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#87 My #1 Lesson A Year After Burning Out
And 7 Ways I Addressed it
I’m tired. I thought by now I wouldn’t be. It’s been almost exactly a year since I shared my experience of burnout with you and I have learned SO much, reset so much thinking, and changed in ways large and small in the year since writing that post. I’ve tried to share what I learned along the way. I was told by all the experts, read it in all the books, yet still didn’t believe it, but the fact is: healing from burnout takes time. Much longer than even the few months off I was able to give myself before going back to work. Even after setting aside Fridays first for rest and play and now for creative exploration (and still play). Even as I refuse to push myself beyond my limits and set strict boundaries around my time. I am still tired. Not all of the time and far less than I was before. I’ve gotten my motivation back and my energy and passion for the work I do. I’m excited when I think about this newsletter, my clients, and the (hard) work of continuing to evolve my business.
I love the work I do; I feel lucky to get to do it and share my expertise with you and others, but I’m still tired.
Coming off the amazing high of sharing what it means to be a storyteller at SXSW a few weeks ago, I hit a bit of a wall. I’d overextended myself while in Austin and paid for it in a familiar loss of energy, motivation, and ability to give over 100% in my work. But this time, I knew what to do. As I’ve shared in the past, managing and healing from burnout for me comes down to:
Finding ways to complete the stress cycle
Making time for rest AND play—to fill my cup
Connecting with community
Leaning into therapy
Refusing to push through
But the thing I’ve learned most in the past year of staying committed to healing was how important it is not only rest, but re-evaluate. I have spent the last year challenging a lifetime of beliefs ingrained in me by society and the world I live in about what it means to be successful, what it means to work hard, what the benefits of “hard work” should look like, and who I am as a person outside of my drive to succeed.
That’s not to say I don’t want to work hard or do well in my work, it just means those things aren’t intrinsically tied to my value and self-worth. And I’m still learning this. It’s still hard to have a tough day and make room for myself to go slower, it’s still hard not to push and work well beyond eight hours a day. It’s still hard not to feel as if I am somehow wanting if my achievements and accomplishments are not seen and celebrated by others. It's hard not to compare where I am with others on far different paths. A lifetime of learning does not become undone in a year. Especially in a society that, despite the great resignation, still ties our worth up in our work.
It can be hard to believe in my intrinsic self-worth and my right to rest (and seeing rest as something I don’t need to earn) when so much of the messaging from media, community, and society is that we are as valuable as our labour and output. But in the past year I’ve realized something important: we are here to live, to exist, and to realize our Purpose not simply to work or produce. We are meant to cultivate and share love and joy. We are not simply what we do, but how we show up each day as individuals on unique paths with stories of our own.
The best part about this experience and this ongoing part of my story is that I get to do it while doing work I love with people I like. Work that truly fills me up and a Purpose that inspires me to continue to share and give and contribute to the world around me.
As I continue to heal, I wanted to share this insight from a year of addressing burnout—what I actually did.
Refused to push through when I was spent after a full day
Got deliberate and choiceful about what truly matters in my life
Set new priorities
In summary, really, I made space and I played in it. And those new priorities? Here they are:
Health and wellbeing
Measuring my self-worth and value on a new scale
Exploration and curiosity
Letting go of ambition-at-all-costs attitude
Joy and kindness
These are mine, I’d love to know what yours are—share in the comments below or reply to the email if you’ve begun to set new priorities for yourself. Hopefully this helps you think about your own rest and care in new ways and equips you so that if you’ve already burnt out you can begin to heal and if you’re headed in that direction, you can reset. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: burning out was one of the hardest and best things to happen to me. It opened my eyes to entirely new possibilities in the world and I feel honoured to get to share that with you.
And for you entrepreneurs out there and folks who love your work like I do, an important reminder from a wellness expert I follow (and used to work with):
A Story Well Told
This one is actually a story that deeply frustrated me. One that I had anticipated for MONTHS and was excited to finally see in theatres. Other fans told me it was the best they’d seen of the series and I was desperate to go see it. Then my city went through another wave of COVID and lockdown and I had to miss it. I waited with my brother for it to come to streaming so we could invade my sister’s apartment and watch it on her massive television to get somewhat closer to that theatre experience. I went into it giddy, only to be deeply disappointed. Not by the storytelling but by a main character that repeatedly made TERRIBLE, I mean stupid, decisions. I was outraged at the stupidity by then end and by the outcome of all those bad choices. There were a few twists that maybe if I hadn’t already known about them would have made it better, but it felt like a bit of a gimmick to me. But what the creators were able to do well was invest me in this character and make me feel for him even as I raged at his choices—that is still great storytelling. All that to say my story well told this week was the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe Film, Spiderman: No Way Home. What a mess. But what it also did well was make me eager to see how the story evolves in the other films (that may be the diehard fan in me speaking) so not a total disappointment I guess.
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