Coffee For The Soul: Moving On After Burning Out
Let me just start off by saying, if you're one of the inspiring souls, good friends or keen new faces that I bailed on this week? I'm sorry. While never easy to admit,
I burned out.
And it may seem natural to experience this; especially in my first truly committed run at a side hustle, but it's taken me a lot of excuses, self-contempt and doubt to realize that burning out was, well, okay. In a world where if you're not working 60 hour work weeks, you must not "hold initiative," or if you don't say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, you must not "want it enough." During a time where, if you can't sell your soul (or in this case, wellbeing) to every person that asks for your help, or every live notification begging for your eyes... well, then success just isn't "for you."
What this attitude lacks is the simple, yet anthropological fact that hey, you are human. There will definitely be days when all you need is air and water. There will be days where you need to unplug and strip yourself from drowning expectations, just to keep afloat. There will be days, that become weeks.
Now, if you're looking for tips to avoid a burnout, stop reading here... or actually, open a new tab and let me know in the comments what you find. While I'm still searching for the perfect formula to avoid pushing myself too far, I still manage to experience an awful weight of exhaustion every now and again.
Something I've learned from the inevitable crash is that you can't control when it'll happen... and it won't always mean you've been particularly "productive" either. Some days you just wake up (or sleep through your alarm), a lump forms in your throat and you realize that moving is definitely not an option. But the good news is, I think that's okay. Your social battery was not meant to run indefinitely, and never fool yourself for a minute that you can book a back-to-back week without a single moment to yourself.
It was one of my new years goals to let myself be a little anti-social; to get to know myself well. I think a big part of that is embracing my failures, such as bailing on plans, and taking the space that I need to recharge when I need it. Meetings will reschedule, clients will come and go, real friends will always be there and your family will still love you after the air clears. Do yourself and those around you the favour of understanding your personal limits and really listen to them.
Today I took a slower approach than I usually do. I cancelled plans... all of them. I sat down with a list and prioritized what really meant something to me this Saturday. As it turned out, all that meant was one good meal and cleaning my bathroom. What I learned after my initial anxieties of being unreliable and a bad friend passed, was that I had bettered my chances of having a better day tomorrow. That's the thing with exhaustion; a coffee-fix can only take you so far.
Once the emotions and physical hits pile up, you're not doing anyone a favour by living out meetings and conversations to less than your full potential. You are responsible for the energy you bring to each and every space you enter, but that does not mean you'll always have a perfect energy. Crankiness hits, sleep-deprivation happens... sometimes you could even just be hungry. Whatever burnout you're facing, reflect on your energy and react accordingly.
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. You've got this.