We don’t have all the answers but we might have some ideas. In the note below, we discuss burnout and mindfulness.
I’m probably burning out, right?
— your letter —
Is it normal to be in a constant state of burnout? No matter how much sleep I get, how much water I drink, how healthy I eat, how many times a week I workout, I don’t seem to feel motivated or have the energy to put my best foot forward in school.
~ Elle, 17
— love from WinWin —
When you’re working hard at something and trying to do all the right things, and not seeming to get results — and feeling exhausted and demotivated — then yes, burnout is right there ready to whoop your ass.
You’re simply talking about sleep, water, food and exercise. Self-care basics! Not a bubble-bath-scented candle in sight! And it sounds like you are working really hard. Working really hard, to do these seemingly simple ‘life’ things. Sleep: tick! Water: tick! Healthy food: tick! Exercise: tick!
Motivation and energy should result, but like your crappest and most unreliable friend, they are AWOL just when you need them most.
Of course I’m gonna say that it might be handy to chat to someone. A friend, a family member, a teacher. Someone who will listen. You could even visit your GP. I’m not implying that something is dramatically wrong, moreso suggesting a simple check-up and an open chat with a professional (‘Hi Doc. I’m doing this this and this, and feeling like this this and this…’) might help. Perhaps the doc will want to run a blood test. Or they might want to chat about stress.
But here is another thought because your letter reads a little like a list. Maybe all this stuff — sleep, water, food, exercise — can be thought about differently.
Yes, we need to do the things, but perhaps we don’t need to “DO THE THINGS”. Do you see the difference or is my use of the CAPS key a bit subtle? How about if you just thought about yourself, how you’re feeling, and what you’re in the mood for?
What if one day you woke up and thought, ‘what exactly do I feel like doing, right now’?
If you’re thirsty, then hop out of bed and get a drink of water. While you sipping your water, think to yourself: ‘what exactly do I feel like doing, right now’? Perhaps you’ll notice that it is a sunny morning and you feel like stepping outside, so that’s what you do. While you’re outside, it’s appealing to sit down. Take a sip of that water. Enjoy the sunshine. Take some big breaths of sunshine-y air. When you’re ready, think to yourself ‘what exactly do I feel like doing, right now’? Resisting the urge to sidle your hand across to pick up your phone, think: Do I feel like having a shower? Do I feel like going for a walk? Do I feel like flopping on the couch with a book? Do I want to veg in front of Netflix?
And as one episode of Dear White People ends and another is about to begin, think to yourself: what exactly do I feel like doing, now?
And so on, and so forth. You get where I’m going with this, right? We’re practising being mindful in the moment… making decisions based on how we feel rather than a) numbing out b) over-planning. With a bit of practice, maybe you could construct a whole day like this. Just doing what feels good, in the moment.
Because this, my friend, is a day off!
Instead of obliging everything, and DOING THE THINGS, you are answering your feelings and needs in the moment (without guilt).
Another thing to try might be some meditation. Starting small and practising being still, even for a couple of moments, can help you find stillness (and focus) in other areas of your life: Researchers from John Hopkins University found general meditation programs helped ease psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and pain related to stress. A published study conducted at Google and Roche, in which employees used [meditation app] Headspace for eight weeks, had similar results: participants reported a 46% reduction in depression and a 31% reduction in anxiety. Further studies showed increases in mental resilience and satisfaction in life.
Maybe you feel like there’s too much happening in your life to indulge in such frivolities.
Meditation? Who’s got time? I can hear some readers shouting at me from here: “DO YOU REALISE IT IS OCTOBER AND I AM IN THE MIDDLE OF EXAMS WTAF… $%&@… MY FUTURE DEPENDS ON… @*&Q… ARGH SO STRESSSSED”
And that’s fine, shout away. In fact, the more you shout, the more I reckon you need to hear this: Looking after yourself = taking a break = stop “DOING ALL THE THINGS”.
It’s going to sound obvious: it is only once you feel like you’ve actually had a break, that you will feel like you’ve had a rest. Know what I mean?
And now is the moment where I realise I actually need to do more of this myself.