On Burnout and Setting Myself on Fire

As a self-induced chronically busy person, I field a lot of advice from people about how I should be living my life. Usually, it’s pretty fair criticism, and most of it comes in the form of concern. I hear a lot of references to how I need to slow down before I burn out. Maybe I’m misinterpreting the phrase “burn out,” but I tend to think of it as being a point that people reach where they don’t want to do something anymore, no longer find joy in it, are unmotivated to continue. I’ve felt that way about running on more than one occasion – it just doesn’t seem fun at times, although that’s not what I’m dealing with right now.  But although I’m struggling to find balance in a lot of areas of my life right now, I wouldn’t say that burnout is the problem, per se.

tumblr_oe81sqnjf61vrjwbvo1_500-2 Me with basically every person in my life (I’m the one that’s hyperventilating)

As you know, I work a lot. Between my day job as an environmental scientist and my gigs as a Barre3 fitness instructor and freelance journalist/blogger, I spend most of my day furthering one of my careers in some form or fashion. And sometimes, like right now, it gets to be a little bit…much. But I wouldn’t say I’m burnt out, necessarily – I’m just wracked with overwhelming anxiety. I love the work I do and I strive to do my best at it 100% of the time. I’m the type of person who can’t stand to do less than my best when it comes to work specifically (I don’t feel that way about running, clearly) and I refuse to let people down when it comes to my jobs. I also usually can’t stand to say no to employers, which is a deadly combination.

I carry immense personal responsibility when it comes to my jobs, and I take my responsibilities super seriously. If I say I’m going to do something, that means I’m going to do it on time and you can expect a great product. But what happens when you’re seemingly incapable of turning down opportunities, projects, or shifts? Eventually, something has to give, and that something seems to be my sanity at the moment.

img_7680-1024x1024-1-2 It only took 400 attempts for me to get a picture in which my dog did not look completely insane. Like mother, like son, I suppose. Sweater and pants from KUHL

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging a bit less than usual, but it’s not for lack of trying. It’s that when work and personal obligations pile up, the blog tends to fall to the bottom of the priority pile. While some posts, like this one, are more of a “stream of consciousness” type situation and I can pump them out in 30-60 minutes, the majority take many, many hours to write, edit, and promote. And like any client, I don’t want to give you less than my best – so a lot of times, I just don’t give you anything at all. I’m truly sorry for that, and it’s something that I hope to remedy in the future, but with looming deadlines in my day job and a million other things to take care of before I leave for Nepal, I’m just not totally sure it’s going to happen.

And oh, Nepal. Talk about a source of anxiety! As a consultant, it feels sometimes like there is never a good time to leave for a long trip, and this one is no exception. Add this to the fact that we’ll be roughing it way more than I was in Nicaragua or any hike I’ve done so far and the fact that I’ll likely be going two weeks without speaking to the one person who keeps me sane (the best husband in the world, AJ), and it’s just one panic attack after another. With that said, I know that as soon as I get on the plane (without my laptop – GAH) and head off, I’ll not only be fine, I’ll be great. It’s just the prospect of the unknown and leaving so much left undone that terrifies me, but that’s another topic for another post that’s soon to come.

img_7703-1024x1024-1-2 AJ and I were finally home on the same weekend for the first time in 6 weeks! In my defense, not all of those were because of me. One was a work trip for him 😐

As for running, I’ve actually gone three times this week, which is three times more than I ran last week! Your encouraging comments on my last post were really helpful, and I am busy brainstorming some ideas for how to get my running mojo back again. Spoiler alert: I think it’s going to involve shorter races, which is…weird. More to come on that, too!

img_7700-1024x1024-1-2 It was finally cold enough to run in a shirt with sleeves, so I couldn’t turn it down! Repping the Run in Paradise

With the digestive issues I’ve been dealing with lately (test results coming soon, then no more vague-blogging, I promise!) and the amount of stress I’ve got heaped on myself, I must learn to get more comfortable at saying “no” to people. I have a tendency to feel overwhelming guilt when I say “no,” but sometimes, making other people happy is just not worth the panic attack. I’ve had a few situations in the past week alone where I have forced myself to say “no” and was so nervous about it that I almost threw up, but they all worked out completely fine. I must remember that people are kind and understanding and that they probably do not want me to end up in a mental hospital.

But back to the whole concept of burnout and the advice I receive. I think it’s very, very easy for some people to say “no,” or set  boundaries, or not work themselves to death. AJ is like that – he will not hesitate to set boundaries. For him, it’s a very simple issue – I just need to call and cancel the class or the trip or tell my boss I need help, whatever the case may be. It’s not something that scares him. But it’s not that simple for everyone, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this abject terror. I also know that it’s not sustainable, and while I may never tire of working hard (and really, I don’t), there are also so many hours in the day. My physical and mental health has to come first or I’m not of much use to anyone.

db29cbd4f2c5c01db7babcea6e15832f-2 I should probably make this the screensaver on my phone.

So here’s to becoming my own advocate and taking the good advice that I’ve been given. The best version of myself is yet to come. Stay tuned.

LEAVE A COMMENT: What is something that is extremely stressful or hard for you to deal with?