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Burnout and Hustling for our own Worthiness

I posted on Monday about burnout seeming like a bit of an indulgent a term. Surely we’re just tired?

Busy is normal, everyone’s just busy raising kids and working to live. Serving our callings, our careers. Caring for elderly parents. We feel lazy for resting. We value productivity over wellbeing.

We’ve all heard Brene Brown calling busy a badge of honour we wear and that doesn’t feel good but rest sounds like a privileged thing. Inaccessible for real people with real lives.

Burnt out? That sounds a bit dramatic. Have a day off and back at it. But this bone tiredness so many people are feeling seems so common now post (ish) pandemic, as we’re trying to figure out how to be again in the world.

I cycled through burnout for years when I was working full time and traveling a lot, trying to make everyone happy and be superwoman in all areas of my life.

Five weeks into a slower pace and change of direction and I’m only just starting to feel like myself again. I’m trying to find my pace, the sweet spot where flow meets creativity and just enough energy to keep me engaged but not so much I get overstimulated. And that happens to me quickly and often. I hit a wall where I’m headachey and can’t concentrate, where my body hurts and I need to rest.

My partner recently gave me his old SES earmuffs because I can’t take noise, our household calling out from one room to the next, the TV, the damn lawn mowing that happens outside my window just as I sit down to write. The tradie’s music, the neighbour’s welding or whatever the heck that sound is. I am highly sensitive which makes me susceptible to burnout but I also wonder about the individual responsibility not to burn out.

The rhetoric around burn out feels almost accusatory, like we’re not smart or organised enough to manage our energy and our time properly. Like we just need to get a good night’s sleep. Like it’s not the result of years of stress and grief, feeling like we’re out of control, high-stress jobs, impossible systems and expectations, caring for aging parents and our kids, trying to have careers.

Burnout seems ‘high maintenance’ which is the worst thing most women, especially, can be labelled. But surely this is a collective problem, not just on us as individuals.

Do we think we might be living structurally unrealistic lives? No space for ourselves, no time to breathe, lacking the support that we need, missing the village our family life would be part of if we lived in a different time and place.

The 2022 Wellness at Work report by Employment Hero tells us 53% of people feel burnt out at work with employers’ commitment to people’s wellbeing declining along with work/life balance.

The research tells us radical self-care, movement and boundaries are what gets us through burnout and prevent it from happening again. Along with the courage (it takes courage because it’s really, really hard) to do things differently and protect our energy.

Annabel Crabb in Wife Drought talks about how perhaps women need to lower their standards and be ok living in a messier house given women still do the lion’s share of the housework. What else can we be ok to let go of?

And it’s not only about overworking, burnout is the result of the load we’re carrying in our heads too, feeling responsible for others and hustling for our own worthiness.

I’ve been intentional about rest this last month. About nurture, self-compassion, telling the truth about how I’m feeling, moving my body. I feel So. Much. Better.

Recalibrating is a personal thing. But if you need permission to take a few things off your list, drop some balls, let go of doing it all and telling the truth about where you’re not coping – you have it.

Go gently.

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