07 Dec Day 21 Recognizing When I’ve Hit the Wall (a note about burnout)
I know this may seem like an odd topic for a series about joy but let me assure you it is quite relevant. I am a very passionate person and I have a lot of energy. These two traits allow me to function in my life at a very fast pace. There are so many things that need my focus and attention at times I feel like I am juggling on roller skates going down hill. Now part of me loves this. I love the thrill and excitement of teetering on the edge between keeping it all together and total destruction. It kind of feels like a game. When I am winning, I feel like the master of the universe. The problem is that the other part of me has a little trouble seeing the train coming. It’s difficult for me to recognize that the pace and juggling are taking a toll and I need to slow down.
I’m better about noticing the signals that I’m depleted and getting close to burnout than I used to be. This represents big progress for me and a lot of intentional personal growth work. In the past I would keep going until I got so sick I would be laid up in bed for a week with some kind of gnarly bronchitis or sinus infection – or both. That was the only way I would let myself slow down – if I was physically incapacitated. I remember one time when I was sick. I continued to work and do everything else even though I didn’t feel well. I even went for a run to try to “sweat it out.” I had trouble breathing on the run and so I finally went to the doctor. They almost put be in the hospital. I had bronchitis so bad it was turning into pneumonia. Can you imagine being so out of touch with your own body and state of being that you don’t know you have pneumonia? And you are still trying to maintain work and your exercise routine? That was several years ago and it was a big wake up call for me.
That scenario would never happen now because I have changed the way I care for myself. I am much more in tune with how I’m feeling physically and emotionally on a daily basis. I can also recognize the warning signals before they manifest as illness. For example, when I’m tired, short with my kids or just grumpy in general – something is off. When I feel uninspired or I don’t have my usual enthusiasm and excitement for things – It’s time to pay attention. Just this weekend I’m having one of those moments. The past two weeks have been crazy busy and a little on the stressful side. I’ve also been up a lot later than normal so I am tired on top of it. I notice once I’m tired and in overwhelm I don’t make good decisions. I keep going in a hamster wheel -like mode and I’m not resourceful enough to stop and reconsider how I am spending my time and see how I am contributing to my own overwhelm and stress.
Once I end up in a bad mood – like this week I know something has to change. This is when I pull the plug on any commitments and go into emergency downtime mode. At home, in my pj’s, no phone, no computer. Just quiet. I read magazines, watch my favorite movies, sleep if I’m lucky, and recharge. The results are immediate and lasting.
It’s important to notice when burnout is happening and to know what to do for a quick recovery. I see joy as being on a continuum and when I am at the far end away from feeling joy I’m in burnout. As I recharge I move back towards joy and I feel much better.
What are some ways you experience burn out? How does it show up for you? What do you do to recharge? How do you get back to joy?
I would love to hear and include some of your ideas in my own life.