From someone that asks herself often, Am I just aiming for too much? I am in no way a motivational coach. The title of this post was actually how to AVOID burnout when following your dreams but I am literally having my -always on time- Q4 burnout at this very moment so it felt kind of fake.
“Follow your dreams” is such an easygoing phrase for what it really takes to follow your dreams, all while you do more crucially important stuff like pay your bills, have friends, maintain a partner, keep your health, plan your retirement, play with your dog, drink water… From all the books I’ve read about keeping yourself motivated to books about creating the million-dollar formula of daily habits, I’ve come to the realization that burnout is not something you avoid. It is in fact something you need to learn to live with and bounce back.
As I mentioned earlier, I am not here today to motivate you. I am here to give you the ugly truth: how I deal with my dreading thoughts about quitting, how I stay motivated through it all and how I manage to keep going.
Yes, I’ve said burnout is the side effect of keeping your life together no matter your circumstances but it does not mean that you can’t avoid it most of the time. One thing that I’ve learnt from my experience is that sometimes you can see a meltdown coming and prepare for it.
As an example, I work in the fashion industry. My industry is connected with the retail industry which gets crazy busy in the Holiday season. What I do now is to plan myself ahead of time. If you know you’ll be taking a whole new big project like planning your wedding or switching to a new job, there’s a big opportunity to plan ahead of time to avoid burnout. What has worked for me: changing my schedule to adapt to my new goal and simplify unavoidable tasks (like cooking, doing laundry and getting dressed for work).
You are burntout, now what?
A year ago, I kept going from burnout to burnout. Monthly burnouts, sometimes weekly ones. As you can imagine I kept getting sick both mentally and physically. My energy was nonexistent and I was doing half of the things I do today.
Burnout is extremely unproductive and that is ok. I’ll say it again. IT IS OK to be unproductive. It is easier to bounce back if you hit bottom anyway!
Having a burnout is like having a mental flu. You need to treat it like it. What has worked for me: stopping. Now, this is unrealistic most of the time. You can’t just stop going to work because you are having a breakdown but you certainly can do just the minimum to survive while you get yourself together. If it’s possible, ask for help or take vacation days. Even a couple of days can help you get into your productive self again.
Now, this is where I believe things get difficult because let me tell you, stopping everything and taking a couple of days feel so fracking good. Having no care for once, coming from a very stressful situation can be almost addictive and it also makes you avoid anything that caused it in the first place. That gets me to my next point:
Set a timing
You need to set a timing to bounce back, no matter what. No matter how you feel.
I believe this is the part most people miss. This is the part where most of us give up. What worked for me: Awareness. I have had so many burnouts that I am now aware of the “stages” involved and I know this is the most difficult one. So I am always extremely aware of it and I start from the very minimum. Baby steps are totally acceptable as long as you are moving forward.
Set new small goals
The best way to move forward is to set a new, ridiculous small goal. Let’s say you are burnout from working out. You have stopped and you set a day and time to start working out again. Even committing to walk 10 minutes will feel difficult but doing it will be extremely important to your process of bouncing back.
Be kind to yourself
Do not compare yourself, even with yourself. Keeping the example on committing to walking 10 minutes to bounce back from a workout burnout, do not start comparing yourself with others or even yourself.
Keep out any thought of yourself or what you were doing before the burnout, I don’t care if you were able to work out for 3 hours everyday because this mindset is what took you here in the first place. Just do what you have committed for and if it feels too easy, great! You can set a higher goal tomorrow. Be kind to your process of coming back from a burnout.
Start setting higher goals but know your limits
This is one of my biggest failures from last year. I kept bouncing back to the same lifestyle and not prioritizing or changing anything from before. It was like a rollercoaster of productivity and emotions and it was horrible. I kept thinking that changing my priorities meant giving up on some of my goals. It is not like that. Today I am still working towards the same dreams as last year, the exact same ones, and let me tell you, I am doing way more than last year just because I prioritize now.
You can have a million things you want to do but you don’t need to do all at the same time. Even if you want to… you can’t!
Now, it sounds easy. It is really difficult. I’ll compare it to cleaning out your closet. Some items might seem important to keep, but they have been sitting in your closet for a year without use. Same with your priorities, you might think that you need to watch your favorite tv show every night as your wind down time but perhaps this habit is not giving you anything in return. Perhaps you can do this twice a week instead and use this time to work on your goals and not getting burn out again.
Make a commitment to yourself
I would love to watch my favorite show every night too but if I do that, who am I committing to? I am comitting to a tv show, not myself. This, it took me a long time to understand.
If I buy the Louis Vuitton bag I want with my savings instead on investing it on myself, I am commiting to LV, not myself. Even though I am going to be very happy, the end result is not taking me towards my dream. It is one step back from my dream and one step forward to a future burnout. What helped me: anything you do, think about who is really the winner. Is it you? A commitment to yourself must be aligned to a goal because it will be the only way to make yourself accountable. And getting yourself to clean the clutter out of your life gets you to have more time to work towards your goal without getting burnout so often.
Always remember that life happens, there are unexpected situations and even so you prepare yourself, bunout can still happen. I think managing your life is a task for life and you should always take a step back if you are feeling overwhelmed. Clean the clutter.
I hope this hell of a long post can help you in some sort of way I hope you can always come back to it when needed.
All the best,