As we’re approaching the end of the year, you may be feeling that you need to run faster to stay in the game. There may be deadlines on projects, parties to organize and attend, gifts to buy for family and friends, and if you’re a mother, also keeping up with your children’s end of year activities…

But here’s the thing: If you keep going non-stop, you’ll start the year exhausted. And this won’t help you avoid burning yourself out or pursue your long term goals.

You may need some help in ways to truly look after yourself and avoid burning yourself out…

… given the messages we receive are from an over trillion-dollar self-care and wellness industry that has left us feeling just as exhausted and depleted as ever. In fact, women often tell me that weekly massages and scented candles have started to feel like one more item on an overfilled to-do list that make them feel like a failure when they don’t find time for them or joy in them.

I’m going to share a couple of things for you to keep in mind as you prepare your own self-care protocol. This process aims to nourish you and help you thrive, avoiding burning yourself out even in the busiest times.

Know your sources of energy

Research on optimal human performance shows that energy isn’t just what you put into your body, it’s also what you put into your mind and soul.  If you’re always telling yourself that this is too hard or that no one ever supports you. Or if you consider fun activities to be frivolous, especially when there’s so much to do, then you’ll find it really hard to deal with what you’re facing. 

It will feel like pushing a boulder up a mountain. Make it easy for yourself by fueling yourself at all levels:

  • How will you take care of your physical energy? What are your non-negotiables regarding sleep or exercise? Which foods energize you and which ones don’t work so well? 
  • How will you take care of your emotional energy? What things will you stop saying to yourself, and what will you say more of? As they say, garbage in, garbage out.
  • How will you take care of your mental energy? What new tasks or chores will you say no to, and what will you delegate, defer, or drop from what’s already on your plate? 
  • How will you take care of your spiritual energy? What are some things that make you feel alive and connected to something more than just your to-do list? 

Set internal and external boundaries 

Once you start the process of avoiding burning yourself out and know what energizes you, it’s time to set some boundariesFor example, if you know that scrolling through your social media feeds at night will leave you feeling grumpy in the morning, a boundary with yourself could look something like this:

What time will you go to bed to wake up feeling refreshed and how will you make sure you stick to your intentions? You may want to leave your phone in the bathroom when you go to brush your teeth. Or create a soothing bedtime routine that helps you fall asleep faster.

You’ll also need to set boundaries with others. For example: “I wouldn’t be able to take on any new projects unless we delegate one of them to someone else.” “I would like you to do the dishes at night because it’s the only time I get to go out for a walk.” 

But implementing the boundary isn’t enough. You’ll also need to make sure you maintain it because your overworked boss may still try to add the project to your plate. Or your child may forget or may try to get out of doing the dishes. It’s on you to gently remind him again, and to thank him when he remembers so it reinforces the new behavior.

Create a self-care protocol

Given your unique preferences and situation, it’s time to create a daily structure that will fuel all levels of your energy. I find that when times are busy, stressful, or chaotic, the greatest control you have is over your morning and evening routine. What will you do in those moments to avoid burning yourself out and get yourself ready for a great day. 

During the day, what are some reminders you’ll set yourself to not let the tasks and chores weigh you down? For example, you may change your screensaver to something motivating, or put a sticky note on your laptop that says: “Good enough IS good enough!” 

Remember, you will get through this; the question is not if but how. The structures you put in place now to nourish and restore yourself can become lifelong habits that help you engage with every moment with joy and rise to your challenges when the going gets tough and you can’t avoid burning yourself out knocks at the door.

A version of this article originally appeared on Psychology Today.

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