Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. (Wikipedia)
Last week, I experienced true burnout for the first time in my life.
I’d be lying if I told you that I hadn’t felt it coming. And a lot of people in my life hinted that I was trying to do too much. I was going on about 4 months of every minute of my life being goal-oriented. That goal, was (and still is) earning a living online, to give myself freedom of time and location.
During that period, I abstained from a lot of activities in favor of “getting shit done.” I didn’t drink any alcohol, rarely went out, didn’t have sex and didn’t see a lot of my good friends. I wrote like a madman, dove into countless projects, read voraciously, worked out like I was Ronnie Coleman and did a lot of yoga and meditation in an attempt to offset my extreme output. And this was all while holding down a 9-5 job as well.
I put insane amounts of pressure on myself at all times, constantly forcing myself to get more done. I was my own slave driver. Of course I enjoy this work (it’s a major part of my life purpose), but literally everything I did was geared towards my goal(s) in some way.
The yoga and meditation I practiced became goal-oriented (which, in some sense, almost defeats their purpose). I was practicing yoga to counteract all of the sitting I was doing and help rest (so I could workout harder and produce more content). I was meditating with the goal of gaining a higher perspective and getting more creative inspiration.
I even viewed sleep as merely a means to recover my ability to produce more.
Every single thing I did was aligned with my vision, and that became problematic. I was pushing the envelope of extreme output.
As last week progressed, I began to feel more and more burned out. But this drove me to a profound realization… I wasn’t ever allowing myself to just BE. And that’s the root of what was gradually wearing me down.
My creativity was the first to go last week. I noticed that I was less creative than usual on Monday and Tuesday. That was followed by feelings of fatigue. Then, on Wednesday night, a headache came on. The headache stayed with me into Thursday. The feeling of utter burnout got to the point where I left work early, went home and napped.
Note: These were all glaring signs to me. I was so used to creating as ravenously as 2pac. Feeling tired is so foreign to me. I don’t even remember the last time I had a headache before this. And I can only nap when I really, really need it. So with that combination of symptoms, I knew something was wrong.
After napping, I decided to spend the rest of the day completely “goalless.” I did some stretching, mobility work and practiced any yoga poses that felt good. I took a long shower. I watched some fascinating YouTube videos that caught my eye. I ate a jar of sunflower seed butter (so good). It was revitalizing to allow myself to just BE; no pressure, no to-do list and no goals.
I wound down for the night by reading The Fifth Sacred Thing until I fell asleep.
Then on Friday morning, I woke up feelin good, feelin great again. I feel like a phoenix, arising from its own ashes.
You have to balance the yin with the yang. You need rest to support activity. You need to balance goal-oriented time with goalless time.
If you keep pushing with blatant disregard for everything else, you’ll end up in a gray-zone of constantly trudging forward at nowhere near your full capacity. And if you continue this pattern long-term, you’ll end up in a downward spiral of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual dysfunction.
When you rest enough to balance your activity level, you’re then able push harder and continuously evolve into the greatest version of yourself.
What are some symptoms of burnout?
- Less productivity – Spending more time while actually getting less done.
- Less creativity
- Less motivation
- Loss of mental sharpness
- Brain fog
- Poor decision-making
- Not taking care of yourself – Falling into negative patterns or activities more often.
- Life begins to lose its vibrancy
How do you avoid or alleviate burnout?
- Grounding into the Earth (walk barefoot in nature or just on grass) – This syncs you up with
- Mother Earth. Because burnout has to do with mental overuse, you need to ground yourself into your body and the Earth.
- Get out in nature – This goes along with the previous tip. Getting out in nature is wholly revitalizing. Do something like hike a mountain or walk in the woods.
- Sleep more – Get the rest you need.
- Engage in “yin” activities regularly – These are rejuvenative activities for the body, mind and spirit. Examples include meditation, gentle yoga, tai chi, qi gong, reiki, massage, acupuncture…etc.
- Reduce screen time – Turn off the technology and unplug for a bit. Keeping your eyes glued to digital screens tend to exacerbate feelings of burnout.
- Go on vacation – Go somewhere relaxing for a few days (or longer, depending on how burnt out you are) where you don’t have to do anything.
- Set aside some “goalless” time – This worked like a charm for me.
How to spend goalless time:
1. Do whatever you feel like. Seriously, spontaneously do whatever you want (as long as it’s not harmful to yourself or others, of course). This is one of the most freeing things you can do.
2. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. There is nothing to accomplish, no goals and no to-do lists.
3. Just allow yourself to BE. Be present and thoroughly enjoy whatever you’re doing.
- And most importantly, HAVE FUN! Life is too short to be taken too seriously. Enjoy yourself, live authentically, laugh, dance, climb trees and high five strangers.
Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great.
– Stevie P!