About a month back, a Facebook post swiped by and suddenly started haunting me.
Some trite photo, and a caption that said something like “If you have to burn out on anything, do it on your hobbies. At least they’re worth it.”
Burnout and I are old friends. I can pinpoint the exact moments when I realized they were happening, and I couldn’t run from them any more.
But seeing that post, I started thinking; if your hobbies are the way you recharge, the way you become most fully yourself, and get back all the energy that gets you excited about being alive, what happens if you burn out doing them?
What else is there left for you to do to heal?
You see, for me, I absolutely love creating and writing novels. But it’s been 7 years since I last actually started one. I’ll just say that work has been crazy, and I had much, much to learn about being in business.
I’m glad I didn’t take the little energy I had and burn it on trying to follow a passion project, like a novel. It would be like monetizing a hobby; when you run out of steam and happiness, you don’t have anything else in your back pocket to turn to.
ThisisCalmer.org lists the 5 stages of burnout; “As with any illness, symptoms of burnout change from person to person, however these five stages are commonly observed:
- Honeymoon Phase. When we undertake a new task, we often start by experiencing high job satisfaction, commitment, energy, and creativity. …
- Onset of Stress. …
- Chronic stress. …
- Burnout. …
- Habitual Burnout.”
It’s a massive issue in the first world. We don’t have a culture of peaceful enjoyment. We hustle.
And there are a lot of good reasons for it all. But there’s a problem; it eats away at the underlying person. It doesn’t leave us in a good place.
For me, I was beginning to hate who I was becoming.
I was snapping at my loved ones. I was getting angry at every new email that came in – even nice ones. I didn’t want to even open my laptop.
And all the time, the great, marching pressure of bills and rents keeps pushing everything forward. So, as a freelancer, someone who’s skills depends on their wellbeing, merriness, and mental acuity, I needed to do something totally different.
The challenge is that I couldn’t stop working. And, I’m an INTP on the Myers Briggs spectrum, which means my mind never shuts off. Ever.
I decided to take a complete break. I needed to physically put my body in a state a different condition. I needed to feel like I was OK. So what I did was all the things that I would do if my business was totally OK, and if I was safe.
If I was safe, I would be watching movies, reading, writing novels, brainstorming concept art… all of the things that are fulfilling to me.
Spending intentional time with family, instead of getting stressed at making 3 home-cooked meals a day.
I did that for 3 weeks.
And the morning of the 4th week, I put my phone face down, walked back to my desk, and it felt good.
Later that day I went shopping, ‘splurged’ with the cup of coffee (trying to quit!), and read some books. I was starting to get my spark back.
I added a new product to my website. Rewrote my Linkedin profile.
And all of it was in a sense of silence.
I wasn’t answering my phone. Not checking LinkedIn twice an hour, refreshing Facebook and Instagram.
Sometimes you need to completely let go. For me, I’m like Russel Crow in “A Beautiful Mind,” where my brain does not stop. I needed to get out of my head and into somebody else’s head.
Which is why I look for long-running series with intense characterization. As an INTP, I need to stop obsessing over myself and my future and my feelings and my dreams. It’s good to take a break from it all, and dip into somebody else’s. Either with a good book or with a good TV series.
Taking that break allows me to refresh, recharge, get out of my head, and feel better. To create that new baseline of mindset and calmness.
The lesson in all this for me is that I do not need to be stressing out about my business.
As a workaholic, the worst thing that you can do is to show them that their work doesn’t matter, and then keep moving the goal posts. There are no results.
What then happens is you spend every waking hour and moment thinking, planning, strategizing, hoping, worrying. It eats you and wears you down. You get so tired.
I am very slowly learning that if I don’t put my own air mask, on I am not going to have the oxygen I need to help somebody else. How many of us accept an idea, but don’t actually integrate it? That’s why we need to physically do things that we agree with, to make an idea ‘stick.’
A great tip I learned from a oodcast interview I ran on stress, was this: When you’re stressed, breathe like you’re at peace, and your body will think that you are. It will then start providing new hormones and the materials that you need to start feeling better. Then your mind will catch up, and you’ll realize OK I’m not actually in danger right now.
So that was my challenge the last 3 weeks, after spending the last 3 months of intense strategizing. Those months came after 2 years of depression, and that after 7 years of constant worry.
My journey isn’t over, but I’m feeling a lot better, and learning to be more relaxed. Which means I can take care of people – my family, my clients – better.
How about you? How have you been dealing with burn out? Is it something you struggle with?