How to Bounce Back from Burnout

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About a month ago I hit THE WALL.  I’m not talking literally, of course, and neither am I talking Game of Thrones (…which would probably be for the first time in oh, I don’t know… SEVEN years?).  You know that scene from Run Fatboy, Run?  The one where Simon Peg is running the Marathon and he hits that metaphorical wall?  He’s knackered; he physically can’t move another step forward and mentally, he’s ready to give up.  Well, that’s kind of how I felt about a month ago (minus the marathon). Things had been a bit busy and I’d just kept on burning through – as you do – but when things became quiet again and I stopped to think, I suddenly realised how tired and uninspired I was feeling – mentally, I just didn’t have any fuel left to keep that fire going.  All the little things I enjoyed doing on a weekly basis – like cooking, writing and walking the dog – suddenly felt like a mammoth task.

I was burned out.

Burnout isn’t just about feeling tired; it’s a total and utter max-out in energy – period.  You don’t just feel tired, you feel drained of that fire that keeps you going on a day to day basis – your personal combustion engine.  And once that goes, forget it.  You know the creative energy that you need to be able to come up with new ideas at work and feel inspired to take on new tasks?  All out.  All that social energy you need to maintain relationships and forge new ones?  Gone.  The motivation to go out, to get some exercise and stick to your usual, healthy routine?  Nada.  If you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, uninspired and are struggling to keep up with your friends and maintain your usual healthy routine, then all signs point to burnout, baby.

And it’s not just me; how many times have I heard the phrase, “I’m so ready for my holiday now…” in the past few weeks?  We all seem to be thirsting for that summer break – just a couple of weeks away from the desk and a bit of time to get that groove back.

But, what if that holiday is still a few weeks away and you’re feeling so burned out that you’re smoldering out your ears and snoring at your desk?  Well, here are five ways to get bouncing back from burnout.

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1. Strip Back Your To-Do List

You know when you’re on the computer and you’ve got a hundred different windows open at once (with about twenty different tabs in each on the go, as well as The Sims 4 running in the background…)?  Some days you can handle it, but definitely not when you’re approaching burn out.  Time to take a look at your to do list and see where you can lighten your load.  I mean it’d be easy to ditch the whole thing, but just sit down for twenty minutes and see if there’s anything you can strike out and put off until you’ve got the energy.

2. Sneak in Some “Me” Time

“Me time”, “Self Care”, whatever you want to call it – if you’re heading for burnout taking a little time to do something that’s guaranteed to either relax you or put an instant smile on your face is a must.  Sometimes a little bit of what you fancy goes a long way, and sometimes you need a couple of hours or a day or two to just do you – whether that’s something as simple as a soak in the tub, a takeaway, a walk with the dog or treating yo’self to something special – reminding yourself of what feels good will stop you collapsing in on yourself like a black hole post supernova.

3. Focus on NOW

Time forget about… time!  Or least shed the stress that goes with it.  Forget your monthly, yearly, big picture goals for a while and just focus on getting back on track NOW.  You don’t need the stress of worrying whether you’re going to fall behind when you’re trying to bounce back from burnout.  The less stress and worrying, the better.

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4. Reconnect with your Support Network

If work’s been keeping you busy and you’re feeling burned-out then you probably haven’t had time to see your mates in a while.  Time to meet up with your faves over coffee or head over your Mum and Dad’s for a Sunday Roast.  Reconnecting with the people who know you best can do a lot to remind you of who you are and how to be that best version of yourself.

5. Have a Break

You don’t need an expensive holiday booked to get a break away from the day to day grind.  A break can be as simple as a morning spent on the sofa catching up with your favourite shows!  (Can I recommend Fleabag?  I binged it last week and IT IS AWESOME).

Have a great week everyone! (Don’t work too hard 😉 )

 

4 Times my Confidence took a Hit and How I Punched Back

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Let’s be clear here; I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where my ego doesn’t take at least a little bit of a dent.  You know, those little everyday knocks to your confidence.  Bad hair days, bad skin days. Those moments when you can’t seem to get your words out straight without spitting them all over someone (“Hey, I asked for the news not the weather!”). Days when you walk down the street and end up tripping over your own shoes (come on, we’ve all done that little over the shoulder look to blame an invisible crack in the pavement – “I was framed! I’m not just a complete and utter prat!”).  Those times when you just get it wrong; whether it’s an outfit, an answer to an important question or a telephone number (oh the horror).  I mean, that’s life right?  We all need taking down a peg or two from time to time; it’s those little knocks that remind us that we’re not actually walking Gods but snorting, spitting, “whoops I slipped up!” humans.  Who knew!

But in terms of overall self esteem those are just little bumps and bruises, aren’t they? No biggie. A bit of a knock or a graze that can be sorted with a bit of Sudocrem from your emotional first aid kit by way of having a good old chuckle over the fact that we’re all capable of being a bit of an idiot from time to time.

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But then there are those times when someone or something throws your ego a suckerpunch. One you didn’t see coming. The kind that knocks you flat on your back and leaves a little bit more than just a couple of bruises.  Something breaks and you need a bit of time to recover.  Maybe you even step of the ring for a while, and when you do come back you can’t escape the fact that you’re different – altered in some way.  More skittish, more likely to duck out before you get hit or maybe you’ve learned how to punch back.  Okay, I’m going to ease up on the boxing metaphor now – I’m getting carried away!  What I guess I’m trying to say is that no matter how much it hurts at the time, it’s only through moments that shake our confidence right to the core that we find out what we’re really made of – and who we really are and want to be.  Here are four of mine. 🙂

That time a famous Children’s Author told me to “Go Away”

Yep, you read that right.  Back when I worked in a High School supporting English lessons it wasn’t that unusual for authors to come visit and read to the kids, and some pretty big names passed through.  During one of those visits the teacher I was working with asked me to do a little bit of essay marking for her during the reading; it was coming up to reports time and she was absolutely swamped.  So, “sure” I said and went to sit at the back of the crowd where I got out my green pen (apparently red’s seen as too negative these days) and started marking.  The author got maybe a paragraph into his reading when he suddenly stopped and shouted, “Uh, the woman sitting at the back with the glasses and snot-coloured top.  If you’re going to insist on scribbling through my reading, I’m going to have to ask you go away and scribble somewhere else.”

Oh man.  I’m furious just thinking about it.  If the same thing happened to me today, I’d have absolutely no problem punching back at someone like that.  In fact, I’d enjoy it.  But back then, I just couldn’t.  I felt small every single day because I hated my job, and the way he’d treated me made me feel even smaller.  Practically microscopic.  He’d humiliated me in front of the people I worked with and worse, my students – who never let me live it down.  Had it been rude of me to sit there marking while he read?  Maybe.  But was I – little old me with the messy, mousy hair, glasses and snot-coloured top – SO distracting, SO offensive that he couldn’t even concentrate on the simple task of reading a book out loud?  Would he have spoken to me like that if I was a man?  I doubt it.  The truth is that Mr Successful Children’s Author had felt the need to pump up his already bloated ego by deflating mine.  I’m sure he forgot about me the minute I walked away, but I didn’t.

That time I flunked my A-Levels

Okay, maybe flunked isn’t the right word because the truth is, I didn’t really flunk my A Levels.  I did absolutely fine, the problem was that fine wasn’t quite good enough to get me into my top choice of university… or my back up.  The day before I picked up my results the plan had been to go to Cardiff University to study History.  Well, that plan went tits up – spectacularly.  I was absolutely devastated.  I felt like I’d let everyone down, including myself.  The truth was – and I think I knew it deep down at the time – that I just hadn’t worked hard enough.  I’d gotten sloppy.  I’d overestimated myself, and it was tough coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was.  My confidence took a savage hit.  But hey, it all worked out in the end.  I went through clearing and got a place at Swansea University instead.  In the end it was good for me to get out of my home town and out of my comfort zone, and I had such a blast that I stayed on for another year with the guy I was really into at the time (…and still am, reader, I married him 😉 ) to study the other big love of my life; Creative Writing.

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That time my hair started falling out

I used to have really long hair.  I mean it was always quite fine, but I had a lot of it and it used to grow really fast.  I used to steer clear of the hair dressers and didn’t really need to bother caring for it.  I brushed it, I washed it and that was about it.  Then during my twenties, everything changed.  It became very dry, very brittle and even started falling out in massive chunks.  My confidence took a nosedive.  I stopped wearing my hair down and felt really bad about myself and how I looked.  In the end, I had to get it all chopped off just to take back some kind of control over it.  Nowadays I never take my hair forgranted!  I get it trimmed regularly and take care of what I’ve got.  It’s not perfect by any means, but these days I put in the work to keep it on my head!  (If you’re interested in reading more about how I got my hair back, I wrote a whole post about it here).

That time I was called a liar during an interview

Oh the shame.  This happened during one of my first interviews after graduating .  I was  so excited to have finished university and felt fairly optimistic about getting out there and finding a job I loved, although the truth was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.  I was entertaining the idea of moving to London and was looking at jobs in marketing and publishing.  I managed to bag an interview for a job in sales with a big marketing firm in the middle of London and went in feeling super confident.  But it all went south during the interview.  I don’t know whether I was nervous or got a bit tongue tied, but the man who was interviewing me smirked the entire way through.  At the end he raised his eyebrows, scoffed and then said, “Sorry love, I don’t believe a single word of what you just said.”  I can’t remember what I did or said next – I must of repressed it – because I was absolutely mortified! I couldn’t get out of that room quick enough!  It was a good few months before I felt ready to go on another interview, and I didn’t apply for another job in sales after that.  Good thing too, I’d have been bloody awful at it!

How do you cope when your confidence takes a hit? 🙂

 

New Year, No Pressure

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A couple of days before the New Year a bunch of daffodils sprung up and bloomed in our front garden – which is weird, because traditionally daffs have got at least another month or so of underground snoozing to go before they’re expected.  But nope, these guys are up and ready to go.  You know, as if they’re raring to smash 2018.  I mean, if they were human they’d have quit smoking, organised their bullet journals and vowed to go vegan by now.

And it’s not just my eager daffs, during the first week of January there’s always that pressure to get up, get going and – like a crash test dummy on their first day of work – throw yourself at 80 miles an hour into a brand new year.  There’s that fresh page right in front of us and the chance to start over and reinvent which is exciting…

…But also TERRIFYING, and comes with a huge amount of pressure (if you’re a writer then you’ll know how terrifying empty pages are!).

I wish I could say that I had the same January Get up and Go attitude that my daffodils have, but the truth is that it takes me a bit longer than that.  For me, January has always been a massive struggle.  I used to dread the trudge back to school and the old routine after spending time with my family at Christmas, and I’m always falling foul of the January Blues.  It’s a dark, cold and miserable time of year; not exactly the easiest month to feel motivated to get up early and get crack-a-lacking on those goals, amiright?

For people like me, the expectation that I’ll wake up on the 1st of January bright eyed having switched into a new mindset overnight is completely unrealistic (…the truth is that I spent the first couple of hours of 2018 with my head down a toilet… but I digress…). And yet the pressure to do that is everywhere, so it’s easy to beat yourself up when you wake up in January and just want to groan and bury your head under the covers instead.

My January Self-Care Kit: Plenty of reading material, fresh flowers to brighten up the house on dull days, lots of candles and fairy lights, hot tea, sticky buns and lots of time spent with the beardo and Bungle ♡

I’m not saying that I’m not excited for 2018, believe me, I really am (2017 was one of my favourite years so far 🙂 ).  But I’m going to need some time to ease myself into it, and January seems like the perfect month for some self care and self reflection.  I’m going to hold off on the resolutions and goal setting until February at least, and spend the month quietly feeding myself instead.  Not with food exactly (although there are still two Chocolate Oranges in my kitchen cupboard that I’m very excited survived Christmas…), but with all the things that I’m going need to inspire that fresh mindset when Spring arrives.  I want to read, I want to write, eat good food, go exploring and then come home and cwtch up somewhere warm and cosy with a cup of tea.  Unlike those eager daffs, this girl needs just a little bit more time sleeping underground before she can be expected to bloom.

What’s in your January Self-Care Kit? 🙂

Why we need to stop turning 30 into an Expiration Date

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Today’s my birthday.  I’m 32 years old, which is crazy to me because the truth is that most days – in my head – I still feel like I’m 17.  And I suppose I still am in some ways; I still listen to the same kind of music, I still love doughnuts just as much (and more to the point still eat them for breakfast sometimes like I did when I was 17), still have a crush on Robert Downey Jr, still have the occasional volcanic eruption on my chin, and I still (and always will) think that mayonnaise is rank – get it the hell away from me.

How do I feel about hitting 32?  I feel good.  Better than good.  Which is strange because for a long time I was absolutely terrified of hitting my thirties.

I feel like during our twenties we’re made to feel like our thirtieth birthday is an expiration date of some kind.  You know, that by thirty we’re supposed to have travelled the world, ticked a few things off of our bucket list, met “the one”, know our personal style, have our own place, feel ready to create little humans (if we haven’t already), have reached a certain point in our chosen careers and just generally have life figured out.  We spend our twenties making Before 30 Lists of things we want to do or accomplish – and that’s not even taking into account society’s ideas about what we should have achieved before reaching the big 3-0.  And because of that we turn our thirtieth birthday into an expiration date.  The real life version of what midnight was to Cinderella… minus the pumpkin and glass slipper.

As I take another step into my thirties I can safely say that I’m happier and more comfortable in myself now than I ever was in my twenties.  And that’s not because I ticked everything off my 30 Before 30 List, or because I have life figured out – I really, really don’t.  Who does?  But I definitely understand myself a little better; who I am, who I’m not, and who I want to be.

We need to stop turning 30 into something to be feared and instead treat it as something exciting.  There’s something empowering about turning thirty.  It’s a whole new decade.  A whole new you… if that’s what you want.  You might not have x, or done y, or been to z, but hopefully you’ll know yourself a little better, and what and who matters to you the most.  And at the end of the day, those things are more important than whether you’ve backpacked the world or run a marathon or partied until the sun comes up.  You can still do all those things in your thirties, by the way.  No one’s stopping you!  😉

Happy Birthday to meeee! 🎈

About Motivation

Wouldn’t it be great if they bottled Motivation?  So whenever you were feeling stuck in that emotional rut of “I just can’t be arsed” you could just drag yourself to your local supermarket and literally stock up on cans of whoop ass that would give you that much needed boost to get stuff done.  They’d be right there on the shelf next to those silver cans with bulls and lightening bolts on them, but completely separate because let’s not confuse motivation with energy.  After all, they’re completely different things.

A slump in energy can be quickly solved with a sold eight hours shut eye or a stonking great big cup of coffee (…or tea, if you’re like me!).  Motivation though?  That’s trickier.  Motivation is elusive.  It’s unpredictable; it comes and goes and can’t be pinned down.  It can’t be summoned, and it can’t be kept.  Just like inspiration (I’m a firm believer that the two are either the same thing or at least go hand in hand), it’s got an air of mystery and magic to it – a sudden spark that gives you the jolt you need to tackle anything and everything from the moulding dishes in the sink to job applications, blog posts and unwritten books.

Motivation – when it sticks around – makes you feel powerful, invincible.  You know the feeling; it’s practically a superpower, it’s that voice inside that shouts YOU GOT THIS and just for second makes you believe that you’re capable of doing almost anything.  The problem is that almost as soon as it appears, it’s gone again.  Hopefully after you’ve finished that pisa-esque pile of ironing or bashed out that blog post that’s been bugging you, but y’know sometimes it’s been known to bugger off sooner, leaving you high and dry – something that’s not only incredibly rude, but can be incredibly depressing too.  It leaves you feeling the exact opposite of strong and capable; weak and unable.  Useless.

Perhaps that’s why Motivation’s so elusive.  I mean, if we all went around ignited by that spark 100% of the time then we wouldn’t value it as much – not to mention, we’d be bloody exhausted from taking over the world every day of the week!

Sadly, I can’t see Tesco or Waitrose bottling Motivation any time soon (but if it did it’d probably be flavoured with blood oranges and salted caramel), but there are definitely a few ways to encourage that fickle spark of superhuman can-do to return.

Rest and Re-energize

Ground breaking, I know.  But, Motivation never likes to stop by when you’re feeling run down or exhausted.  So relax, put that to-do list on hold for a while and refill those batteries.  Not by necking caffeine though – all that’s good for is a quick burst of Faux-tivation followed by a crash.

Do Something Else

Motivation likes to be inconvenient.  Just like that Hermes delivery you’ve been waiting for and watching out the front window for all morning; you know that as soon as you decide to get in the shower or plonk your bum on the toilet the front door bell will go.  A watched cake never bakes (…or something like that). So do something else; read a book, go for a walk, start binge-watching that new show everyone’s been talking about and you can guarantee that Motivation will suddenly show up unannounced and ring that bell.

Ask for Help

There’s no shame in taking a sip from someone else’s can of whoop-ass.  When you’re feeling in a rut, ask for a boost-up from friends or family.  They might have the answers you’ve been looking for and couldn’t see yourself, or be more than willing to give you a break and help with that to-do list.

Fake It

Sometimes we can’t afford to hang around waiting for Motivation to give us a jump start (there’s no AA membership when it comes to Motivation!), and during times like that you need to be able to roll your sleeves up and get things done anyway.  Everyone has their own ways of tricking themselves into feeling inspired, whether that’s bribing yourself with a reward for getting the job done, or a playlist of songs that help you feel empowered.  And you never know, maybe Motivation might sense the positivity and offer a helping hand after all.

What are Your Tips and Tricks to staying Motivated?   🙂