I was close to burning out two weeks ago. As someone who believes they are pretty resilient and can work pretty well on no sleep (I average 5-6 hours), the 5am starts and late-night finishes were beginning to take its toll. Nearly 6 months ago I said yes to a once and life time opportunity. It meant extensive international travel behind a campaign that I felt strongly about. It meant meeting advocates of this campaign who really were trying to change the world. I considered all the work I was already doing and wondered whether it was biting off more than I could chew. Surely somewhere down the line, something would start to take the slack. F*ck it, I thought, I’m young, now is the time as ever!
It is doable, I’m not disputing that, however as I started to wade into month 5, I began to feel that in both social and professional situations, whilst I was there, I wasn’t actually present. I would get on 14-hour flights, be in a place less than 20-hours, before jumping on a plane home. It was mentally and physically draining. I was juggling 4 different projects that all meant enough to me that I wasn’t willing to drop any of them. Whilst I found what I did very interesting, it would pain me when someone asked me what I was doing, as I was sapped of any energy to sound remotely excited about any of them.
I was in a black hole that I felt I was getting more and more engulfed into and I was in dire need of a break. It had been over a year since I had taken a holiday- everything I had done up until this point had been back-to-back. Before the 6-month contract, I used my weekends wisely, whereas now I was throwing caution to the wind and was using them to forget the week I had just had. As you can imagine, the Monday morning commute was particularly savage.
As anyone will know who juggles a lot of projects all at once, your emails are an especially never-ending vortex of questions that need answering to. No email chain is ever finished- ever.
So, I took it upon myself to book ten days off. Whilst still loosely connected to my emails, I have very much been mentally offline. I have taken my time off seriously and allowed myself to ‘holiday’ without any guilt. It’s easy to get angst that everything will fall apart if we allow ourselves the simple pleasures of some much-needed time away, but it really won’t. If anything, it will do wonders for your sense of being. Being away has reignited the creative spark in me that was dying out at rapid speed and has also got me excited about all the things I want to achieve on my return.
It’s ok to admit the tank is out of gas or that you need some time-out to gain back some perspective that has been lost under the mountains of work. It’s important not to push yourself to complete breaking point, that will end up needing longer than a ten-day break to sort out. We are all human after all and not these super-humans that various social media platforms think we should all aspire to be. If you’re feeling at the point of burning out, do the thing that you know that is right for you and not necessarily right for everyone else.