The agony of burning out
It’s all fun and games, until it’s not.
There are people who can say no, and there are people who have a much harder time with it. Each time I read a blog or book about someone so boldly explaining “Just say no. You will feel good!” I am motivated to do it. But then, I see something about to fail, and I can’t help but dive in and help. I wouldn’t say I hate failure; I hate disappointment and letting people down. This is one trait of mine that I wish I could easily change.
I had to face a very bitter reality 7 months ago from repeatedly saying yes. September-December was strenuous; I decided to work very, very long days and weeks to cover some unexpected work. I knew if I could just hold on through December with the workload, January would bring relief. The issue became, taking on all that work resulted in me not working out, eating like shit, and getting sick. When you start to stopping yourself from doing the things that relieve your stress (working out and cooking for me) and fill them with more stress, it’s a recipe for disaster (unintentional food pun..haha).
Alas, January was here. It came out of nowhere and almost immediately. I could barely drag myself out of bed. I didn’t want to work anymore, and I love my job. I wished I could just sleep. I was 100% distracted from my life and what I enjoy. I had burned out. And hard. I’d battled with post-partum depression with one of my kids. It’s no joke. And suddenly, this felt very similar. My anxiety was through the roof, I had started isolating myself from people, and I was on the verge of tears most days.
About mid way through the month, I finally started seeing what was happening. Was this what it felt like to burn out? Burn out, in my mind, was always like jet lag. It was a cute term for people who just can’t handle something — it happened to weak people, not me! (Until my recent trip to Romania… I’m now a firm believer in jet lag, too. ) Many things don’t seem real or understandable until you experience them.
I had to figure a way out. I love solving problems, so I started thinking of things that may be helpful for me. I love working out, so I started back to the gym (with all the other New Year’s resolution’ers). Also, I know that reading allows my brain to truly unwind and disconnect, so I added some new books to my Kindle. I focused on doing things around my house that would make me happy and that I had put off. I enjoy writing, so spent a lot of time blogging — both things I published and things that will never see light. Mostly, I started managing my work-life balance.
A lot of companies rave about how much they support a work-life balance. That is great and very well intended. But, I am not sure that many actually know how to approach someone who is on the verge of burning out. It’s often found out as the employee is exiting the company- whether on their own accord or being removed due to performance issues, attitude issues, etc.
When a company is remote, it gets even harder. It’s not as easy as seeing someone in the office who seems down or exhausted. Or noticing someone who is constantly arriving early and staying late every day. It takes work to find out this information, and it’s not easy. I never once said “I can’t do this anymore; I am about to break” to my bosses. I did quite the contrary. I told them it was all ok. Even when they directly asked how I was holding up. I didn’t respond with that to be untruthful, but because I thought I was fine.
Looking back, it is so obvious. Humans are not made to be robots. I took on way more than I should have, on my own accord, and suffered very negatively from it. I would like to say “I’ll never do that again!” but, the truth is, 90% of my blog posts come from things that are negatively impacting me at that moment. I write when I am inspired, need an out, or have an idea of how to fix a problem I’ve met. So I’ll just say that I’ve recently seen some old habits creeping in.
The only person who knows your tolerance…is you. If you start to feel exhausted, and start diverging from what makes you happy just to do more work, be careful. A couple weeks of overtime shouldn’t result in this. But, continuously neglecting yourself and your needs surely will. Trust me, I am strong. I am a good worker. I GSD. I’ve birthed 3 kids…Yet, I was on the verge of crashing very hard. And it’s not a place I wish anyone into.
Obviously, I am not a doctor and would never pretend to be. If you are experiencing similar feelings, I highly encourage you to seek help. This post is just my way of (hopefully) stopping myself from having another January in July.
This is NOT a negative reflection of my job or company. I absolutely love both and continue to enjoy my work. I’m surrounded by a very strong support system that would have done whatever needed had I asked.
To celebrate finally getting my words put into paragraphs, I did one more thing…
I made guacamole. Just to relax and destress even more.