A good sleep routine is vital for self-care. So in the evenings, I have a cup of night tea, a signal to my mind and body that it’s time to wind down. As I get into bed I write in a journal ‘I am grateful for…’ and recall my day from a place of gratitude so that my last thoughts of the day are positive.
On a weekly basis I work out, swim in the sea and have cryotherapy chamber sessions to boost my energy, circulation and mood.
I think the most important part of having a self care routine is for you to feel the benefits, make them enjoyable and quick in time so that it can easily fit into any day wherever you are, and finally, don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a day.