“We take better care of our smartphone than ourselves. We know when the battery is depleted and recharge it.” — Arianna Huffington
It’s getting to the silly season. For some of us, it’s already here and we’ve been treading neck-deep in commitments for weeks with no seeming end in sight until January. Perhaps those nagging telltale signs are starting to creep up on you like a cheap bra. Perhaps, like me, you’re desperately trying to power through, buoyed simultaneously by cheery optimism that you won’t crash and burn, while also vaguely aware that your shoulders are seizing up, your short-term memory’s shot, and you’re doing ‘stupid things faster with more energy’ and only because of caffeine.
Welcome to early burnout.
It happens to us all at some point and while this is hardly an exhaustive list of fixes, here’s 5 quick ideas how you can take better care of yourself when the going gets manic.
1. Take a nap
While taking a nap can feel like an indulgence you can ill afford, it’s a definite way of boosting your batteries to last that bit longer. And hey, famous busy people have done it. Churchill napped two hours every day while he was dealing with World War 2 (!) and brainy boy Einstein was apparently a huge sleeper, clocking in daily naps in addition to 10-hour sleeps at night. A Harvard University study found that 60 to 90-minute naps could “charge up the brain batteries as much as eight hours tucked up in bed”. So sleep tight.
2. Take a walk
Or a run. Or a swim. Or put some crazy music on and dance it out. No surprises here: movement shakes out the cobwebs in the head and heart and body. It also gives your mind a proper break, which brings us to our next related point…
Get off the electronics for a chunk of your day. This is as much of a PSA for me as it is for you, because I really love my technology. But if you’re feeling the burn, it’s definitely time to press the soft reset button. Don’t check your emails. Leave the phone alone. Give your poor bombarded senses a rest.
4. Rework your plan
Doing the work of thinking in advance can save time and energy when you’re in the thick of the action. So if you haven’t already done so, try putting together a plan of how your priorities will fit into your day. Above all, be realistic and always put in fat.
But be warned: every time I do this, I realise quite quickly that I’ve overcommitted and it forces me to either rearrange priorities or do what can be the most difficult thing of all. (See next point.)
5. Something’s gotta give
If you’re burning out, you’re simply doing too much. In the words of Michael Gungor, “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” So know your limits and call for reinforcements. Remember that time, energy, and money are all finite resources and you can’t save on one without expending on the other. So you might have to order takeaway dinners for a bit. Or turn down a task. Or delegate a chunk of work to someone else. Or let the house go wild for a bit.
Drop something, give yourself the grace and space to do so, and heal. This way, you’ll live to sparkle for a long time more.