Are you sure you’re not taking on too much?
Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Make sure you don’t overdo it - you need to rest, too.
Maybe say ‘no’ to this opportunity; there will be others.
My loved ones are a broken record when it comes to telling me to slow down. Or, at least, they used to be. [Un]Fortunately, I usually turn the volume down and march to the beat of my own drum which was all fine and dandy until my drum broke and the music was gone.
Few people would say that hitting a wall is a good thing. It’s not. I don’t recommend it, even kinda, but it happened to be the wake-up and smell your bullshit moment I needed to realize I was hurting myself.
Burnout isn’t the cool thing to do in Dad’s truck after school while all your friends are watching (at least, not any more). Burnout is a term used to describe a physical or emotional/mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. It’s not simply about working long hours, and it’s not the same as depression.
I knew the signs and symptoms. And yet, I didn’t slow down. I didn’t stop.
I’m not - nor do I want to be - the person who doesn’t give a shit about her work. I became that person. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was dreading arriving at the office. I’d sit in the parking lot in the morning willing myself to have a good day. I was disengaged and disenchanted, and I couldn’t fix it.
Almost a full year prior, my counsellor commented that she worried I was heading in that direction. Slow down a bit, she said. Let someone else carry the load.
But I couldn’t. Or, more accurately, I wouldn’t.
Accepting that I’d finally run out of the steam that makes me me felt like failure. But it wasn’t failure any more than a car running out of gas equals failure: I just hadn’t filled my tank properly and it was time to recoup.
I ultimately took a leave of absence, as prescribed by my doctor, and spent a lot of time in appointments with her, appointments with my counsellor, and looking inward. I slept. I ate. I ran. I was still. I redefined my priorities, reorganized them, and set new goals and boundaries for myself. I started weight training and fell in love with the gym.
I was reminded of the things I love and rediscovered the people I love in a new way.
I realized exactly how exhausted I had been when I finally slowed down and had to re-prioritize my life. Initially, I worried my experience with burnout would negatively impact my career, but the changes I’ve made have helped me become a better employee, partner, and parent.
I hope I never find myself there again, but I have to admit: in a weird way, my burnout was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s given me a new lease on life, helped me identify and achieve a better work/life split (because there’s no such thing as balance), and uncover new passions.
And most importantly, it’s helped me look at things more objectively and make wiser decisions for myself - and my family.