The Burnout Effect

We have all been here before. There are countless things still left on the to-do list, deadlines fast approaching, and you have no idea where to begin. We take on as much as we can if it offers a reprieve from another moment inside of your own head. You ride the wave for days, weeks, or months.

And then, it all falls apart.

Suddenly, you don’t have the energy to do a fraction of what you used to do before. The motivation just isn’t there. More than that, you’re exhausted. This is all another symptom of burning out.

 

Chipping Away At the Problem

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Usually, you burn out because of the mounting stress. Perhaps you have just agreed to an inhuman amount of work. Perhaps there are too many events that you had to commit to. Maybe it’s your job. Sometimes, it’s just your need to show the world how much you can do and how valuable you truly are. There is no right answer.

As depression sufferers, we have an added list of reasons for this. Usually it boils down to our own insecurity and self-worth (as is the case with most things). It sounds simple, but it always goes unnoticed.

Take a moment. Tell yourself that you have nothing to prove to anyone. Take a slow, deep breath, really noticing the air filling your lungs; hold it in for a few moments; then, slowly exhale, relaxing every muscle in your body (this includes that brain of yours). Repeat as many times as needed.

Done? Great!

Now, take another look at that to-do list. How much of that is actually important to do right now? Start tackling the most urgent thing first, by breaking it down into tiny little pieces.

For instance: You absolutely have to finish that essay that you’ve been putting off because it looks too complicated, but it’s due tomorrow (cue flashbacks to college days). The essay as a whole is intimidating. Break it down into smaller steps (ex: ensuring that you have done enough research, figuring out the core “sections” of the essay, getting the “easy” paragraphs out of the way, etc.).

Life works in a similar manner. Sometimes, if looking at the bigger picture doesn’t work, you break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Just a hint: there are always smaller steps to tackling a problem.

Someone once told me something important:
“You never look at how tall a mountain is until you reach the top.”

As in, a problem always looks bigger and more intimidating when you are at “the base of the mountain”. It’s only once you get started that you realize how big or small it really is.

 

Beware the Cycle

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Those of us who like to work as hard as possible to escape ourselves face another problem with burnouts – a cycle of behaviour.

Here’s how it looks (roughly speaking):

  1. The sense of accomplishments fuels your self-worth. You feel as if you have a handle on your situation. But, it’s not enough.
  2. You take on more assignments/projects, because after all, you handled the other ones so easily. The rest just have to end up the same way.
  3. Suddenly, you feel exhaustion. You try to take a break, but there’s just too much on your plate right now for that.
  4. The exhaustion continues. The easy tasks become a chore. You feel as if you are a failure because why can’t you just do this one little, simple task?
  5. The awareness creates another opening for depression.
  6. Somehow, you get on your feet, finishing that little task. You are invincible again.
  7. Repeat

The trick is to stop the cycle in its tracks. Realize when you are taking on too much. If you need help, ask for it. It doesn’t make you any less of a person. Every single person needs help with one thing or another. If you no longer can handle a task, so be it. Your well-being is much more important than anything else. People will understand.

 

Destressing

Make sure that you are doing something that relaxes you. Add one little item on your to-do list that makes you feel happy. Whether that is singing and dancing around, playing music, drawing, painting, knitting, writing, baking, … whatever it is that brings you joy. This is a high priority item, so make time for it.

No one has that kind of time! I have too much to do! 

You don’t need a lot of time. Even if you manage 10-15 minutes, that’s fine. Even 5 minutes.

Why?

Life is stressful. There are many, many obligations that we have. Taking some quality “me-time” makes a world of a difference. Do something good for you. Make yourself a priority in your life!

 

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The Truth About Time and Deadlines

Here we are. The end of the first week of 2018. This is a time of self-reflection and possibilities. We feel it all around us. There is this sense of realizing that anything can happen within the span of the next 12 months. Anything at all. I hope that you have a wonderful year, full of learning and happiness and growth.

Before you embark any further into your own personal journeys, I want to remind you about something important: we are not constrained to anyone’s timeline. Your life is your own. The lessons you learn along the way are yours too. It is unique and different to mine or anyone else’s that you meet.

 

The Dangers of Comparisons

I know that I have touched upon this earlier, but just to reiterate, don’t worry about what people are accomplishing around you. This is particularly important when you see all of your friends getting married, having kids, finding amazing jobs. You are left to wonder “why not me?”.

If you haven’t reached these milestones yet, it doesn’t matter. Not one bit.

But what do I say to my family or my friends when they ask me questions about my life?

That will happen. Unfortunately, you can’t filter out what people say. The most important thing is that you are confident in your decisions. You can be honest, hear the general outcries of disapproval, but in the end, they will (eventually) realize that you know what you are doing. How? By telling them the honest to goodness truth. Explain your opinions, your reasoning, whatever they may be.

Communication is key. The aftermath settles. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer.

 

Forcing Yourself Into the Status Quo

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Some people jump into things. I know I did. You probably have as well. There are pressures all around us – from family, friends, media – to get things done and get them done early in life.

“You’re 18! You should be going to university/college!”
“You’re almost 30! You should really settle down and have children!”
“You’re getting too old to be chasing after pipe dreams! Find a real job!”

Lies. All of them! I will not stand to hear comments like that.

What’s wrong with people saying that? I know that they are right. Everyone else is doing the same thing. Why am I so special to rebel?

These comments cause you to commit to things that you may not yet be ready for. You find yourself imprisoned in a marriage that you cannot stand, you find yourself unable to look after your children in the way you imagined, you find yourself in debt because you are enrolled in a program that you no longer care for.

Take your time. Some people are not ready to jump into things like this right away. Sometimes we aren’t ready or we aren’t prepared for the consequences. It’s not wrong, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you, … well, you!

Here’s the thing. Human beings, as a species, constantly adapt to our environments. It’s why we’re here today. Many, many years ago, we would only live for a short time. It became important to find a spouse before you were in your mid 20s, otherwise you wouldn’t have enough time to have children and watch them grow. That being said, you would also have to find a suitable career for your prospective family.

Now, we are living longer. We are surrounded by advancements in medicine and technology that allow us to extend our lifespan. The same rules no longer apply. So, go have fun with your time!

 

Re-Starting Later in Life

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I couldn’t resist.

This is a theme for many of us. The older you get, the more you see that it does happen. People realize that their career is not fulfilling, the person that they’re with is not making them happy, their lives are less than what they want. So, they pick things up. Perhaps age has a way of making someone less ashamed to do these things.

I’ve seen someone in their 40s enroll themselves in college to pursue a new career path. Many may have told her that she’s silly and that she may only get a few years in the new role before she would have to retire. So? Also, the sad reality is that many of us don’t retire at the “normal retirement age”.

I know someone who decided to try to learn how to play a guitar late in life. He enrolled himself in a program that primarily teaches children, but there he was.

If taking things slow allow you to live a life that you can be proud of, why would you ever want to change that? So, if you don’t hear this within this year, know that it is okay to take your time. We learn at different paces and life is a learning experience.

 

So, take a deep breath. Let go of the unattainable goals, and focus on what you want, what you need, in this very moment. Do you need a break? Take 5 minutes. Drink some water. Have some tea. Wherever you are, put yourself first and really mean it.

Let go of the end goal. The lessons you learn along the journey are far more important. The achievements are just the cherry on top.

Happy New Year everyone!

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