Spreading yourself too thin. Burning the candle at both ends. Running yourself ragged. However you choose to phrase it, burnout is a real thing that most of us have experienced.
Admittedly, I am a total workaholic. Besides the month and a half between my move to Denver and getting my current job, I’ve worked at least two jobs at all times for years. And even in that month and a half, I was freelancing, working a job, and applying to jobs nonstop. At one point in my not so distant past I was working—I kid you not—four jobs at once.
Capitalism, am I right? *Laughs as tears stream down face*
While I am always burning the candle at both ends, it’s kind of my personality. I love having a schedule, responsibilities, constant things to do. Going on a vacation with no itinerary and figuring out what I’m going to do on the fly fills me with anxiety. Instead, I spend hours researching the best restaurants, gardens, museums, and hidden gems in the city I’m visiting seven months ahead of time and making a color-coded custom Google map because that’s my thing. And no, there’s not a support group for that; it’s too niche (I researched that for hours too).
My point is: Even though I’m always ridiculously busy, I like it that way. I’ve learned to navigate the realm of a packed schedule, and in doing so, I’ve learned the boundaries that separate working at my full potential from losing it on everyone.
So let’s get into it.
How do you avoid burnout? Well first of all, you need to be realistic. This is something that does not come naturally to me and I needed to learn. How long does it take you to do the things you want to do in a day? If it generally takes you an hour and a half to get ready, you need to get up an hour and a half before you start working. How long does it take you to cook or pick up your lunch? Maybe you should meal prep instead, or make bigger batches when you do cook. Can you really get in nine hours of work, clean five things, go to the gym, and see a friend for coffee in one day? Time yourself doing a full day of tasks and write that down to come back to later. It’ll help you avoid beating up on yourself for not doing enough if you know what you can squeeze into one day.
What else should you do to avoid burnout? Take breaks when you need them. We all need to listen to the signals our bodies send us instead of ignoring them. If you’re trying to edit/revise something and your brain is screaming at you that you’re a terrible writer or artist, you need to take a break. Step away from what you’re doing. Lay down and close your eyes or walk outside for 15 minutes. Giving your brain a breather does wonders to quickly recharge your morale.
Last advice I’ll offer: practice self care. And I don’t necessarily mean taking time away from work, because for some of us (points to self), that’s not an option. Self care can mean getting more sleep. It can mean giving yourself a little more time by ordering delivery food instead of cooking one night. For me, a big self care practice is regular exercise. If you and I have talked, I’ve probably told you about the exercise bike/desk combo I bought because I’m singing its praises to people constantly. (If I’ve told you about it repeatedly, sorry.) Biking while working has done wonders for my mental and physical health. Figure out what you can realistically do to make your days and weeks a little bit better. And realistically is the key word here, because a lot of us are too busy to take a two-hour-long hot bath after a candlelit dinner on a Wednesday night.
I hope these tips help make your life a little bit better, and your schedule a little more manageable. It can be tricky to juggle everything and retain our sanity, but it is possible. It just takes some thoughtfulness, awareness, and self-forgiveness to live a busy, happy life.