If you’re a parent reading this I have no doubt you’re all too familiar with the overwhelming feeling of burnout. This past summer I found myself way beyond burned-out. Here’s how I was able to break my cycle of stress and exhaustion, and find a little bit of grace along the way.
What does burnout look like when it pushes you to your limits?
For me this year, burnout has looked like pink eye and work deadlines. Projects and hand, foot, and mouth disease. It has been an argument with my husband. And one after that, and over and over again. It has looked like working every night for days on end while listening to my toddler protest-scream herself to sleep and still manage to make my client presentation look like a million bucks.
Burnout was finally having 30 minutes of quiet time and almost having a panic attack because of the swift onslaught of all the to-do’s and worries, fears and doubts, shame, judging, and plain exhaustion bubbling just under the surface of my daily routine. For me, burnout meant my husband saying, “We should go on a vacation,” and me replying, “I need one by myself first.”
So I took a 24-hour solo vacation to take a break from my busy. A “Me Vacation” I called it. I took advantage of a Summer Friday and headed to the mountains that afternoon to spend the night, with plans to be home to my family by lunch time the next day.
To be honest, I didn’t really do anything differently than what I would normally do at home with some time alone. I went shopping at the outlet mall on my drive up. I ate French fries for dinner. I watched trashy T.V. while I ate gummy candies and read in bed before falling asleep. In the morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee, sat by a river, and listened to the same Spotify playlist on repeat.
No, I didn’t accomplish anything momentous.
But it gave me some distance. A chance to take a slow, deep breath, and let go of the feeling of burnout. I didn’t have to think about what to cook my family for dinner that night. Or the fact that we didn’t even have groceries for said dinner. I didn’t have to wake up to a screaming child at 6:00 AM and manage a mess that would no doubt manifest itself on a Saturday morning. I just got the chance to settle into a distantly familiar routine without any urgent commitments, and for the first time in a while, I didn’t feel quite so burned out.
On the two-hour drive home it felt like I was exhaling the last of my long breath. The one I’d been denying myself for all those months of meeting deadlines and adapting to the puzzling needs of a baby transitioning into toddlerhood. The breath that helped me begin to let go. And I felt grateful. Getting away – even for a quick 24 hours – in a quiet, beautiful place, was exactly what I needed to pause my spirit and remind myself how to slow down, if only a little.
Because the thing is, all of us have burnout. Not have – we are burned out. Burnout is the baseline. I learned that burnout can control you if you don’t give yourself the time and space – a night in the mountains by yourself, a day off from work – to help you find a guiding breath.
I hope if you’re reading this and you feel burned-out, you can give yourself whatever you feel your spirit is telling you it needs to feel grounded again.