Today I am supposed to be on Holiday. But already things have got out of hand. The thing is, I’m an addict. I rarely admit it but I am. I’m addicted to being busy.
Like many of you, it's an addiction I’m in denial of. It’s something I try and act like isn’t a problem. I run from here to there and everywhere, trying to please people and keep up blogging, family, work and my social life. Until something unexpected hits. Someone takes the last doughnut at a cafe or my boyfriend teases me about being a whinger. Suddenly I am hit with an absolute loss of adult consciousness and I have a full on mini-meltdown, wailing like a two-year-old. Ok, maybe not every time but usually bi-annually.
The thing is, I can identify where my addiction to being busy stems from. At school, we were encouraged to take more and more extracurricular to stand out. Now as an adult, if I don’t have something to do or someone to see I panic. I am constantly looking for that rush of being busy, using my iCal to update my life, checking my phone far too frequently. Like many, many folk, I'm addicted to staying busy and loving life on the edge of burnout.
Busy is the new fine - that is true - but also twenty-somethings have now got to juggle more than they ever did. You don’t have a small family as an excuse to go home to so you’re expected to work long hours when a job needs to be done. You might be on a fast track at a high stress job. Many people my age, like myself, are working on a side project, building a business or training too. It can feel like your phone is always nagging you and it is difficult to fall asleep at night (or if you wake up in the night, it can be hard to fall asleep again). Even if you are smiling on the outside, people know something is up as you twitch to check your phone.
Now I am no expert, but I DO know that being burnt out sucks (children, come with me on a journey). In my first year of working, I had a small implosion (well, somewhat small-medium really) where I suddenly became Carrie from Homeland looking for the green pen. It was due to putting myself under extreme pressure from a project I wasn’t able to deliver outside of work which I cared deeply about but didn’t have the resources to complete. Have you got a story like this? I'd be surprised if you didn't!
Over the years, I’ve become better at dealing with burnout. Now, I'm actually in a much better place to handle it and know that the key is STRONG RELATIONSHIPS (so keep up those, first and foremost).
Here are some tips which I think really do help to curb the burn:
1. Get to learn the warning signs in advance
If you start to notice yourself becoming obsessive or ignoring family and friends for the sake of a project or work, staying out late or feeling constantly exhausted it is a sure fire sign you are walking a dodgy line with burnout. Don’t panic. Just take a deep breathe and write down everything you feel you need to do. Now look at that list and have a long and deep think about whether you really have to do all of those things right now, yourself. Can you delegate some work? Can you put some off until a future date? The world won't collapse if you can’t actually deliver what you are supposed to. You might collapse, however, and risk your own sanity.
2. Work out what you’ve stopped doing that you would normally do
Normally if I get burn out, it's because I’ve been neglecting very important things that keep me sane. Have you eaten? Have you been outside in a few days? What about exercise? Remember that?? Have you told someone why you are feeling stress out AF!?
Basically, I find normally I need to have a proper meal before anything else when I think I am having a nervous breakdown. I've probably been existing on peanut butter sandwiches for the last three weeks, and far too much wine. Chances are, there is something I can immediately fix because I’ve been ignoring the fact I am a normal human being who has basic needs like consuming calories. Try and avoid living on cigarettes and black coffee as in my experience it is fuel for burn out. Eat some vegetables. It will affect you more than you think it will, in a good way. Trust me.
3. Make a plan with someone else
My best tip is to get someone you love and trust to sit down with you and work out a plan about what you’ll do next. A problem shared is a problem halved. How will you handle the upcoming weeks ahead? Will you make a packed lunch every day? Do you need to see a counsellor to work all this out a bit more? Can they help clean your house and maybe just get you feeling a bit more chill? Even if you don’t stick to the plan, making one is going to help you feel like you have something you can do about the way that you feel, rather than getting caught up in being alone and helpless. Doing it with someone else makes you feel like you're a team.
I also like to follow the tips in this video by my guru Marie Forleo. I’ve watched it many many times and I always find it helpful. I also really enjoy the tips from Barking Up the Wrong Tree which is a weekly email with sensible research based life tips. Also, that hair!
4. Work out what is giving you energy and what is sucking energy from you
If there is some bullsh*t you don’t strictly need to be doing, cut it out right now. You may not have to be doing six sessions at the gym each week if three would actually be okay. Can you explain to your boss you are at capacity right now? Can you cut that friend from your life who is actually draining you and you always have to prop up? Yes? Great, ok.
The important thing to remember about burnout is that it always comes in waves. You’ll never NOT be busy but finding ways to cope is vital. In fact, I am going to take a leaf out of my own book right now - put down this laptop and have an epsom salt bath (currently making the most of my B&B in Auckland on a little week off).
Here’s to taking care of ourselves. After all, you have to love yourself the most and take care of yourself if you want to take care of others into the future. Remember, like they say on the plane safety card, to place the mask on yourself first, before attending to those around you…