How I Dealt With Burnout

I’m always very wary of posting personal blog posts. I’m brutally honest in all my posts (I wouldn’t know how to be anything else), so writing about my personal life always leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable. However, I write personal posts for 2 reasons. 1- it’s a great way to vent, and somehow  blogging feels more productive than journaling, and 2, more importantly, the feedback I get after writing personal posts makes me realise how many more of you out there are experiencing similar issues, and if I can help just one person feel less alone or helpless, that’s enough for me.

You can tell from this blog alone that I’m out and about a lot- I love being busy. Rishav and I eat at restaurants 3-4 times a week, and I’m at events 1-2 times a week, leaving only 1 night at home. I’m restless when I am at home, and can’t just sit still and *be*- I’m always looking for something to do.

I hate letting myself down, and I take every opportunity that is given to me, always telling myself that I can do more. In the past 2 months, I worked from 8:30-5 (with no spare time during working hours to even think of anything else), applied to 8 MBA schools (which is a whole process in itself- think 5-6 motivation essays EACH), blogged, attended launch events, went on 3 international trips and countless trips to PE to see my dad, plus met my freelance writing commitments to the Sunday Independent and Gauteng Tourism. This weekend was the first time I watched tv in 3 months. I was strategizing in the car, in the shower. I was on my laptop on the plane, before bed, even at restaurants before my friends arrived. I had so much to do that I felt as if every spare minute needed to be utilised.

I carried on at this pace for a while, and I was stressed and a bit edgy, but still fine, until one Friday after work I got stuck in bad traffic, got so frazzled that my brain felt like it was going to explode, got home and collapsed into bed at 7pm and was unable to move until the next day, when I woke up with a throat on fire, went to the doctor, and was told I had tonsillitis. I didn’t even realise I had burnout until that moment. I thought I was riding a wave and loving it, until I crashed.

I know people who say they’re busy… “crazy busy”, as if it’s something to be proud of. Being ridiculously busy for a long period of time is not sustainable. Aspects of your life will suffer, and in my case it was my emotional state.

I can’t count the number of times people have told me “I don’t know how you do it”. I was doing it, but I was miserable. I felt like I was just going through the motions for the sake of it, and wasn’t enjoying anything anymore- not even writing. I didn’t nurture myself during my dad’s illness, I didn’t create any “me” time, I filled up my weekends with “stuff”, and I just lost myself.

Luckily, my sister is very in tune with these types of things and she could see I was headed for breaking point, so she recommended I see a life coach. I thought this couldn’t do any harm, because I’m constantly oscillating between wanting to be a fulltime journalist and wanting to grow my career, and I felt as though some direction would be useful.

So I made an appointment with a life coach, Judy Klipin, at a hefty R750(!) per session. I’ve been for 2 sessions so far and they’ve been worth every cent. Judy didn’t tell me anything I already didn’t know. She asked me probing questions which forced me to stop and think, which oddly enough, I never do. When I tell people about my sessions, the stuff she said sounds so simple- but something just shifted in my mind and I realised that I have choices, which made me feel empowered. I am where I am because I want to be, and if I don’t want to be here I can make the choice to be somewhere else. No one is forcing all these commitments onto me, I’ve chosen them, and it’s up to me to craft my free time so that it’s working optimally for me.

Since then, I’ve started declining most events, opting to stay home and chill instead. I took time to grieve for my dad, and deal with the previously ignored emotional pressure his cancer put on me over the past year. I’ve been spending my time with close friends and family, who lift my spirits. And I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again. I’m getting up looking forward to each day, I’m fulfilled and happy at work, I’m having fun with the writing, and I’m MOST excited about what the future holds for Rishav and I- I’m pretty sure this MBA thing is going to work out for both of us 🙂 🙂

The scary thing is, had I not taken action, who knows where I would have ended up after that night I collapsed into bed? I hope I never become that person again. Have you ever experienced something like this? How do you avoid burnout? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

xx H