Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Approaching Burn Out…

A few days ago I considered cussing out anyone who would listen, grabbing some beers and sliding down my boy's plastic slide to enjoy the temporary benefits of being totally irresponsible and free. Of course this was not really an option – I don’t have beer in the house and the plastic slide wouldn’t hold my weight. However, I did do something about being overwhelmed by it all. I burned out, and I said lots of bad words under my breath where they wouldn't be overheard by little ears.

Imminent Burn Out

If you haven’t burned out yet, you don’t know how lovely it can be. (That’s sarcasm.) To burn out, you have to be overworked for a decent period of time. Some of us are so well trained we can go up to a year working eighteen hour days six or seven days a week, but the more rational people around us give in to the feeling of suffocation long before that. I didn’t last too long this time – I think I only made it about three months. And yes, for those of you reading between the lines, I burn out often, although not dramatically.

Burning Out Without Drama Isn’t Fun, But It’s Practical

I’m animated, but I’m not dramatic. When it’s time to burn out I recognize the symptoms early on. I start to feel like I just can’t do One More Thing. I drag my feet to do anything. I start things and don’t finish them because there’s always something else to start. I feel like lying on the floor and closing my eyes for about three weeks without interruption. My shoulders take up residency by my ears. I develop irrational anger about how much I have to do – even if I chose this lifestyle and actually enjoy it 90 percent of the time. Worst of all, I realize I’m not at my best in anything I do.

The solution to all of this isn’t to curse anyone out and dramatically exit a plane (although I do like the idea in theory.) I don’t yell, hit or even lie down on the floor – it probably isn’t vacuumed because that was One More Thing I refused to do this week or last week. I just quietly melt down. As anxiety and stress consumes me:

  • I spend a few days doing the minimum amount of work to stay on top of commitments.
  • I rearrange my calendar to give myself a break while still meeting deadlines.
  • I spend some time doing easy marketing because it reduces the panic I feel.
  • I turn off the computer and read a book. Or watch mindless television.
  • I go to bed early knowing that sleep will clear most of this away and I can start fresh in the morning.

Burn Out - Mommy Style

It would be much more gratifying to burn out in a dramatic way and throw an adult tantrum worthy of….some adult who throws tantrums…but I’m putting that luxury on hold for the sake of my children. Moms don’t get to have the totally self-absorbed meltdowns that are so glowingly advertised in prime time televisions shows and slightly trashy romance novels.

Children need consistency and knowing that they can count on mom to take care of business day in and day out is a huge commitment that I will continue to make regardless of how I feel that day. However, once those little ones are in bed tucked in with a few stories and a glass of milk, the evening is mine to waste as shamefully as I please.

That’s it, by the way. I allow myself one night of a private pity party and then it’s back to business – up before the sun to make lunches, dress the kids, wake up the hubby to get the kids to school, get myself to school, teach, get the kids home, feed them, bathe them, get them to sleep and then write. Looking at that it’s not hard to see while I just need a private burn out every now and again. Full knowledge of what’s happening in my professional life and knowing myself well enough to do something about it when I need to lets me keep that insane schedule going for five years now – with many more years (and burn outs) to come.

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Rebecca is a full-time everything. She teaches English and reading to her much loved, if challenging, high school students during the day and is a freelance education writer in the evenings. With almost ten years in the classroom and advanced degrees in business and information science, Rebecca specializes in materials that inform, educate and entertain. Rebecca indulges herself by pretending to have spare time and writing about the ups and downs of being a freelancing mama whenever she gets a chance.

10 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Approaching Burn Out…”

  1. Burn out for the married but childless girl= a loud, dirty crying fit, Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, flannel pajamas, couch, Gone with the Wind or other such romance in which shit just doesn’t work out right, more crying.

    Oh wait… that’s PMS. Well, same difference–for me anyway.

    • LOL – It’s funny how outside influences, even hormones, can contribute to the drama of work. If payments are late or I go a day or two without a new inquiry, I can get positively lethargic and dangerous to be around. Sadly I gave up sugar for this school year and I can’t even self medicate any more.

  2. Burnout. I don’t think we hear enough about this in the realm of happy-go-lucky freelance writing. We’re all so excited to have the dream job: our own businesses doing what what we love: writing. So I feel like many are reluctant to admit that we burn out. That we find ourself in a less-than-desirable position in our businesses, and it melts into our personal life if we let it.

    But burnout is something we should talk about. I find that past situations of melancholy and restlessness and exhaustion required talking it out with a trusted friend, colleague, and usually it is my husband that gets the full run-down of everything, and I could find where I veered off and where I want to be.

    When you burn out, sometimes things have to change. I hope that other freelance writers won’t be afraid to make changes. I’ve been called flaky for all the switching around I do, but I’ve been in business for myself my entire working life in many different professions…I don’t have the resume of other 20-year-olds, and I keep myself balanced and happy by doing what works for me. Even if that means I have to dig around until I find it.

    • Your resume sounds like mine. 🙂 I think there’s great power in seeking out what really works for us. It’s possible to love everything you do, but be exhausted regardless. We’re in the midst of change over here, too, but it’s my husband’s career changing. Transition is so much more fun when you’re in control of it. Being along for the ride just makes it more stressful it seems.

      • That’s definitely true, to (that you can love what you do and still be exhausted), so I find that it is really important to have reasonable goals and expectations for all of life’s demands.

  3. I was feeling like this the other day. I changed my routine. I no longer put my computer on when I get up. I read my daily meditation and become still for at least 10 to 15 minutes. I read the newspaper or skim it and eat breakfast. I’ll work on projects on the weekend if I feel like it or the deadline is looming. All also make time to work out which I love to do. Being in nature also helps me to combat burnout!

  4. I have avoided burnout pretty well by taking my Sabbath off — every week. I also plan mini-vacations and really try to get away on them. We did a family campout at the park down the street from us this weekend, and I couldn’t believe what a getaway it was, even though I was only about 200 yards from my house!

    I think in this 24/7 social-media world we live in now, it’s so easy to get sucked into the work-all-the-time addiction. But we have to draw some boundaries, or as Rebecca notes, one day you just hit the wall.

    • I’ve tried to leave myself a day off this year, but it doesn’t always fly based on all the other things in my life. Fortunately, I always pad the schedule to give me “light” nights at least I can always look forward to. I have one of those tonight, in fact!

  5. Oh, I can so relate to this – and I have a seven year old, so I have to keep my tantrums internal for fear of setting a bad example. I think I’ve followed your steps for burnout without drama several times. Since I now know when it’s about to happen, I try to rearrange my schedule so I can take a day off to unwind. Sometimes that’s enough; at other times I just keep plugging away till I can get some down time. I’ve recently promised myself to schedule a week off once a quarter. I don’t know if I’ll achieve that, but if I do, it will help me avoid burnout.


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