Sometimes, frankly, you just need a break.
I’ve been running this website for just over three years now, and until recently, I never felt like I needed an extended break. Sure, every year I would take a break for a few weeks, but I’ve been pretty consistent.
Recently, though, I totally burned out on this site. You might notice this coincided with my husbands part-time work, and that’s not a coincidence. The past month or so has been full of adjustments, distractions, the craziness of three kids, lots of work, other things going on in my life, hobbies, and just plain old rest.
Burnout from this site resulted in a sort of strange writers block-where I would have a ton of ideas but no desire to put in the time to put virtual pen to paper and write. After a whole lot of rest, and taking care of myself, I’ve gotten past that and am eager to write again.
So I figure today I’m going to talk about burnout, why it happens, how it relates to financial independence and female breadwinners, and what we can all do to get past it. Plus I want to hear about your experience – and tips.
The Four Phases of Burnout
While researching what burnout is, exactly, I came across an interesting article outlining four stages of burnout. Reading through, I definitely felt like this described what I’ve felt – and what I’ve heard others talk about.
Physical, Mental, and Emotional exhaustion – Where you’re just too tired to do anything. You might be physically tired, perhaps from waking up every day at 4 AM (LIKE A BOSS!!) and trying to survive on only a few hours sleep for years. Or maybe you’re emotionally tired, and just feel like you can’t. handle, one. more. problem!!! Or mentally tired, where your brain’s turned off even though you’re technically awake.
Shame and doubt – You’re ashamed that you’re so tired. You sort of want to take on more, but you also really don’t. Or you feel like you can’t.
Cynicism and callousness – Maybe you start to feel cynical about the thing you were once so passionate about. Or your exhaustion comes through in your conversations.
Failure, Helplessness and Crisis – When you reach the breaking point and you just can’t do it anymore.
I’ve talked to people at all different places along the spectrum. If you read this and recognize yourself in any of the stages, I’d suggest you read on for some suggestions on how to break free.
Why Do We Burn Out?
- Overload – What most people picture when they think someone is burnt out, it’s an overwhelmed, overworked, frazzled individual who just can’t take it anymore!
- Insufficient challenge – Its interesting that burnout can come from not having enough challenges, but I’ve definitely seen people who have become disengaged from their work because they’re not being challenged enough.
- Neglect – People who don’t feel competent at their jobs can apparently become disengaged/burn out because they just don’t feel like they can cut it.
In my case, I think I’ve been doing too much – for too long – and just needed a break to rest, relax, and have fun again. Creating and maintaining a successful website/social media presence is a lot of work.
And doing it outside of being successful at my job, and trying to spend time with my boys, on top of other stressful life circumstances, just became too much for a while.
Most people talk about burnout and work. But frankly, you can burn out from anything. A volunteer activity, parenthood, too much exercise, etc. etc. You can even burn out from pursuing financial independence.
Burnout And The Pursuit Of Financial Independence
Reaching financial independence is typically a long process. Sometimes, people discover the FIRE movement and go all-in. They cut every experience, every ounce of fun and joy from life that costs money, sit in the dark, and eat rice and beans.
Then they get featured in Business Insider, and everyone gets to make fun of those crazy FIRE people for a while.
Doing too much, too soon, making too many sacrifices (to the point where the joy is gone from life), and making your entire life – every action, every thought, every activity – centered around the pursuit of FI can backfire in a big way. You’ll burn out.
Financial independence is a looooong process. Yes, the more money you save and invest, the faster you’ll reach it. But it’s just as important to find joy in the path, and the pursuit, and to have a fulfilling life when you get there.
If you’re sacrificing too much, and centering your life around money, you just might burn out. That could mean you just give up on the entire crazy idea of reaching financial freedom, or fall back into old spending habits.
So if you’re pursuing financial independence, make sure you’re taking the sustainable road to get there. Because financial independence, or the pursuit of it, can also be key to giving you options to battle burnout in your life.
Burnout And Female Breadwinners
Interestingly, I’ve heard a lot from female breadwinners who burn out and feel stuck.
Why? Because they’re burnt out with no way out. They shoulder all the responsibilities at work, the mental load at home, caring for their parents, and their spouse is not picking up their end of the bargain. They can feel angry, resentful, depressed, and not see a way out.
When your families livelihood depends on you, and you feel like you just can’t do it all for one more freaking day, it can be devastating. Overwhelming. And like you have no where to turn.
I get it. We’re under intense pressure to meet an unrealistic standard of “doing it all”. We’re supposed to be career driven women – kicking butt at work – but also perfect mothers who never forget that it’s picture day. Plus we’re supposed to have picture perfect, clean, and organized homes. Perhaps a well-groomed dog as well (never mind that real dogs shed everywhere, messing with that “clean house” thing).
We also should be cooking gourmet dinners, that are perfectly healthy and balanced – but that our children will also actually eat! – from scratch every night. Every major holiday necessitates a Pinterest-worthy craft fest. Oh, but don’t forget to also lean in at work! Start early, work late, travel frequently, and don’t forget to network every night.
While still finding time for a great marriage (date night is important!!!!), friends, hobbies, and who knows what other thing the media will proclaim you should be doing if you’re a “good mom”.
And people wonder why women get burnt out…
The more you’re working to meet that standard, the more likely you are to burn out.
This is where financial independence can help you. If you’re financially independent – or even just pursuing it – you have choices you might not otherwise. Maybe you can choose to save a bit less, and use that extra money to pay someone to do all those things you’re stuck doing. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, child care, grocery shopping, and other such chores can be outsourced. Guilt free.
Or maybe you’ve saved enough to downshift your career for a while, or have enough in your budget where your spouse can stay at home while you continue to work. You could have reached a point of financial stability where you can take a cut in pay to change career paths, or return to school for a while to get a degree in a different field. The options are endless!
Giving yourself choices, and options, is why I’m an advocate of pursuing financial independence.
How To Come Back From Burnout
The article linked above, that talked about the four phases, also had an idea I liked of the four “r’s” for recovery: running, reading, retreating, and writing.
Of course, the fact that my particular burnout came with writers block didn’t help…but I digress.
Running doesn’t need to mean running itself – more like exercise. Even if you’re physically exhausted, a good bout of exercise can help wake up your brain, help you sleep better, and generally rejuvenate you.
I would add to those four “r’s” a fifth one – rest. I found this one key to my own recovery. Lately I’ve been working very hard to get eight full hours of sleep – and been less critical of myself if every waking moment isn’t full of productive activities. It’s OK to slack off sometimes! Watching Great British Bake Off on Netflix can count as self-care.
While we’re at it, why not one more “R” – reject. As in, it’s OK to reject that myth of doing it all. It’s OK to need to “lean out” for a while. It’s OK to take a break from your side hustle for a bit, and it’s OK if you can’t juggle all the activities you usually do.
And I would also add a “J” – joy. Frankly, there’s an awful lot of joy in rest. But there’s also joy in making time to do all the things you love to do, and saying “no” or “no thanks” to the thinks you don’t want to do. Sure, we all need to do some things that aren’t our favorites – that’s part of being an adult. But that doesn’t mean that we should ever give up in trying to fill our lives with things that give us joy,.
So if you find yourself burning out, take a step back. Get some rest. Read and write, if that’s what you like, and take some time to retreat from the world (or at least from the thing that’s burning you out).
Get a bit of exercise – even a walk can help clear the mind.
And turn your focus to finding the joys in your life.
Share Your Burnout Tale
Have you ever burnt out at work, at an activity, at a hobby, or anything else? If so, what did you do to recover? Let me know in the comments.
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