Feeling Drained? Why Work-Life Balance is a Myth, but Work-Life Boundaries are the Answer.
If you are feeling drained from giving to others all day long, you need to read this, because there is a way back to your spark, that you know still lives within you. Burnout, if you use it, can be the first step on the path to discovering your most authentic, fulfilling life.
Burnout. That was me. Utterly emotionally, physically and mentally running on empty.
The spectrum of daily emotions I seemed to feel during my burnout days ranged from entirely flat and emotionless, to complete rage, resentment and frustration.
I know now, I was probably not alone, but nobody wants to admit that they can’t handle their day. Let alone their life.
If you are feeling drained from doing, doing, doing all day long, you need to read this, because there is a way back to your spark, your mojo and your best self.
I really do believe that sometimes, in order to find the core of your true authentic happy, fulfilled self, you have to be stripped back of everything you thought about yourself to reveal who you are at your core.
Make Time for Yourself (*rolls eyes*)
Talk about stating the obvious. This phrase is useless advice for a person who is already feeling overloaded. The very reason they feel overwhelmed is because they can't find the time to do something they actually enjoy anymore.
When I became a parent and got REAL busy, everyone used to flippantly say ‘you must make time for you!’ but in reality when I felt completely overwhelmed, it was very hard to see HOW I could make that happen. The more people told me to just ‘make some time’ for myself the more frustrated I got. I mean, we all have just 24 hours in a day, and all of those hours felt excruciatingly exhausting running around doing things I felt like I had to or ‘should’ do.
Even sleep wasn’t something I treasured anymore with two young children. Going to bed was just another thing I didn’t look forward to, as I knew, inevitably, I would be disturbed in the night. To say I felt on a perpetual treadmill would be an understatement, and I wanted desperately to get off.
The Feeling of a Wasted Day
I would wish and hope for an hour to myself.
Then the day would come when someone would offer to watch my children so I could go and take some time ‘for me’.
I would go in to overdrive! A whole hour to myself! What can I do? Get a shower and do my hair? No not important anymore. Emails? No that's work. Wash the bedding? No that’s classed as a chore. Bake that pie recipe I saw on Instagram? No would need to go to the supermarket first - no time. I know, I’ll organise my wardrobe like I’ve been wanting to do for six months. Oh wait, the kids are back.
More frustration with myself.
Ever experienced something like this? This is called burnout and you are up to your neck in it when you get to this point, just as I was.
I was THE burnout master. Otherwise defined as being so overloaded that you become completely unproductive, unworthy and unfulfilled. When rare opportunities present themselves to you to take some time for yourself, they feel so scarce, urgent and important that the pressure of maximising them before you have to go back to 'your life' overwhelms you.
You then waste them trying to figure out what to do, rather than savour them for what they are. A gift.
The Burnout Intervention
So when you are feeling so drained that life feels like one long list of resentment, frustration and lack of appreciation, where do you start?
The burnout intervention is about learning firstly to stop being a human doing, and get back to the core of yourself - a human being.
Enough just sitting an having a cup of tea whilst staring out the window. Or watching CBeebies hugging your little one. Or sitting in traffic listening to music. You are enough to just BE.
Except instead you feel guilty for the cup of tea, so you make a to do list whilst you sip or start folding the washing. Or you check your emails or social media with CBeebies blasting out in the background. Or you're not getting to where you are going quick enough.
When you reach the point of burnout - whether that's at work, in a relationship, or as a parent - there is only one thing that will help you to feel better, and get better.
And that is to STOP.
It's time to do things differently. In fact it's time to stop working on doing things, and start working on who you want to be, and how you want to feel every day.
Don't think about what you should do. Focus on how you want to feel, and how to make that happen during your day.
1. Build Work-Life Walls.
The answer lies in setting boundaries. Literally like a fence or wall around each element of your day, or individual task to block off everything else.
Think of boundaries as control. They are your decisions. They are your walls to build to protect what's important. They can have a door in them but the door opens one way - from your side. Through your choice. If you decide to move the wall, or go through the wall, it's your CHOICE. If you decide to stay behind the wall, again this is your choice.
2. Step Away from the Phone.
If you ask me, people's attachments to their phones are one of the biggest reason's for experiencing burnout. The feeling that you constantly need to be doing something with your phone. Looking at it, touching it, scrolling on it, taking photos, posting photos, looking at other people's photos. STOP.
3. Take a Social Media Holiday
I advocate going on social media holiday for a month to help you to live in the present a bit more. It's so weird, but when you do this - when you delete social media from your mental to do list - life is so much simpler. No more comparing your life to anyone else's achievements. Fewer distractions. It feels like a holiday.
Instead get outside, move feel the sun on your face and remember what it's like to feel good again. You need to remind your brain and body.
You start to realise just how unimportant social media actually is in reality. You get back to using it as a tool to inspire you, rather than a way to measure the success or failure of your day.
4. Stop Stalking, Start Talking.
When social media first came about, it was all about connecting with more people and networking. Nowadays I see way too much 'posting and ghosting' where people post and run, leaving their content out there, hoping people will gratify it whilst they're busy doing something else. Where's the connection in that? That kind of posting is all about the ego.
Instead post to connect with others. Post to share, connect, contribute, inspire and be inspired. That is after all, what networking is all about.
Then when you get back on social media, start being more present with your posts. Only post content when you know you can contribute to others, network and get inspired by others. Stop stalking, start talking!
You'll get way more out of it.
5. Protect the moment you are in.
Whether it's a cuddle with your child, writing a report for work, doing hot yoga or cooking the dinner. Do it properly. Do it with 100% of yourself. Not with one eye on your phone or TV.
It's very simple, but is in no way easy. Protect the moment you're in.
6. Compartmentalise Important Work Tasks
When it comes to work in the modern age, distraction and multi-tasking make it hard to stay focused. This is inevitably means lots of wasted time throughout the day.
Instead develop habits and rituals throughout your week where you dedicate particular portions of time to certain tasks.
For me, I do accounting and admin on a Monday, creative writing work on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (mornings are my most creative hours), social media scheduling on Fridays.
Schedule regular times to check your emails properly twice a day at 9am and say 2pm. Then for the rest of the day, shut them off, and tell everyone this is what you are doing and if they need you urgently, to call you.
These days so many people send an email to get something off their list and on to someone else's, and I find that things can go on and on. You could literally spend all day checking and responding to emails and getting nothing done.
Meeting requests need very careful attention. Are you really needed at the meeting? If so, do they need you for all of it? If you do attend the meeting, put a time limit on it and ensure the meeting is kept on focus.
If you train those around you to respect your time and practises, they will, and you will find you have far less distractions throughout the day.
I also recommend you read The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris who is an expert at mastering time.
7. Plan Time to Connect
The reason that more people than ever are suffering from depression and burnout is because they are lacking in connection. People think they are 'connecting' on social media, but see point 4. up above. Posting isn't necessarily connecting.
True connection is that with those around you, to your own spirit or the earth in which we live.
You have to plan and protect time to connect with yourself, with others and your environment and make it as important as anything on your to do list right now. Why? Because connection to yourself, other humans and the earth is the very essence of life.
If you are failing to experience this element of your life, or trying to do it whilst looking at social media or emails, I guarantee no matter how much money you make, how many followers you have on Instagram or how many people liked your recent Facebook post, you won't be happy.
The feeling of connection is different for everyone but everyone NEEDS it. You have to find what makes you feel full. However I guarantee it will involve real people, nature or a connection with yourself to make you feel alive.
For me personally it's some time alone by myself with a notebook, walking or running outdoors in nature, and making sure I go to bed feeling like I've connected properly with my children, husband, family, friends and work colleagues.
It's about tasting my food properly, breathing clean air and staring at a beautiful skyline. Watching the sunrise or set. Listening to the birds on a summers day.
Time is the thing that makes us all equal. No amount of money or status can buy you more. The key to living a fulfilled life and stop burning out is using these 24 hours to self-nourish and contribute to others.
If you are burned out at the moment, you have nothing to lose right now, so step away from the phone. LET GO of the things you feel you 'should' do, but really aren't important.
Simplify, and do everything with INTENTION in the present moment.
Stop the multi-tasking. Start the intentional-tasking.
Stop stalking and start talking.
It's the only way to realise that actually, when you do this, everything is ok. You are enough. People love you as they always did, and the ones who don't aren't worth your precious time.
Burnout happens when you start defining your worth by what you DO, rather than who you ARE in the attempt to be liked / loved / valued. By attaching yourself to external things rather than to your core.
So the key to a fulfilling life is by prioritising activities that enrich or fill your heart in some way, then controlling your time. Protecting it. And actually finding the time to work on who you are and how you feel, instead of working on your to do list, because you are indeed enough when you stop, and just BE.