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‘Tis the season to be burned out

17 Dec
A Christmas tree inside a home.

A Christmas tree inside a home. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some reason, it has been a tough week to stick with my burnout recovery program. It’s interesting that I say that, because I can point to a couple of real successes. I have stuck to my eating plan and now weigh less than I have weighed at any time since December of 1999. So my nutrition and overall health is good. I have also written at least 750 words every day except one since the beginning of December.  Writing is my touchstone to creativity, and this is a milestone. Having stopped writing completely for about nine months, and having just resumed in November, I am pleased with my return to visits with my muse. I feel like I am writing my way back to health.

But burnout doesn’t go away all at once.  Things are vastly better than they were a month ago, and for that I am grateful.  However, the personal”fuel supply” is slow to come back. An interpersonal challenge regarding a professional matter has sapped my energy and attention since Thanksgiving, and the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is one of nationally historic proportions. I felt my energy drain away as I turned my thoughts and actions to each of these issues. Simply dealing with daily matters is still an effort. However, I feel some strength returning on the professional front, and I feel the pain of compassion for all of the victims of the tragedy. I will continue to reflect as all of this flows through.

Even without a national tragedy, the holiday season is difficult for many people. I am going to follow good advice and conserve my personal energies as much as possible.  We are doing simpler holiday gifts this year, opting instead for stocking-stuffer fare and a dinner together as a family. I am sticking to my eating plan and will go to my regular exercise classes. I will get on the floor each day and enjoy some Feldenkrais for my own benefit. For now, my own self-care is the key to being able to care for others.

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Anatomy of a Burnout, Part 2

3 Dec
I've Been Known To Burn The Candle At Both End...

I’ve Been Known To Burn The Candle At Both Ends – 21/365 Fire (Photo credit: Jer Kunz)

In the last post, I described the convergence of events that contributed to my burnout. Today, I realized the reason it all seemed so overwhelming.

The problem was that, in my mind, normal tasks that would have been easy, all seemed to jumble together into one, big, THING. Somehow, I eventually was able to take a step back and just take things one day at a time.

On Thanksgiving Day, I hosted a small family dinner. Our upstairs neighbor brought the turkey, I prepared all the sides. During our dinner, the expected arrival of a guest Feldenkrais trainer from Germany occurred as planned.

On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I spent time with our guest, cleaned up from the holiday, and began to take our equipment from the storage unit to our training venue. Since it was likely that I would miss a day or two of the training because of the trial, I started to delegate some tasks so that everything could proceed smoothly.

The trial began on Monday morning, and ended on Wednesday afternoon. Each day, I kept in touch with my assistants at the training. They were fine. I was back at work at the training on Thursday.

When I write it all out like that, it seems simple. Standing “on the edge,” it felt like everything needed to happen simultaneously.

So here’s my first big tip for dealing with burnout. My schedule became manageable when I broke things down into small pieces, understood a logical sequence, and then just did one thing at a time, in order. I managed to eat well and get enough sleep each night. That self-care, along with staying in the present moment, somehow de-fused my anxiety.

Sometimes, despite my best efforts to keep a sane schedule, things just get crazy. I can plan, but I have to be flexible to allow for the unexpected. Exciting opportunities may come my way, or situations beyond my control may come my way. This time, my resilience only appeared as I reflected in retrospect. Next time, I will just do one thing at a time, until everything is done. And that oxygen mask? I’m keeping it close-by.

What helps you to get through hectic times? Share your experiences here.

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Trepidation

22 Nov
A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is the eve of  The Month of Mayhem. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I just wrote a really poetic and negative couple of sentences about how I dread the holidays. It was so dark and dramatic that I deleted it. My assessment of the holidays boils down to two words: “Too much.”  Too much food, too much work, too much stress, too much of everything. I went through a couple of decades where the holidays were a blur of excess. I used to expect a wave of near-depression as soon as the first decorations appeared — which means that from the end of September until New Year’s, I was in a funk.

The last few years have been much, much better.  I have embraced the Mayhem, or at least accepted it as “the state of how things are going to be for awhile.” It really is OK. This year, I have new resolve to treat myself well and to pay attention to the warning signs that I could veer off into the “burnout zone.”

My inspiration today came from, of all things, the airlines’ pre-flight safety speech, regarding the oxygen mask. If you fly more than once a year, you ca probably recite the speech from memory. Here’s the part that inspired me: “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, SECURE YOUR OWN MASK FIRST, and THEN assist the other person(s).” (Emphasis mine.)

The next few weeks will be full of demands. Lots of people ask me to do lots of things.  Some of those things are my job, and some of those things, I really would like to do.  But not all of them. I have new priorities: excellent nutrition and rest for myself, excellent attention for my clients and students, firm stop times for work so that home time is relaxing and renewing. If I do decide to say “Yes” to a request, I will make sure that I bring my oxygen mask along, and keep it ready for my own self-care.

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