ARE YOU FEELING BURNT OUT?
"I was more tired than I’ve ever been...
...and I wanted to scream, to cry, to throw things. And then I wanted to curl up in bed, away from everyone and everything and hibernate for a few months until it all passed."
Burn out is a very real thing in the land of entrepreneurship. And yes, you can burn out even when you're doing work that you love! I googled "burn out" because I'm cool like that and really wanted to know how to define it for you, and here's what it said: "completely consumed and thus no longer aflame".
As the old saying goes, if you've been burning the candle at both ends and your flame has gone out, you, my love, very well may be burned out. Or maybe you're starting to feel the beginning signs of your flame slowing retreating (you can get the same physical knowing that burn out is coming on as you do when you feel yourself "getting sick").
Either way, you're not the only one. So here's some wisdom from a sisterpreneur who's been there, and burned out...
But, first. A little bumpdate.
THE BUMPDATE: HOW ARE YOU AND BABY?
At the time of writing this, I’m 32 weeks pregnant (though likely 34 weeks when you’re reading this) and let’s just say, I’m ready for this to be done. At 34 weeks with my first pregnancy, I went into pre-term labor, which was one of the scariest moments of my life. I had my son 3 weeks after that at 37 weeks. So, while I’d like him/her to cook a little longer, I’m also ready for this new chapter to start. Here’s to hoping the last month-ish flies by!
THE BIZDATE: HOW'S THE MAG?
Our January “Courage” issue just released on January 9th. I AM SO EXCITED. I’ve redesigned the core of the magazine and I’ve never been so proud of a design. The magazine is a little thinner this time around which means slightly lower shipping costs which is ALWAYS helpful to a publisher because aside from printing, that is without a doubt your biggest cost suck.
I’m going to get a little personal with you today and talk about burn out.
It’s something I’ve experienced a few times since starting the magazine but it hit me REALLY hard around mid-December. Is it the holidays, the stress of a new baby, or a consistently high level of things on my to-do list? Probably a bit of all of it.
I have a lot going on, but then, I always do. I tend to think that I’m Superwoman and that I can handle anything that is thrown at me. In the last couple months, those things have been: my regular, full-time job, running the magazine (itself a full-time job), working freelance in both design and virtual assistance in my “downtime”, being a wife, being a mom to a very energetic toddler, and, oh yeah, growing a human. Plus, I’ve been working on scheduling, planning, and doing from December through March so that I can take a little time off when the baby comes - and that to-do list is MASSIVE.
"I tend to think that I’m Superwoman and that I can handle anything that is thrown at me."
For the majority of my pregnancy, I’ve been handling these things just fine. Sure, I’m a little extra tired, but I attributed that to a living being sucking the life out of me from the inside out.
But then one day, it all caught up with me. I was sitting at my day job just staring at my computer - my to-do list blinking back at me. I literally felt frozen in place as tears started to stream down my face. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know how to move forward, I didn’t know how I was going to get everything done. It felt like there was never going to be enough time, that I was never going to get caught up, that I was failing at E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I was more tired than I’ve ever been in my life at that moment and I wanted to scream, to cry, to throw things. And then I wanted to curl up in bed, away from everyone and everything and hibernate for a few months until it all passed.
"I wanted to curl up in bed, away from everyone and everything and hibernate for a few months until it all passed."
That’s when it hit me: I was burned out.
I had been fighting that feeling for months, knowing that if I gave in to it, if I admitted my weakness, I’d no longer be the Superwoman I always fashioned myself as. I’d have to admit that I need help (something I’m terrible at) and that I don’t have it all together (something I like to hide from the world). But it was time. I knew I had to do something for both my own sanity, and the safety of my unborn baby. The extreme stress I was putting on myself couldn’t be good for him/her (no, we still don’t know what we’re having).
"I had been fighting that feeling for months, knowing that if I gave in to it, if I admitted my weakness, I’d no longer be the Superwoman I always fashioned myself as."
So, I texted my husband as nonchalantly as I could and said “I really need a mental health day where all I do is lay in bed and rest. I’m struggling so hard.” He responded that he would take my son out of the house the next afternoon after work so that I could rest. It was a nice gesture, and normally I’d pretend that would be enough. But at this breaking point I was in, I knew I had to ask for more - again, something I hate doing. So I told him what I really needed - a full day away from everyone where I could rest, I could work, and I could rest some more. Would that be enough to drag me back from the edge? Probably not, but it was most definitely a start.
My husband booked me a hotel room for that Saturday so I could have all day and night to myself. I could sleep in, I could have peace and quiet, I could rest, and I could work through my to-do list - but only if I felt up to it.
So today, in case you are getting to the point I was, I wanted to give you three quick tips to help you through it:
Know your breaking point before you get there: As I mentioned, I knew I was getting there, but I kept ignoring it, assuming it would all go away. It didn’t, and it only got worse. Listen to your body. Your body knows when you’ve had enough.
Try to squeak out a little time for yourself each day: Because I have VERY little free time, I never fill that with time for myself. But I need to. My mental health depends on it, and so does yours. Even if it’s just a half hour run, or a 20 minute bubble bath, do it.
Learn to say no: One big thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to say no to things when I know in my gut that I just can’t do it, whether that’s taking on extra work, traveling for a weekend, or adding that one minuscule extra thing to your plate. It’s okay to think of yourself first once in awhile.
So, that’s my breakdown story. And if you’re reaching that same point, I hope you’ll recognize it and take steps to fix it sooner rather than later. Being an entrepreneur is SO hard. And it won’t do anybody any good if you aren’t functioning at your best. Take time for yourself. You’re worth it.
Sarah Hartley is the creator, designer and publisher of Holl & Lane Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating women's everyday existence and opening the door for tough conversations.
Since 2015, Sarah and the H&L team has been dedicated to providing women with a platform to share their truths. From miscarriage and infertility to mental health and body image, Sarah believes in changing the media for good and celebrating women where they are.