My mind likes to race; it races around and around. It causes me unneeded stress. I then start to think about how much I think. You see how this can be a spiral toward some kind of mental breakdown?
The truth is, I’m a thorough person. I’m loyal. I put 100% into people, things, and projects. Being relational and passionate about work, dreams, etc. are admirable qualities, however it can lead to burnout if we don’t remember to pause.
Sometimes it’s too much to think about all at once; and therefore too hard to execute on. I’ve felt my fair share of failure for backing out of commitments that I feel are not serving me in a given moment. But instead of being hard on myself, I’ve learned to view quitting and failure from a different perspective.
“Taking time to honor the needs of your body is taking time to respect the needs of your soul.” – Journey to the Heart
We’re told from day 1, to never EVER quit. If you’ve ever played sports in high school, college, etc., you know exactly what I’m talking about. Great athletes don’t quit. Great athletes don’t give up. Great athletes don’t burnout. Successful people don’t burnout — but oh, they do… they just learn to manage it, or change their current situations.
Luckily for me, there are a TON of blogs and podcasts underneath the sun that address the general topic of burnout, quitting, and having the power to say ‘no’. We are humans in a world in which there are rarely any constants. Our financial successes, health, relationships, and career goals all rely on variables. They are all dependent on various life scenarios and interactions with people that are hardly repeatable for any two people. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I do a couple of things:
- Remember to NOT compare my successes (or lack there of) to others’ successes. It does NOT make sense to compare myself to other people. All those variables I just talked about – they are different for everyone. The intensity of those variables are different for everyone. If you feel this way – here’s a solution: do some soul-searching and figure out what drives you and makes you happy. Use your discoveries as a foundation to determine what success means to you. Although people can have compatible and similar personalities, it does not mean any two people function in the same capacity or use the same thought processes. The definition of success should stem from an intrinsic place, yet we are often using society’s definition of success as a measuring stick. Here’s a thought… does society care if you as an individual are fulfilled and happy?
- Find effective stress relievers. No, I don’t mean unwinding with a glass of wine (but yes, kind of). Okay, but seriously, find sustainable stress outlets to get you through the bumps in the road. I’ve found that exercise, stretching, reading, writing, meditating, dancing, napping, bingeing Gilmore Girls..etc. have all been effective stress relievers for me. Disclaimer: it might take a while to figure out what actually works for you, but the only way to know is to TRY.
- Start saying ‘no’. I struggled with saying ‘no’ to friends, family, and coworkers for quite some time. Fun fact: I recently took an Insights personality assessment which revealed at work I feel I need to be extroverted as hell, but at home I’m in the fast lane to introversion. This doesn’t surprise me because I am a project manager, and as a project manager I have the pleasure of working with many people. But at home, I’m not a project manager. I’m a person who likes peace and quiet. I’m someone who doesn’t need other people around to give me energy – I need to be alone to recharge. So friends, family — if you’re wondering why I’m saying ‘no’ to invites, don’t take it personally. I am putting my health first, and allowing myself to be selective about what I participate in. You can do it too – and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Imagine a life where everyone did what they wanted to without feeling obligated! A-m-a-z-i-n-g.
- Re-evaluate activities in my planner and/or schedule. I am a total Type-A person. I love planning out my week, my meals, my workouts, you name it. It’s cool to feel in control; but if all of a sudden my mood is not aligned with my plans, or I’m feeling burnt out, you better believe I’m removing or pushing out some of my to-do’s. As a project manager, it’s intuitive for me to want to stick to schedules and follow through for my clients and peers. However, I have learned that I don’t need to project-manage my life outside of work. I can use my intuition to guide me; I can ebb and flow through the week depending on how I’m feeling. There isn’t anyone over my shoulder at home looking at my planner and saying, “Oh no, Karen! You did not go to yoga tonight, you’re fired!”. Think about it…planning is meant to make life simpler. The minute it becomes the enemy is the minute you should be taking a step back from the pressure you are putting on yourself. Go with your gut, you will feel much more relaxed. I know I have.
In closing, this month was full of “quitting”. I made intentional decisions to redirect my energy to other aspects of my life. I decided that the Whole30 was not serving me this round – and it’s not because I think the Whole30 is hard, it’s because the Whole30 meant something different to me in 2015 than it means to me now. I did a nice two-week detox from the holidays and found that was enough; it served me well. I now feel rejuvenated to take on the rest of the month and the new year. I also “quit” training for a 15k that I pressured myself into. It felt like a good idea at the time, but I started training about four weeks later than I would have liked and there’s no reason for me to put pressure on myself to run the longest distance I would run in my entire life with minimal training.
“We need to learn to adapt to change but we also need to learn to tell when a situation is wrong for us and not force ourselves to fit.” – Journey to The Heart
I leave you with a few resources that have grounded me recently. They’ve taught me to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do, and ‘fuck yes’ to things that are calling to me. They’ve taught me that quitting is not necessarily failure, it’s recognizing that something is not serving me. They’ve taught me that burnout is real, and that stress can be mitigated. If it can’t, I need to take control of my life and seek change.
- Minimal Wellness: Saying “Fuck Yes”
- Maddy Moon: What to do When You Failed at Something You Cared About
- The Broad Experience: Burnout
- Journey to the Heart
“Sometimes it feels easier to doubt ourselves, to make the perceived safe decision, to make the excuse, to change our expectations, to follow ill-fitting societal norms, and uphold our false beliefs that only exceptional people can do the thing we want to do. But that’s bullshit.” – Minimal Wellness