Imagine you meet a friend on the street and they ask, “How are you?”
How likely are you to include the words “really busy” in your reply?
When I was a manager at a high-tech company near Boston, it was a luxury to eat lunch at my desk while catching up on the emails and work that piled up while I was in meetings. Usually, lunch was eaten in a conference room. Work went on in a continuous stream. No one questioned how this lack of space was affecting us physically, mentally, or emotionally. Does this sound familiar?
If you’re an entrepreneur, odds are the line between work and not-work blurs even further. If you’re a caretaker for someone else–whether that’s your kids, your parents, or both–it’s sometimes hard to remember that you’re a person with needs too.
“Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” — Michael Gungor
While many of us seem to thrive in our hectic work and home environments, the truth is that if we don’t find some breathing space–some space in our busy days (and often nights) for self-care, our mind-body system will break down and force us to stop. You may have felt some early signals of burn out already, although our tendencies are to push through because we “have to”.
Or maybe you’d LOVE to stop and rest, but can’t figure out how to fit it in with everything else you have to do.
If you’re trapped in the continuous cycle of stress and feeling overwhelmed, your health IS suffering (with or without your awareness). If you’ve forgotten what it feels like to truly relax your body, to quiet the mind-chatter, or to get some real sleep, I get it. And there are many quick, easy-to-learn techniques and self-care practices you can do to help yourself recover.
In our culture, working hard and being busy is often viewed as a status symbol: it means we are “successful.” As such, we confuse being busy with our value and our self-worth1. For some of us, staying busy may also be a strategy for managing depression. Yet you’re so much MORE than what you do; reconnecting with your humanity will help you be a conscious, active, connected participant in ALL areas of your life.
Ask yourself in this moment:
- What would it feel like to set different boundaries–boundaries that include your needs?
- What would it mean for your relationships if you were in a better mood?
- What would it be like to feel centered and calm despite any chaos at work and/or at home?
- What would it feel like to reconnect to the creative, playful parts of you that you “haven’t had time for?”
If you’ve experienced some signals of burnout, including2:
- reduced productivity and worsening performance reviews (even though you’re working so hard!)
- reduced ability to problem-solve and generate creative new ideas
- weight-gain despite efforts to eat “healthy”
- poor sleep, fatigue, exhaustion and/or energy dips throughout the day
- disintegration of relationships inside and outside the office
- high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- headaches, stiff muscles, back aches3,
- depression, anxiety, or impaired memory4, then:
Did you know that3:
- 85.8% of men and 66.5% of women work more than 40 hours per week
- Over 10 million Americans average more than 60 hours of work per week
- One in three American adults have unused vacation days
- In Japan, the word "karoshi" means "working until death.” Yet Americans average 137 hours more per year than Japanese workers.
Let's take you out of these statistics!
- ‘Ugh, I’m So Busy’: A Status Symbol for Our Time, by Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, March 2017.
- Why Being A Workaholic Is Awful For You AND Everyone Around You by Harry Bradford, HuffPost Business, November 2014
- 23 Significant Workaholic Statistics by Brandon Gaille, Marketing Expert and Blog Master, May 2017.
- The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies by Sarah Green Carmichael, Harvard Business Review, August 2015.