How are you this week? I confess I’ve been very busy delivering online workshops, preparing for online workshops and delivering a new group coaching programme – Cultivating Confident Leadership.
Of course I am delighted to have so many exciting projects especially in these challenging times – though before you go away thinking that everything is bright and shiny in my world, yes, it has sometimes been challenging this week.
The focus and creative energy needed for these business ventures is competing with the energy needed to care for my sister and manage our home.
We did have a little family meltdown this week when my sister (you know Lynn maybe? An adult with learning disabilities with a passion for nature.) Well, this week Lynn decided that there was a specific book that she owned that she hadn’t seen for some time so she was going to hunt it out. This meant literally hours searching through books and bookshelves, on top of wardrobes and under beds. It didn’t help that she told us we were looking for a book with a rabbit on the front when it actually turned out that it was a proud red squirrel on the cover.
I know the last paragraph might sound like we were having a fun family book hunt – but it wasn’t like that at all. My sister was obsessed with finding the book at all costs, she was anxious and upset. I was tired, frustrated and yes, short-tempered. It was not a pretty episode but it was resolved when she eventually found the book.
We regularly have similar obsessive hunts for items that my sister treasures and often misplaces. They are always frustrating yet this time I realised I was more triggered than usual. This felt bigger, more unreasonable and yes, I was already tired, tired by work and tired by 10 long months of similar book-hunts without any respite care at all.
I recognised I was exhausted.
And in that moment I realised how burn-out can sneak up on you. And no, I am not burned-out, just reflecting on it. I knew how deeply I needed a break and in truth, a few nights good sleep is not going to change this. I am getting regular good quality sleep. I feel this in my bones and my Fitbit tells me so. But exhaustion is often the first sign of burnout.
A second component of burnout is a feeling of meaninglessness – nothing you do has meaning any more. There just is no point. You might have work to be done and you may even be doing some of it but there is no energy, no engagement, no sense of purpose.
I know some people have been super-busy in lockdown, some have more work than usual or tare managing the additional demands of delivering work remotely. Some of us are struggling to deliver work while home-schooling or caring which is much more than your average juggle.
An often forgotten group are those among us who are currently underemployed – we’ve lost jobs or business and we’re at home under lockdown conditions with nothing to do and nowhere to go. This condition can lead to being “bored-out”, a condition in many ways similar to being burned-out, with that same feeling of exhaustion and lack of meaning or purpose.
A final component of the burned-out/bored-out complex is a lack of control, we feel we can do nothing to change the situation. Maybe we can’t control our workflow, the lockdown rules, the SARS-CoV2 virus spread, the vaccination rollout… In this dark place, life is happening to us and we don’t much like it.
So how can we change this? Burned-out or bored-out, yes, we need to manage our energy. This might mean we need more sleep and rest. It might mean we need to move more and introduce some activity, a dance round the kitchen or a gentle walk round the block. I know you’ll have heard this before and maybe think “No, not again, the same old-same old.” And yes, and but, these really do work if you give them a try. You might need different approaches to managing your energy depending on whether you’re burned-out/bored-out but noticing and managing your energy needs is the foundation you need to rebuild.
The other components – meaning/purpose and a sense of control – can be addressed in many different ways. If you take that walk with the intention of looking to find wonder or awe in something along the way it can really boost your wellbeing.
Can you reconnect with the meaning and purpose of a work project you are currently engaged with? What was the drive that made you start this at all? Has someone commented on the difference you have made? Yes, re-read that email or write down that snippet of your conversation to remind you.
Are you able to start a project that gives you a sense of meaning and control? Research shows that even the investment of care in growing a plant can greatly improve our sense of wellbeing so what might you do? Could you start growing some micro-greens to add freshly sprouted seedlings to spice up your salads. Could you sew some seeds to bring-on on your windowsill, plant a tiny garden in a tray or begin to clear a sheltered corner of your garden?
There is a small chest of drawers at the foot of my bed that has become a dumping ground for stuff over the last few months, antibacterial hand wipes, an orphaned towel, a set of whiteboard pens, a random collection of teabags that I used to take with me when travelling was in my business – I’d taken them from my suitcase but they’d not yet made it to my kitchen. This week I’ve started to put things away and been delighted as white space has appeared and order returns midst the chaos.
Do any of these themes resonate with you?
I’m releasing a small number of coaching places to support women who want a quick reset in four coaching sessions. You might want to find your feet again, to build your resilience, rediscover a sense of direction, purpose or control.
If you want a helping hand to get back on track, do reply to this email and ask for more information or even suggest some times for a short conversation to explore your goals. No strings attached, no pushy sales calls, I promise.
Wherever you are, I hope you find some rest and some respite this weekend – and make sure you don’t mix up your rabbits and squirrels!