Some days you just can’t ride the pony.
No matter how many goals, road-maps, or shots of sunshine you slide down your throat, you are just not getting on. Not today.
But….you should right? So…you make yourself move forward, you push through it, you put on your riding gear and you tell yourself you CAN, YOU WILL… and you…are…hating…every…stinking…rotten…minute…and dang…you also hate that entire group of friends that cheers you on.
Maybe you need to change you stinkin’ thinkin? Maybe you need to try a little harder and put your mind to the grindstone? Maybe you aren’t believing hard enough? Maybe you haven’t drank enough sunshine cocktails and aren’t drunk enough on the good life dream?
The answer is probably none of those things. In fact, the answer is most likely farther away from all of them.
Sometimes what you need is a break. A change of pace. Now I know a few of you just thought “Yippee!” and were half way to the fridge for a beer with visions of late night TV stuck in your head, but it isn’t what I’m talking about here. I am speaking about re-filling the tank. You know you are going to pay for those beers come morning. I’m talking about choosing activities that will pay you instead.
The price of not taking time to re-fuel is very high. Constantly running our bodies on HIGH and being ON day in and day out, even if we are following a goal is costly and needs to be balanced out with healthy sleep, healthy food, and relaxing, rejuvinating mind time.
Otherwise we are setting ourselves up for a very insidious case of burn out. Nothing will derail your goals quicker then that. Knock your feet right out from under you leaving you on your backside looking up at the stars wondering what in the world went wrong. I actually know a few people who have made a pattern out of this. Get a goal, work on it hard and fast like a rocket for a few years, be a shining success, then the next thing you know, they aren’t doing that any more. Why? They ran out of steam. They couldn’t sustain it. They fell off the pony. Never got back up. They had to go find something else to do. They never seem to figure out what is tripping them up.
Burn out is a very serious condition that can land on you before you ever knew it was knocking on your door. If you catch it while it is still brewing, and is still technically just a bad case of stress, it can be easily treated with lifestyle changes. However, if left untreated, this nasty condition can destroy temperaments, friendships, relationships, and life paths that once you thought were your life’s dream. Late stage burn out symptoms include feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, detachmentment, reduced productivity, loss of motivation, feeling overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands, resentful, physical illness and the most telling sign, that there is no hope that there will be any positive change. (Sounds a lot like depression and some sources will tell you that burn out is a type of clinical depression, that is controversial and not part of our discussion.) When it is still in the *Stress* category, there is still *hope*, when stress has swung all the way over to full-fledged burn out, the light has gone out, it seems hopeless and all you want to do is quit, give up, walk away and never look back.
Besides studying the effects of burn out, I speak from some very personal experience. I have the charred remains to back it up. I went from a very successful career to feeling overwhelmed, out of balance, not spending enough time with my family and physically unhealthy. Suddenly my dream job was a nightmare. I couldn’t understand how I ever liked it in the first place. It took a long time to see that burn out had reared its ugly head. I don’t ever want to do that again. A body isn’t meant to run on high speed non stop, taking on more and more for long periods of time with no breaks, being all things to all people. It Can’t. It Won’t, It Doesn’t Believe. It expects you to take care of it for the performance you are getting out of it. Spiritually, Mentally and Physically.
RENEW THE SPIRIT
It starts here. I won’t mince words or sugar coat this. What happens in the Spiritual realm for you will carry through in the rest of your life as well. I’m not telling you what Higher power to believe in, who to worship, or what to do. I’m just telling you that it does make a difference when you take the time to get quiet with yourself, focus and spend some time here. It can be reading spiritual books, a walk in a park, time in your kayak, prayer, church, again, I won’t say how, but that quiet time of listening and focus and being one with yourself- and anyone else you will share that with- is very powerful. Keeping a written journal is also a powerful way to get some enlightenment on what is going on inside of you.
RENEW THE MIND
There are too many things we have to do. Surviving on handing out what we already know day in and day out makes us weary. Learning stuff for work that we only half care about is step one into bored and resentful. Make a list of fun for you things. Topics you would read and learn about just because it interests you. Go on a weekend excursion. To the museum or a lake or wherever your heart desires. Go to your calendar and PUT IN ON THERE. Make a date. The problem with chores & work stuff is that it will fill every nook and cranny of your life. So fill those nooks first. Your work can wait. You can’t. That’s the bottom line. You come first.
RENEW THE PHYSICAL
Yes, we have to exercise. That almost goes without saying in this age of can’t turn around without a new exercise program being *The One* to make us a perfect 10. ( And no, we don’t NEED to be a perfect 10, thank goodness) A combo of cardio, strength training and something to maintain our flexibility so we can still bend down, tie our own shoes and play with the grandkids is a nice balanced approach. There is something out there for everyone’s fitness level.
But that doesn’t finish the deal. The majority of adult Americans are sleep deprived. I can’t speak for our Canadian friends and the rest of the world, but I know that we Americans are either not getting enough or we aren’t getting quality sleep. Lack of enough or quality sleep leads to poor health, weight gain and stress. All significant precursors to burn out. Making good sleep a priority is an absolute must for anyone looking to reach-and keep their goals.
Good nutrition. You wouldn’t expect your car to run on bad fuel. You wouldn’t expect to grow your vegetables in poor soil. But you expect your body to run on sugar, alcohol fumes, simple carbs, greasy fats and low protein. And you expect it to produce high speed production! We forget that we are machines and that we can only produce based on what we are given. Start thinking about food as nutrition and fuel instead of rewards and entertainment. See if that helps to make a difference in your approach to food.
Everyone has a down day now and then. Everyone has a day where physical health gets in the way. But if day after day something inside is rebelling and bucking you off the pony and you can’t figure out why, take a look at all three of these areas. Has one of them been neglected for way too long? More than one? Take a time out. Time for a retreat and a new plan of action. Regroup. Get back to basics.
You aren’t going to reach the stars if you can’t get off the ground first.
Well-done! I completely agree. And I like all the things you included that need to be addressed. I know I’m not doing any of them enough. Thanks for being so thorough and for picking up on a much discussed theme right now!
Where’s Friar? 🙂
Brett Legree says
Friar’s still in his room… 🙂
Great Post Wendi!
You hit a bunch of nails on the head! I’ve been to that burnt out zone before, it’s not fun and if I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have gotten fired!!
Wendi, haven’t you let him out yet?
Sure, I told him he could come out whenever he could play nice. I saw him at Kelly’s house and at his place today playing nice so I think he let himself out. 🙂
Jenny, That’s the sneaky thing about burn out. Sometimes you are the last to know.
The sad thing is that I was at a seminar learing about it and I was like” who me? I’m too motivated. It could never happen to me. ” I never saw that I was prime for the picking.
Steph, you are welcome!
Brett Legree says
Nah, don’t believe it, he has wireless internet… 🙂
In all seriousness, though – Wendi, excellent post today.
Perhaps a good way to avoid burnout, is to unplug on a very regular basis. Once a week Friar & I get together for beers. We’ll have a few tomorrow night. Often it gives me food for thought for Viking Fridays.
Thanks for the words – Brett
I completly agree, and almost added in an entire section about unplugging exceopt I would have been heading for another part 2! There is just so much to say about this from experience. So sad but true.
John and I try to walk away every weekend from the stress of life and spend time alone or time with the kids and I have no problem with a martini or a glass of wine or beer in a balanced life to help with the de-stress package! We love to sit outside, enjoy the backyard, go hiking with the dogs or something else to just take it all away.
Brett Legree says
Ah yes, the backyard. I have a tree. I call it “tree”. “Tree” and I are well acquainted. I sit under “tree” with my glass of wine. Not too long ago, Friar and I killed quite a few bottles of beer and burned all of my firewood in my outdoor fireplace. That was a good evening.
John makes sure we don’t run out of firewood, Burning firewood is a great stress reducer. ( sorry environment) We have an outdoor firepit and it’s a lovely thing to sit under the stars with a glass of wine and chat away the troubles of the world. Firewood is much cheaper then therapy and often more effective and quicker!
Brett Legree says
Yes, I need to be better at that 🙂 perhaps I need to buy a plot of land with some trees.
The more I think about it though, I think firewood isn’t as bad as people would have us believe. It is certainly more renewable than oil, gas or coal…
Agreed. A glass of wine, a fire. Nothing else matters then.
I got totally burnt out 2, maybe 3 times during my life. Once, just after I finished my PhD. Once, right after my Dad died. Last year, I took stress leave after working with an abusive co-worker.
It’s an awful feeling. Not just grumpiness or malaise. But total physical mental exhaustion.
And unless someones been through it themselves, they just dont’ understand. They think if you take a three day weekend, and catch up on your sleep, you’ll be fine.
Each time, it took me a good 2-3 months to get back to normal. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t anti-social. I was just SO…DAMNED…TIRED.
I find what worked for me was to cut myself some slack, and not “Should” myself to death. (As is I SHOULD eat better, I SHOULD watch less TV…I SHOULD get out more).
By allowing time to vedge, and not feel guilty about it…I find it actually helped me recover faster (rather than beating myself up over what I wasn’t doing).
For the mild cases of burnout….I recommend fishing, though.
Thank you. I have only been there one time, during my Real Estate career but I started coming close again during my time in Cubicle Land working for the red pen man and I said…whoe..not happening again. Some times, you can’t help going around for a second helping like in the death of a family member, but luckily I could see the signs. When Pen man and I parted company, I took it for the sign it was and turned things around. You are so right, Not hanging on to guilt is the smartest thing. The shoulda woulda’s can hang ya!
Glad to see you here, thanks for coming!
I’m allergic, so I don’t ever get to ride the pony. 🙁
Good tips about burnout. I have been there many times. So many, in fact, that I’ve been considering building myself a little log cabin here in Burnoutland. The view isn’t so bad…
Melissa Donovan says
This is especially useful for freelancers, at least for me. I suffered from burnout a couple of months ago and it was not pretty. But luckily I was able to recover, dust myself off and get back to work — with a better life balance of course 😉 Thanks for the reminder to take time out and do what needs doing — taking care of ourselves.
Barbara Swafford says
Years ago I got burn out after working so many hours I lost track of my personal life. I finally got the nerve to quit. The money was fantastic but I realized there was more to life than a big paycheck. It took me a long to to recover from that. But it did teach me what not to do.
I love your quote: “You aren’t going to reach the stars if you can’t get off the ground first.”. That is so true. WE come first.
You were burnt out recently?
Wow…you’ve hidden it well….I never would guessed, your blog has been so up-beat and positive.
Darren Daz Cox says
great advice Wendi! I find it’s important to be a multi-tracked person, just switch when you get stressed..