I didn’t really see it coming. I should have–all of the signs were there, business mentors were warning against it, and it seemed perfectly logical. But still, I must have thought I’d be immune.
If you look closely at the definition of burnout, specifically the second one…
Have you ever been there? Well, when we finally finished our crazy summer of shows, I did.
Burnout is more than just your body (or mind) feeling tired. It feels like running into a brick wall, then trying to get up and keep going only to find that there is a weight now shackled to your ankle that you must drag along in order to keep going. Everything feels harder to do…every decision feels monumental and every effort feels herculean.
I also began to question myself. I’ll admit: my confidence was pretty shaken after my experience in New York City with Etsy Wholesale (read about that adventure here, here, and here). When I came back, I struggled with the tension of knowing our potential and not having the means to be there immediately. I wondered: in the meantime, while we work to get there, are we still good enough? The Demon of “Enough” strikes again.
And when you hit that burnout, you have a couple of choices: try to keep going, or surrender to what your body and heart are telling you…and take a break.
I didn’t intentionally set out to take a break, but it happened anyway. First, I got really, really sick once our shows were done. Once better, I found myself drowning in a mountain of stress–things that I had let fall through the cracks while we were away at shows, trying to continue to grow, and lots and lots of physical work on the business took its toll. Finally, something felt like it broke inside. I literally couldn’t do one more thing.
I took a week and decided to spend each day roaming around having adventures with my first and most passionate job: my kids.
We hiked together.
We visited the local Ostrich Ranch.
We went on walks down to a lookout point where we could see the trains go by.
And we visited one of the local apple orchards to get some yummy treats.
Sometimes, taking a step back can be one of the best ways to feel closer to someone or something. And for me, a little bit of distance gave me the perspective I needed to remember my affection and dedication to this dream of mine.
In battling burnout, I’ve found five things particularly valuable in this experience.
- Sometimes you don’t see it coming. I know I didn’t…even though many of my friends, family, colleagues and mentors warned me that I might be headed that way. I thought it would just be a matter of strength & tenacity–that I could “tough it out” where others couldn’t. But burnout isn’t about toughing it out. Burnout is about being closely attuned to what your body, mind, and heart need to nourish the passion. I was naive and foolish to assume otherwise.
- Sickness can be a sign that you’re doing too much. I’m not just talking about getting the cold your kid brings home from school. I’m talking about getting sick easily, and then getting really sick because of it. And then getting sick over and over and over before you really get a chance to get better. I kept getting sicker than anyone else in my family, and not getting better before the next round would hit me. My immune system was shot.
- You don’t think you can afford to take a break…but in reality, you can’t afford not to. This one is a hard one, because when we are immersed in the go-go-go-GO mindset, we can’t imagine even one thing falling off of our plates. What we don’t realize is that the entire plate has the potential to shatter if we don’t take some of the weight off. There were some moments in the past month when I literally wasn’t sure I would be able to continue this entrepreneurial journey. The weight was just too much. Taking some of the weight off of those plates was key in helping me to realize that I could keep going.
- Some of the most interesting, creative ideas can come when your brain gets a chance to step away from 24/7 immersion in your situation. I recently heard about a study that discussed how a “bored” brain can have some of the most creative thoughts–and I think it is true! (Have you ever noticed the phenomenon where you come up with the smartest stuff in the shower?!?!) When I took my week off, I came up with some highly clever ideas for the future…a creative cleverness that had eluded me for months as I slogged through my “have-to-do-this-and-this-and-this” schedule. If you’re feeling stuck creatively…pull yourself away and don’t think about it for awhile. You’d be surprised what might pop into your head at the most unexpected time.
- Spending time with your “why” can help re-center your “how.” I’ve written about this before, but our “how” is unsustainable without our “why.” And yet, for some reason, sometimes we get so caught up in the “how” that we neglect the very reason we want to work so hard in the first place. Spending a week doing nothing but adventures with my children reminded me that they are the whole reason I’m working from home. And if they don’t have a happy, thriving mama…then this isn’t worth it. Now, I’m much more centered going forward.
Have you had moments where you felt burnt out? What have you done to recharge your body and your spirit? I’d love to hear about your experiences, too.