The Business of Burnout

I was listening to a podcast today on burnout.

When I was in high school, I used to think being overly busy & having a grossly packed schedule was the "cool" thing to do. I was involved in literally everything. In fact, I don't recall a time from when I was 7 or 8 up to present day where I wasn't running from point A to point B and then some every. single. day. My poor parents - child number 5, their last, and by far the craziest. I owe them my entire life and a pony.

I'm an online health coach to over ten clients, who I speak with on a scheduled hourly basis every week, with daily text conversations. I started a small business shortly after graduating last May because... that's just what you do... when you... graduate college. I have a part time job at Orangetheory. I volunteer for various organizations and am in the developmental stages for the formation of my own nonprofit. I operate two Instagram accounts, and yes, since my business is in the online space, my Instagram often qualifies as work. So does my Facebook. And basically any other social media, with the exception of Twitter. On there, you'll find random anecdotes with the occasional sprinkle of something really funny - or at least I like to think. So, my time on social media, whether it's curating posts or interacting with people, is also my job. I go to yoga four times a week. This is not always fun. I go because my mental health relies on it. I've spent over 30 minutes of a yoga class in child's pose. I wish I was kidding. I have appointments with my therapist biweekly. I am preparing to compete for my dream job of Miss Iowa in June for my third time, so I currently serve as Miss Muscatine, where I do volunteer work and travel to various locations speaking about my platform of sexual assault education & prevention. As it stands, I am traveling to five separate out-of-state locations over the next three months for the purpose of my platform. Sprinkled in, I probably have anywhere from 5-7 scheduled, lengthy calls throughout my weeks with various people from different industries, mostly those who I am collaborating on a project with. Because I've got those, too.

This is the point in this post where I need to clarify that none of that was me bragging or complaining. I am not proud that I can overbook myself into 2023. I am grateful for my work, I am grateful for the people in my life, and I am grateful for the experiences I am able to have. But, I am not Super Woman. That's a long list I just mentioned. If you don't agree, then you my friend, are most definitely Super Woman.

I am also not suggesting or implying that I need pity here. I know I did this. I've been burning myself out into oblivion since I was 8. I'm the LeBron of burnout. Or maybe Kobe. I heard he was nicer. I don't know. Either way, I'm fluent in this world of unnecessary and habitual burnout. And I'd like not to be.

Generally speaking, I'm a level-headed person. Now, put me in front of Bruce Springsteen and that's a different story. But unless The Boss is hiding out in your back pocket, I have gotten really good at keeping my cool. It's because of all that meditating I do in my morning routine because, oh yeah, who needs sleep? When I'm burnt out, if you told me I suddenly needed an oil change or that a distant cousin of mine had strep throat, I could probably sob on command. Or throw one of my batons at the window. I'm not disregarding any potential scenarios at this point. Sometimes I feel like the header on my website should read, "trauma queen, burnout queen. With a side of GG's bran crackers and 46 cups of coffee."

The thing is, our culture can make burnout seem like some glamorous lifestyle. Because being at the gym at 1:30am and getting your workout in before your 6am wakeup call is #grinding. Sorry, Susan. That's not the grind. That's ludicrous. And it's also harmful to your hormonal function, adrenal glands, thyroid, and immune system, but that's probably another conversation for a different day.

I get so angry with myself that I ever let it get this far -- that I ever let it get to the point where I am so disconnected from others that I have to realize the true disconnect is within myself, and that other people are rarely, if ever, the problem. I am not creative, fun, funny, empathetic, nonjudgmental, happy, or rested when I'm burnt out. I'm everything that "Maggie" isn't. And I really hate that. After all, I worked really hard to like myself.

I understand we all have jobs to get done. Some of you have kids to feed and spouses to care for and shows to watch and places to be and bills to pay and jobs to work and this and that and everything in between and oh yeah Jimmy's nose is running so you better not forget your travel size Kleenex when you head to his travel basketball team practice which is SEPARATE from his school team basketball practice but they overlap on Thursdays so dad's making dinner tonight and then once we get home there's still homework to be done.

Slow. The. Momentum.

Slow down. Breathe. Rome wasn't built in a day, and Jimmy doesn't need two basketball teams unless he is the next Kobe. (I've decided Kobe was probably nicer).

Listen, I get it. AVOIDING being busy can be hard. But unfortunately, I'm not talking about being busy.

I'm talking about being so burnt out you cannot function and/or you become so disconnected for yourself, others, and reality that you end up doing more harm than 55% of the activities that burnt you out would do you good. Because I get it -- when you come home and you've had a bad day and it's 9:30pm and you still have an hour long client call and meal prep to do and oh yeah, did you do your workout today? oh hey, another one of Harvey's victim's came out but oh, you've got a face to wash and tea to make and people to help and posts to write and appointments to schedule and things to order... it can get... dismal. At best.

I suggest we stop glamorizing burnout. Because whether we like to admit it or not, we do it. It is so ungodly hard to remember, but burnout does not equal impact. You can make an impact, and a great one at that, without running yourself into ruin. There is nothing admirable about pretending you can handle it all. Because listen to me... no one can. We all are just doing our absolute very best to get by, including myself. For a brief moment, put your ego to the side and answer this: are the things you are doing and the places you're going and the people you're seeing... are they serving you? I mean actually serving you. Making you feel like you have a purpose. Making you feel uplifted and connected and inspired. Making you feel like the work you're doing is good work. If so, great. If not, cut it out. I'm still (obviously) learning this. It isn't easy. But if it isn't making me a better version of myself, I know it has to go. And this is far easier said than done, especially with human beings.

Sometimes this means putting yourself into uncomfortable scenarios for the sake of taking care of THE most important thing in your life -- you. For me, this looks a lot like denying plans to hang out with certain people. If I can scrape together alone time to watch Harry Potter on a Saturday night and not text a singular soul for four hours instead of doing LITERALLY anything else, I'm going to do it. Because I am always (ALWAYS) better for it. If I tell you I can't hang out, it isn't personal. It's crucial.

I understand the feeling of other people thinking you have it all together. I understand how good it can feel to tell people all the things you have going on and have them say, "wow, I don't know how you do it." But here's the truth -- and this is painfully hard to admit -- I really want to say, "I don't know, either." And sometimes, I am screaming inside trying to let someone -- anyone -- know that I am tired. Exhausted. Burnt. Out. Ready to throw in the towel and sleep for a week. Some days, it takes everything in me not to say those things. But here I am. Two weeks too far into a burnout that feels like it's lasted a decade.

How do we avoid burnout? We are culturally trained to think that being burnt out = success. Again, busyness & burnout are not synonymous. But newsflash, homeslice: success is not meant to be hard. We make it this way. If we would step back, push the things to the curb that truly didn't matter, and realize that we can actually REALLY rely on a strength that is not our own, we'd be far better off. God, Universe, Source Energy, your higher self. Whatever you want to call it. Life is not meant to be hard. Life is meant to be fun and creative and beautiful. Get out of your own way. Let someone or something do some of the heavy lifting.

I promise I will take my own advice and get out of my own way, too. I challenge you to do something every day that honors yourself. And I will, too. Whether this means you deliberately place your phone on "do not disturb" for an hour to read your favorite book, or you take yourself out to lunch once a week, or maybe you get the manicure you haven't had in a year. Whatever it is for you that makes you feel replenished and great about the incredible human you are, I hope you go do that thing.

Work smarter, not harder. My new motto.


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