How to Rebound from Burnout

I did it. I admit it. I got focused. I got busy and I let it happen. I said yes too many times. I pushed myself. Even though I was running on empty.

I ignored the alarm bells going off in my head. And just kept going. I kept thinking it would be temporary – just one short push.

Next week I’d have the time. The end of the month. Once I catch up on my bills I can pull back. These fictitious moments that never came.

I burnt out.

I lost all the things that matter to me in a day. The little things I used to savour… Sunshine, nature, walking my dogs, time. Time. Time to be present with my kids. To be a good friend. But above all to be there for myself.

I love myself… I am my favourite person. On purpose.

I have worked hard through self esteem issues, through broken relationships and a broken marriage, through a decade of single parenting … to be my best and favourite person.

In my busyness…in my hunt to provide, to make enough money, to be a stellar working mom that doesn’t miss a kid’s soccer game or gymnastics competition or training, while running a business, doing side jobs to pay for these sports and anything else they need, in this quest, I ended up falling short. Professionally. Financially. Emotionally.

My days began at 5am feeding dogs and checking emails. My days ended at 11pm.

Doing paperwork, responding to more emails. I squeezed in my daily workouts like a frenzied animal, reaping the benefits of that ‘me’ time for 2 minutes as I changed clothes and ran out to my next job or to pick up one of my kids.

My sleep started to suffer. My face started to show age. I started getting daily headaches.

My eyes looked so tired that my son would often put his hand on mine and say “oh mom, you look so tired.” And as soon as he got out of the car, I would drive away in tears.

Often I would just burst into tears in the shower or in the car from sheer exhaustion and overwhelm. And I’m not a cryer. Truly.

I have a goal, I build a plan, and I push forward to make it happen.

I’m fiercely motivated when it comes to providing for this family.

The problem is, I’m not making it happen.

Struggling through your days is not living.

It’s not even surviving. It’s the reverse of that. It’s accelerated dying.

Giving my best to my clients and my employers stole first priority. My kids would get the leftovers of me. The dogs and I got scraps of nothing.

I had no time for my friends and I closed myself off to romantic relationships, joking that the only thing I had time and energy for would be something long distance because I had nothing left at the end of the day.

The thought of one more person taking from me what I needed for myself was unbearable.

So I became a hard working hermit with no balance, no joy, no fulfillment, and no hope.

This is what happens. It can creep in slowly like a weed and choke out everything else you’ve built into your life that’s good.

Soon, every day runs into the next.

I knew that if I didn’t’ slow down I could get sick. With any kind of sickness of disease.

Being activated and walking around that way is the best way to start some kind of illness. I was already starting to feel unwell.

The solution?

Courage. Discipline. Boundaries.

It takes more courage to stop what you’re doing and change things than to keep pushing forward.

It takes equal amounts of discipline to be persistent in those changes.

I knew I needed to take some big steps back. I was afraid that I would let my family down. That if I stepped back or slowed down I wouldn’t make enough money and we’d slide back into previous hells of financial distress I vowed never to return to.

Stronger than the fear I felt of stepping back, was the hatred I felt of not feeling alive and losing my vibrancy.

That was a far bigger pain point for me. Worrying that I was wasting time – precious time in my life being busy, working hard, not being present, sacrificing connections and relationships and for nothing really…was a concept equally loathed.

And…I missed myself.

Find your pain points.

What do you miss the most, hate the most, feel the most discomfort in?

Use these as motivators. Don’t focus on the negative in a way that sinks you into the victim pit, but notice where you feel personal pain and get furious about it.

Use that energy – whatever you have left – to start making plans for change.

Get disciplined.

Look at your schedule. Look at where you can add structure and productivity, look at where you need to put in time for you. For exercise. For connections. Schedule those in as non negotiables.

Start making strategic, methodical cutbacks to balance the energy going out and the energy coming back in.

Set boundaries

Say no. Pull back.

I decided to start saying no again. I just needed the reminder. I decided to reduce my contract hours and pull back on work.
I knew I would disappoint people. Employers and clients alike. I knew that limits on my availability would cause ripples of discontent. I was prepared for it. I toughened up in advance for it.

I prioritized myself and my wellbeing and by proxy my entire future and became okay with having others be unhappy with me.

I selected the highest stress contracts and pulled back. I strategically placed my energy on the projects and contracts that I liked the most whether they were the top dollar value or not.

They aren’t living my life. It’s easy for them to put demands on me. They are either single with no dependents or married with a partner to help.

Their perspective on what I “should” be providing for them is automatically skewed by different life contexts. This is how it is for all of us.

They can’t be held responsible for their demands of me and what it takes away from my family or my health – that’s my job. I’m providing a service – I’m not delusional enough to think they care about me beyond what I can do for them. It’s business.

But burnout is personal. And only my responsibility.

I knew how to do all these things. I knew I deserved it. I knew I had to protect and prioritize myself.

This process of building awareness, gaining courage, being disciplined, and setting boundaries is a continuum and one that you will repeat regularly to keep this area of your life in check. You might as well get used to it.

Give yourself a monthly check in. Listen to your body. Recap your interactions with other and see where you might be showing compromised emotional intelligence, mental depletion, and physical fatigue.

Don’t waste time. Realign your priorities.

Slow down. You can potentially prolong your future if you aren’t in a mad rush into it. You will definitely enjoy the ride a lot more.