How I’m preventing another burnout
More and more people in my surroundings (friends, colleagues, or people I follow on ‘the socials’) seem to be burning out. Having to work from home seems to be a major contributor. But, to be honest, I think most of them were already in a mindset that would lead to burnout anyway. I pretend to know because I had a similar mindset and burned out about two years ago. In a weird attempt to help other people who may be on the edge, I figured I would share with you what I am doing to prevent another burnout.
Productivity is not your life goal
I think most of us have grown up believing that in order to be worth something, you should be productive. Social media has probably (definitely) made this worse. I’m not going to explain the details, you know them or you can google them. What I am doing to prevent another burnout is to remember that productivity is not my life goal. In fact, producing all the time (whether it is in my work or in my personal life) is fucking bullshit. I’m not reading books so I can brag about how many books I can read in a year. I’m not getting a coffee at a fancy cafe for the flat lay that will get a lot of likes on Instagram. I’m not cramming my calendar full of to do’s (like work, sports, seeing friends, going out) just because an empty calendar slot seems like a waste of my time.
I think you get the picture. I read because it excites me. I get coffee at fancy cafes because it feels like a treat (and you should Treat Yo Self). I purposely leave my calendar empty, so I have the energy for the things I do plan. If I want to prevent another burnout I need to remind myself that taking a nap is productive. Walking for an hour without an audiobook or podcast is still productive (something I still need to remind myself regularly). We as a society need to get out of the mindset that our time is only well-spent if there is a product at the end of it. And somehow our own happiness is not enough product.
I’m not special/a genius/irreplacable/indespensable
That sounds harsh, but it’s a mantra that has helped me get out off many dark anxiety spirals. Because it’s true, I’m none of those things (and neither are you). I used to have the tendency to think that the ONLY thing keeping a thing (work/home/friends/a project) from falling apart, was me. That the only person who knew how best to do a thing and get it done the fastest, was me. That without me, the world would unravel and everything would go to shit.
Again, absolute bullshit. Did I really think I was smarter than anyone else? That if I quit my job, they would not be able to find another person to do it? That if a friend dug themselves into a hole, they couldn’t work themselves out of it? So egocentric, arrogant, and narcissistic. Of course, I didn’t mean it like that, I meant well. It came from a place of love, of feeling responsible for everything and everyone. I just wanted everybody to like me and be happy.
But when you flip it on its head, it reveals it for what it also is: a lack of trust in others, a need to control everything. This results in a giant heap of pressure on yourself you have no one to blame for but you. When I say the mantra ‘I am not special’ to myself, that pressure falls away. It’s heavenly. And it means I can focus on just doing my best. It also allows for space to say you need a break or help. I’ve also started communicating the end goal, instead of the manual on how to get there. Turns out, sometimes other people have way better ideas than me on how to get there!
You’re good enough
Final note on this section: just because you’re not that special, doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. I think not being ‘good enough’ is a core fear for a lot of us. It certainly is for me. What helped me a lot when I was realizing this was a fear for me, was writing down a list of people I care about and whose opinions I care about. All of the people on the list I could without a doubt say, only care if I’m happy. For all those people on the list, you are good enough as you are, and even if you fail. If you don’t believe me, ask them.
Lower your bar
Sometimes I wake up and I’m exhausted for no reason. Sometimes I wake up and I’m exhausted for a very good reason (I pushed myself too hard). Either way, I will have to reevaluate what I can do on the day. This also links back to the productivity I mentioned earlier. If I can do less in a day because I’m exhausted, that doesn’t mean I had a bad day (because measuring you’re worth in how ‘productive’ you were is bullshit). Sometimes a day is just crap, no need to add to the crap by talking yourself into feeling bad about that.
I try to prevent another burnout by planning breaks when I know I am going to have an intense day/week. I lower my expectations (without judging) when I know I can’t do as much as I thought. To do lists are fun and they help me keep track of tasks, but they can also be your downfall if you put too much importance on finishing them all in a certain amount of time. Almost no task can’t wait until tomorrow (or be delegated). So lower your bar. Maybe today moving from your bed to the couch and having breakfast is enough.
Talk about it
If I’m having a hard time, I talk about it. Because I no longer think I need to fix my own problems by myself. When a boundary was crossed, I try to mention it afterwards so I can make sure me and the other person (or people) are aware of the existence of the boundary for the future. I try to be transparent not just when I know a thing will be a problem, but also when I’m not sure. Talking about stuff helps. With your friends, family and/or a professional. For me it helped to talk to a professional, because in the beginning I didn’t want to be a burden on anybody. So paying someone to listen was a nice kind of loophole.
I am not delusional. I know that if you’re reading this, you probably think: “but I’m fine. I can handle this. Once x y or z happens/finishes, I’ll be fiiiiiine”. I know. I thought so too. And in a way I’m glad I hit rockbottom, it meant I could rebuilt my life and my mind in a way that is so much healthier than before. I would never have managed such a radical turnaround without falling flat on my face and maybe you need that too. But I really hope you don’t. I at least am trying my best to prevent it from ever happening again.
I hope my experiences were helpful in some way. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments!