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.