Is the laundry piling up? Has homework gone undone for a few days? Can you just not get out of bed because you're just SO tired?
If you’re anything like me, you recognize that life is full of opportunities. I'm a very passionate person. I often devote hours to working on projects that inspire me or will serve to increase my skills and knowledge for my career. However, within the past few months, I've found it hard to concentrate on things like building my resume, filling out job applications and finishing assignments. Even fun things like choosing a restaurant or reading have suddenly become uninteresting and monotonous, while I stress about more important tasks. I've come to realize that these ups and downs are almost cyclical.
For a time, I just thought I wasn’t motivated enough. I go to school full-time and work two part-time jobs, while also finding time to look through job postings, and spend time with friends and family. This past semester, I was even my mother’s relied-upon caregiver. Usually, I’m able to handle it, and I simply push and grind and work well for a time. Unfortunately for me, there’s a time where I push hard to get through my days only to come out on the other side and be too tired to think of doing anything else. If you’ve never heard of it before, what I’m describing is burnout.
Basically, burnout is the complete and utter desire to leave all of your worldly obligations behind and take some much-needed me time. In a more clinical sense, a simple google search will tell you that it is “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. Having done this for years, I refused at first to believe that this is what I was going through. I thought that the reasons I was suddenly ignoring all responsibilities to watch Netflix was because I was lazy and potentially reclusive.
I thought I might lack motivation, so I spoke to my friends to get their consensus. Their answer? "You're super motivated! You're always doing something!"
I was floored.
It had never occurred to me that I was just simply busy. ALL. THE. TIME.
I thought of how my days looked, planned out on the calendar above my desk. There was an activity almost every hour of every day, with small snack breaks scheduled in between. In fact, I was so “motivated” that every single day on my calendar was filled, except for Sundays, which I spend with my boyfriend.
In the past, friends of mine have marveled at how I’m so organized and well-prepared for my future career because of how I can manage to fit all of these activities in. Time and time again, I’ve found myself telling them that I sometimes skip class to take a ‘mental health’ day, or even just to rest. And then it clicked.
Working two jobs, going to school, being an Odyssey writer, grocery shopping, getting my car fixed, doctor's appointments... People expect me to be exhausted. So…shouldn’t I also expect myself to be? My problem wasn’t that I'm not motivated...it's that I'm too motivated. I frequently take on multiple tasks at once and leave almost no time in-between to breathe.
I was tired of burning out, so I decided that the thing I needed was just to simplify things. More recently, I’ve shaved back my schedule a little by cutting hours from my second job. I realized that while I’m having fun and making money, that I’d prefer the extra time to finish up homework or get some sleep so I can effectively have more time during the week. I’ve also vowed to take more breaks to ease my mind and to recognize more often that I am a person, and not a robot built to pound the pavement.
What I’ve learned from this experience is that it’s important to keep yourself flexible. To avoid burnout, you have to decide what’s most important to you each day and take it from there. Cross things off your list if they don’t add value to the day; they’ll still be there tomorrow when you’ve had your sleep. Practice some self-care instead.