What’s scary is how it just sort of creeps up on you.
Sitting at my desk, while working on one project, I start to think about another project that needs my attention; and that leads to another project I still need to address; and that makes me think of....
You get the picture. Just like that, I start to feel overwhelmed, and helpless. A tightness begins to spread in my chest. My eye begins to twitch, and before I realize what’s happening, I find myself on the verge of tears. Faced with so much to do, I’m not able to do a single thing.
Burnout comes with serious consequences. The anxiety it causes takes a toll, both mentally and physically. Like many people in this day and age, I’ve suffered through burnout many times before, but just because it’s almost commonplace doesn’t mean it’s something I should be willing to accept.
I’ve said this over and over in past blogs, and I’m saying it again here. There is no single solution to anyone’s challenges. No single way to lose weight. No one way to motivate yourself.
What I try to do is present different perspectives or approaches, and/or talk about how I personally deal with those challenges.
So, when it comes to burnout, this is how I try to deal with it before it brings me down.
Recognize what it feels like
This means you have to know yourself. You know how it is when you’ve had the same car for a long time. You get a feel for it, and almost instinctively you can tell when something isn’t quite right--an odd sound that no one else can hear; a hitch in the way it accelerates, etc.
The same goes for your body. You know your own internal rhythms better than anyone, and you know when something doesn’t quite feel right.
Using myself as an example, I can tell something’s not right when I can’t focus on my immediate task. Instead of the job in front of me, all I see are the other things I still need to accomplish. I become restless and edgy. Now, I have to ask myself, is this just a harmless, idle restlessness, or is it the beginning of a bigger threat? Only I would be able to tell the difference.
Being able to recognize these signs early is vital; otherwise I flounder and stumble right into an overwhelming wave of anxiety.
Stepping away is sometimes easier said than done. Often, I’m so overwhelmed by what’s still undone, I’m afraid to leave my desk; and yet I’m so steeped in anxiety I end up doing nothing.
Sometimes the effort to walk away is a lot like dealing with a broken bone that’s not healing correctly. You have to break it again so you can reset it. It can be downright painful, but once I understand what the problem is, I must find the will to take those steps to remedy my dilemma.
The last time this happened to me--last week, in fact--I was like the immovable object; even though I wasn’t getting anything accomplished, I still found myself unable, or unwilling, to leave my desk.
Finally, the urgent restlessness and the immobilizing fear came to a head and drove me from the house. My boyfriend and I drove around for a while and we eventually ended up at an Italian restaurant we both like (pasta: I know--don’t judge).
After a hearty helping of my ultimate comfort food, spaghetti and meatballs, I began to feel a little better, but it still took a good night’s sleep before the faceless demons would begin to settle.
Attack problems in bite-sized bits
Once I think I’m ready to take on the world again, I will break my project down into smaller tasks. And then, if possible, I’ll break each of those small tasks down into even smaller, mini-tasks.
I then do one tiny, mini-task. Complete it. And then move on to the next. And before you know it, I’ve completed an entire project without the slightest hesitation.
Tiny bites. By focusing on the crumbs you don’t even notice the entire loaf.
Have somebody to talk to
In this respect I am very lucky. My boyfriend is both my biggest fan and my support group all rolled into one.
He’s always there when I need to talk to someone. And I believe if I didn’t have him in my life, I would reach out to a handful of close friends so I would not have to bother the same one each time.
Like it or not, we are social creatures, and interaction with other people can be beneficial and healing. It’s all about staying connected, keeping ourselves grounded.
When you’re working hard and there’s so much you want to accomplish, occasional bouts of burnout will try to worm their way into your life. It’s inevitable. The best way to combat it is to have a plan of attack in advance and ready to implement when needed.