12 Signs of Breakdown & Resilience First Aid

Resilience tank on empty? Here are 12 tell-tale signs of burnout and how to triage with intelligent first aid.

Challenging times call us to listen to our bodies and respond wisely; but instead we tend to continue forward as rushed as ever, albeit ineffectively and often leaving disaster in our wake, while neglecting our deeper needs to slow down and recharge.

In our go-go-go culture, we can become so accustomed to the symptoms of burnout, that we don’t even recognize that we’re running in the red.

12 Warning Signs That We’re Approaching Breakdown:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Forgetfulness
  3. Procrastination, apathy or feeling helpless
  4. Blaming others for everyday difficulties, such as traffic, being late, or a long line at the store
  5. Irritability
  6. Short-fused reactivity, such as cursing, slamming doors, throwing things, and honking at strangers
  7. Loss of appetite or intense cravings
  8. Disproportionate emotionality, such as sudden crying or yelling
  9. Self-medication, including binging on junk food, drinking alcohol to escape, or watching endless television
  10. Insomnia or other sleep difficulties
  11. Physical symptoms of stress, especially GI symptoms, such as heartburn, stomach pain, diarrhea or constipation
  12. Illness that forces you to rest, perhaps a bad cold or flu, due to a depressed immune response

For a quick check-in, we can look for HOLES: 

  • Humorless
  • Ornery
  • Lifeless
  • Emotional
  • Sick

When holes start to show up, it’s time to triage our frontline defense – our shell if you will – to identify what’s undermining our resilience, and then rescue with first aid.

The Resilience Triage:

Identify the HOLES. Assess the SHELL. RESCUE with first aid.

  1. Resilience First Aid Em Capito, LCSWSick? > Retreat. Get the care you need and get to bed.
  2. Hungry? > Eat a healthy meal or snack.
  3. Exhausted? > Sleep, ASAP. If you’re not sleeping well, exercise first.
  4. Lonely? > Connect with another human. Call or meet up.
  5. Lost? > Unload Everything. Cancel obligations. Delete the to do list. Meditate. Detox. Can’t sit still? Do something creative.

In our triage, we begin from the bottom of the Hierarchy of Resilience, where deficiencies in basic needs can undermine even the strongest very quickly.

Resilience First Aid is about shoring up the holes in our foundation, restoring that frontline shell of physical wellness first, which creates the bandwidth necessary to continue through our triage to notice and take care of our mental, emotional and spiritual wellness.

The Hierarchy of Resilience by Em Capito, LCSW

In the worst of situations, when we need immediate self-care, we can skip the triage, take a sick day, and deploy all of the RESCUE tactics in a 12-hour urgent self-care period: Retreat, Eat, Sleep, Connect, and Unload Everything.

It’s important to remember: we can’t repair holes without letting the pot dry out.

When we breakdown, we have to step away from taking care of others to heal.

Sometimes we just need a few hours away, sometimes a sick day, and other times we need to step away from our lives for a longer period of time. If we don’t listen and respond, that toxic load of stress will eventually result in a physical manifestation that requires us to do so (likely at the worst possible time).

Hierarchy of Resilience and Vulnerability Em Capito, LCSWIf we’re wise, we won’t wait for burnout or tragedy anymore.

Those same actions can be proactively built into our everyday resilience practice, nourishing our bodies and minds as we top off the tank each night with a restful sleep, and each day with nourishing meals, meditation and meaningful interactions.

When we restore our foundational wellness, we naturally shift back into our authentic self and reconnect with our purpose, the meaning in our lives, and our ability to not only survive, but thrive from life’s most difficult chapters.

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