I am one of those people who typically likes to just get shit done. I can’t just sit around and procrastinate forever on hardly anything. I mean, I do procrastinate some, but then I get overwhelmed that that thing hasn’t been completed and just get it done. I push and push and push myself. I get my day job done and then take care of things around the house and make sure to get writing, reading, or workout time in as well. Oh and a few personal video chats as well.
It really doesn’t sound like that much. I mean, that is normal life stuff, right? Well, that normal life stuff can cause burnout. When I typically think of burnout, I think of 100 hour work weeks with grueling workouts and a crazy social calendar. I think of people who do so much more each day and sleep a lot less than I do. I don’t ever consider myself as a candidate for burnout.
That’s when it hits me and I can’t figure out why I have no energy or why I all of a sudden want to cancel all of my goals. This just happened to me right before Thanksgiving. Thankfully I took the entire Thanksgiving week off because I hit my burnout limit. At first, I couldn’t identify that it was burnout. I thought I was just being lazy and being lazy is one of those things that I vehemently despise. I started berating myself while still pushing through what I wanted to get done. I was ready to pump myself full of coffee or espresso to get my ass in gear. Then I realized I hadn’t taken a day to rest in months. I usually have been trying to do it once a month on the worst day of my period, but the last two periods haven’t fallen at times when that was possible.
I was burned out and it took me a couple of days to realize it and allow myself to rest. I should have identified it when I was sitting down on that Sunday to do my gratitude and plan out the week. I couldn’t come up with any productive thoughts about the week. In fact, I was ready to cancel this website, cancel the things I’ve been working on behind the scenes, and cancel my Instagram. I was ready to go full-on cancel culture on my life. I told myself that I couldn’t make any rash decisions and that I needed to use this week off of work to work through these feelings.
I finally realized it when I was sitting on the couch reading and didn’t want the TV on or to even scroll on my phone. I actually wanted to take a nap, and I did!! For 20 minutes, but that is not the norm for me. I told my husband that I think I hit my burnout point and that I wasn’t going to do much the rest of the day. He had no issues. I ordered dinner and started the new season of The Crown on Netflix. I rested and I relaxed.
And the next morning, I woke up refreshed and energetic again. I went back and updated my goals for the week and expressed gratitude for allowing myself to rest. For me, one day is all I need to overcome complete burnout. Granted, I still had the rest of the week off of work, so that was glorious.
The question I have is, how do I recognize burnout earlier and how do I prevent it from happening? My gut instinct is that I need to completely prevent burnout so I don’t have to take a day to shut out life. My gut instinct conflicts with what my brain tells me. My brain tells me that burnout is nothing destructive to life if acknowledged and accounted for early in the burnout. Burnout is natural and our bodies way of requesting the rest that we haven’t been giving it. The part of burnout that is destructive is when we either won’t or can’t acknowledge burnout and allow ourselves to rest.
Right now there are thousands of healthcare workers that cannot allow themselves rest and they are probably burned out as hell. They are taking care of all of the people who are impacted by COVID-19 and are working insane hours. If they say no to a shift, that is one less nurse or doctor available. They cannot allow themselves to rest and that, when continued for long periods of time, is destructive.
We can’t prevent burnout from hitting us. Burnout is something that occurs multiple times over the course of our life.
How do we recognize it? I don’t have a good answer for you there. I need to do some research and learn this myself. The only times I’ve been able to identify it is when I am struggling to have any vigor for life. When I lose all interest in my goals, I am burned out. Usually, it hits me like a ton of bricks so it isn’t something I can identify as it is creeping up on me. Although, it is probably creeping up on me and I just can’t tell.
Burnout is real. Needing to rest is real. What are your signs of burnout? How do you rest and reset?