How NOT to Survive Burnout

Burnout. There are just some times during the year when it seems like everything happens all at once. I haven’t had a day off in nearly 3 months due to work and family obligations. Things are about to get worse because I am studying for my state soils license test and to take the test, I have to take another course — I didn’t take as many soil classes while in uni.

I’ll be bluntly honest. I’m overloaded and have been for a while. It actually gets to the point where when I drag myself to a client meeting, I’m silently chanting paycheck over and over again on my way there and any time it gets tough. Remember, I even love what I’m doing. It’s so busy right now that I’ve been reduced to chanting a typical worker’s mantra when they are just trying to make it through another day.

Anxiety has set in. During the day I can’t focus because I’m stressed and worried. During the night, I lie awake thinking of all the things that I didn’t get done. I’m chanting paycheck, paycheck, paycheck in the back of my mind throughout any session with a client. I’m tempted to call in sick to get a day off teaching, but bills need to get paid.

That’s how I know I’m burnt out.

Admitting this is hard. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to admit you’re burnt out. It’s a matter of pride to just keep going. “Yeah, I’m tired, but I got this. I’m good. Don’t worry.” Recognise the BS for what it is? It’s a huge hurdle for me to admit burnout. And, up until recently it was as far as I’d get with it.

The next hurdle is setting priorities.

Within the last two years I’ve been getting the hang of saying, “I’m exhausted and burnt out. I need a break.” In the last year, I’ve learnt to prioritize. Building Insanitek, fortifying my health, and…. the rest all falls in there somewhere at the end.

What? I can only focus on two things at once.

Once priorities are acknowledged, you’re supposed to set boundaries that put those things first. I’m pretty good at saying no to things that don’t have anything to do with the two priorities I’ve set, then yes to things that are related.

“No, I don’t have time or money to go out for dinner. Yes, I do have time and money to go out to that dance class.”

Sadly, after this where I start to fall apart. Especially when it comes to family requirements and my ADHD. The two of these things make life… difficult.

The problem is stress?

It’s odd, but every time we have to do a family thing, whether it’s a holiday or birthday party, the rest of my week seems all out of sorts. This is because I’ve got high expectations and standards for my life at home and work. So, when one day gets taken out for a family shindig, I have to shift food prep and cleaning to a different day. Things that had to get done on that day get crunched onto other days.

This lack of down time every day puts stress on the body. A week of it I can handle, but when every weekend has something, the stress builds up. Then, the anxiety sets in. This is a massive trigger for my ADHD, and lack of focus sets in.

From there, it all falls apart.

Aside: I’d had the discussion before about what could be dropped to make room for the family and friend things. When you’re in borderline poverty, you don’t have the opportunity to take a day off working. Doubly so when you’re a business owner, and the money you make pays for freelancers that are putting together the product you use and sell. This is just where I’m at right now financially speaking. 

A moment of honesty, here.

I’ve been circling around this part of the problem for a good long while now. I can’t remember the first time I noticed this problem. I get stressed from too much to do and too many obligations, then lose the grip I had on my ADHD. Every. Single. Time.

Alas, it’s not like I haven’t tried a few things. I started out with sticky notes on every surface — but I ignored them. Then, I tried a planner — but I didn’t like the layout. Then, I did a DIY layout for my Arc system — but it took too much work and effort. So, I tried a different layout in a pre-made planner. Finally, an hourly planner layout worked. I could put down what I needed to do and assign a spot for it. Then, happily enough, I could check them off as I did it.

My Time Cube, when I remember to use it, really does help keep me on track.

But, as you can guess, there is something that was missing. And that was the ability to not get side tracked. (Hello, randomly interesting wall. Been a while since I stared at you uselessly for an hour.) My newest try to correct that is a Time Cube on my desk within reach. It’s usually right behind my tea/coffee so I can put my mug down and flip the cube. Supposedly, I put down the mug, flip the cube, and get to work. Normally I put down the mug, pet a cat, get distracted, and get to work. Then time passes…. and passes. And I’ve got very little done for the time that just whizzed by.

This is where I’m at right now in my journey to learning how to deal with too much stuff. In the future we will be making money on products and services that don’t require my presence, and thus I know this is just a phase in life. We all go through ups and downs. This is a phase of lessons that will give me more skills and understanding to help people in similar situations. That’s what life is all about. So, while this isn’t a good example of how to solve overwhelm, it’s a good lesson in understanding that not everyone has the privilege to take days off and survive.