We all go through it at some point; a burnout.
Some may ask, what is a burnout? It is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is often the result of excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs most often when you’re feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and are unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues to build, you begin to lose the interest and motivation to accomplish anything that you need to do.
I know what you’re thinking, this all seems so cynical. Guess what… it’s all true though.
When you’re in a place where things just overwhelm you, you don’t always notice it taking its effect on you. It isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, but it can definitely creep up on you when you least expect it to. Depending on your personality, you may just find a way to get through it and get things done. It becomes a reactive response, rather than actually doing it with purpose. You do it just to get it done. This lack of motivation can spill into other areas of your life. You could become a hermit and not talk to anyone, things and home might just feel bleh, work will continue to pile up and you just do things to get them done, and most importantly, it does a lot of damage to you mentally and physically.
If you’re anything like me, you definitely won’t notice right away that you’re going through burnout. When it first happened to me at work years ago, I didn’t notice it was happening until my supervisor called me into her office and asked how I was doing. My answer was that I felt fine. I was going through some life stuff, family stuff and it was a stressful season at work, but I was getting things done, so I figured I was fine. That’s when my supervisor told me, well, I wanted to check in with you because your quality of is slipping.
I had no idea.
Sure, I felt a little behind at times, but I didn’t think I was cutting corners to get things done. The truth in it all was that’s exactly what was happening. My quality of work was down, my response time was down, and the list continued. We chatted about that and everything that was happening in my life and a pattern started to form. We pulled up my calendar, looked at things that were coming up and my supervisor looked at me and told me to take the next three days off. This happened on a Tuesday. They had told me to take the rest of the week off to regain focus and come back Monday to see how I was feeling then. There were no if’s, and’s or but’s in the matter. I was told to take three days off, so that’s what I did.
Over those three days and that weekend, I relaxed. I took advantage of the time off and did things that I wanted to do; things that I didn’t have time to do normally. It really gave me perspective. It brought me to a point where I was acutely aware of when I started feeling burnouts moving forward.
Fast forward to my most recent burnout a few months ago.
Typically, when you’re feeling burned out from one thing, you move to something that helps you cope with that burnout; something that you enjoy doing. For me, when I feel like I’m going through a burnout, I turn to things like video games or running. In this particular instance, it was running. Work and other situations in my life were getting super hectic, so I leaned on running to get me through those times. However, I leaned on running too much, which led to another burnout.
You know when you have an injury, say, to one of your legs? What is it that you do? You tend to take the pressure off that leg that hurts and rely on your other leg. However, in doing so, you are putting more stress on the non-injured leg, which can ultimately either lead to an injury to that leg or creating an imbalance.
That’s what happened with running.
I used running to take my mind off of things so often during a stretch that I became burned out on running. I genuinely enjoy running, but I was leaning so much on the hobby/sport that I enjoy doing that it was becoming boring to me. I was no longer enjoying running; actually, I came to despise it. It wasn’t fun anymore. That was a problem.
How did I allow myself to get to this point? I didn’t enjoy the one thing that I’ve always enjoyed. It was actually really easy to get to this point. I focused so much on trying to get away from other things in my life that I ended up just bringing those things into my runs. The hardest thing was that I didn’t realize it in time.
So what happened?
Just like anything else that you get burned out on, you take a break. I took time off running. I actually took roughly 4 months off running, with a casual 2-3 miles here and there. During that stretch, I think I may have gone out for a run once a month. I didn’t want to NOT do it, but I didn’t want to force it either.
I kept myself busy with other things. I played games. I read books. I meditated. I did things that I never thought I had time to do. The secret to success there was actually creating the time to do these things. Not making excuses to get out of them, but making excuses to do them. I was finding my balance again.
Fast forward to today.
After everything I had gone through the past few months, it happened. I went out on a run and it didn’t feel like a chore. I enjoyed it. I embraced it. My mojo for running was back. I started implementing 2-3 runs into my week and went from there. I started training for races. I was, in my mind, back to where I should be.
Burnout is a sign that something important in your life isn’t working. Whatever the situation may be, there are steps that you can take to improve your life and state of mind. For me, I took a step back to reevaluate where I was at. It was an opportunity for me to reflect and rediscover what really made me happy at the end of the day.
Each person will handle burnout differently, but when it comes down to it, just make sure you take the proper steps to take care of yourself first, and then worry about everything else in life.