Something’s got to give

“Stress is the trash of modern life. We all generate it, but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.”

Danzae Pace

I’m suffering from burnout. There I said it.

It may not be too surprising for those who know me, but I may have taken on too much. In fact, there is no maybe about it. I HAVE taken on too much.

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

To sum up, this is what I have going on in my life right now:

  • I am raising two young children. A 5yr old and 7yr old to be precise
  • I have a full-time job as an engagement and well-being partner in a large UK media agency
  • I am in the process of studying an MSc in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Mental Health
  • I am a current scholar of a leadership and personal development program
  • I am an executive ambassador of a school training program through CIPD
  • I am the co-chair of the mental health team at work
  • I am a speaker at a workplace well-being conference
  • I am a content contributor to a wellness business
  • I am writing a book
  • I dance, do yoga and weight train to remain healthy
  • I am a sister, a daughter and a friend to many loved ones in my life

It’s a pretty extensive list when you consider the number of hours in a day.

Don’t get me wrong – I love being busy. And I’m glad I have found a career I genuinely love around a topic that means so much to me. However, as it moved into a new direction and as much as I am enjoying the learning elements, learning takes time.  And time is precious.

My career is going well. I’m being asked to collaborate on projects in both the business I work in but also in the wider industry. My experience in wellness has led to my opinion being sought out at conferences, podcasts, and thought pieces. This, of course, is great, but this takes up additional time to plan, write, prepare, and think.

My MSc study is going well. 21 hours a week has been dedicated to it since September last year, and I’ve passed the first three modules, with my results getting better every time.  

I dedicated the right time to the scholarship program, and I am about to graduate this May.

But I am struggling to keep up.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I’ve put on weight as I’m struggling to find time to exercise. The side effect of this is a low mood. Not due to the increase in weight, as that’s not noticeable, but the lack of the feel-good hormones I get from it has impacted my thinking. My mood. My headspace.

My book has been on pause for months as I can’t dedicate the time I need to get it going.

But the worst of it all is the relationships in my life. They have taken the worst hit. I am a communications professional, but as so much of my current workload is communicating, I’m struggling to communicate with those who matter.

I have six email accounts. One for work, one for Kings College, one for my blog, one for personal, and one for school updates. Not a single one of these is in order. My personal account has over 1000 unread emails. My work account, up until yesterday, had over 2000 unread emails. I’m missing comms from my children’s school and struggling to keep up with what they need to bring/wear/sign up to.

Let’s talk WhatsApp groups. I have a work team WhatsApp, a scholarship WhatsApp, a family WhatsApp, a sisters WhatsApp, and several friend groups, and then with the MSc I have one for the course, one for each module, one for each essay title plus one for the UK students, and one for London students. Most of which are currently on mute.

Add to this the several notifications from Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

The only reason I am functioning is that if there is one thing I get right, it’s sleep. I sleep very well for 6-7 hours each night. Probably because I’m shattered. Not the standard eight but my sleep is not impacted – thank goodness. As a mental health professional now, I am aware of how quickly I would start to deteriorate if sleep joined the pile.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

So what am I going to do about it?

I didn’t want this to be a post about me just moaning. I want it to be reassuring. So I’m taking some steps to ensure my headspace improves. If you too are dealing with too much – perhaps some of what I am doing below may help.

Reclaiming time not well spent.  

I have decided that this will be my last MSc module. I will walk away from uni with a post-grad certificate. I told myself for far too long that I needed credibility to be successful in my new role. The thing is, my experience, empathy, and determination were getting me there already. I have a unique skill set and one that is enabling success in this newfound field. I do not need a MSc to be good at what I do.  Also, I’m aware that 21 hours a week is a lot. I hate telling my children, “Not now; mummy needs to study”. It’s not fair. Also, this MSc is costing me £18k. I am saving for a new home, and this is putting a stopper right in that plan.

Exercise once a day.

This is at the top as many people link exercise to being proud of how they look. Exercise should be about being proud of looking after yourself. Whether it’s an hour a day at the weekend or 20mins a day during the week – anything is better than nothing, and from the workout I had this morning, there is already a huge improvement in my mood. Small steps folks. Small steps.

Photos courtesy of my 5year old

Stopping interruptions.

One thing I do not use enough is my out-of-office replies or my busy status. When I’m’ in the middle of something, I tend to get interrupted by something else. Lose my flow, and at some points – quite often, actually – I’m doing 4-5 different things at once and not completing any of them. Carving out time in my diary to do the jobs that need completing and saving time to view messages separately rather than mixing the two. This step will hopefully enable my time to be more focused, and I hope results in crossing more off my to-do list.

I’m removing myself from unnecessary mailing lists.

After cleaning half of my work inbox yesterday, I realised how many things I’ve signed up for that I don’t have the time to read. It takes more time to delete the bulk of this lot than I could ever dedicate to reading it, so if it’s no longer important/interesting/useful, delete it.

Getting rid of notifications.

Until the study is complete, I’m taking a break from social media. I have decided not to remove myself fully as I keep in touch with various people through different channels, but I don’t need to check them all daily. One thing I will remove is TikTok. Tiktok I’ve found, provides a great way to increase my procrastination. Something I do not currently have time for. I will remove the notifications from Facebook and Twitter and just keep Instagram for personal and LinkedIn for professional use. Everything else can wait.

I’m setting boundaries.

Boundaries for me more than anyone else. My working hours need a hard stop. My time for the children needs to be more focused. I need to see my friends and family more. Until the last module is complete, I’m aware that my time is limited, but even organising future dates of when to spend time with others is enough to put my mind at ease that they are not being forgotten. Also, remember that time spent with those I enjoy is just as good for me as it is for them.

Finding time for me.

As a working, studying parent, my time feels like it permanently belongs to everyone else. To ensure I am at my best for everyone else in my life, I need to find time for myself.  Time to exercise. Time to have fun. Time to relax. Time for quiet. Carving out a day per month to do the things that are important to me – outside of work, study, and parenting. One day per month is not enough – I know, but it’s a start. Treating me as a top priority is key to a better life balance. I know that everything on my list is for me, but it’s about what makes the best version of me and doing that more.

To sum it up

If you are suffering from burnout or if you’re close to it, try and make small changes. Don’t be overwhelmed by it. Tell your loved ones how you are feeling. Tell them how you’re trying to cope too. A good friend of mine recently told us why she hadn’t replied often to our friendship group. And it was her honesty that spurred me to be honest with myself. Once you’re honest with yourself and with those who matter to you, you can start to plan how to make things better.

I’ve said it once already but small steps folks. Small steps.  

Published by Em@InsanelyNormal

I am Em, the Author of Insanely Normal. A mother of two, a marketer and copywriter and huge advocate for normalising the conversations around mental health.

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