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How I’ve tried to improve after near-burnout 12 months ago, and what you might find useful if you’re struggling too.
This time last year was a bit of a doozy. Like most good/crazy millenials, I was side-hustling my way into total burnout. Over-committing, trying to juggle too many goals and just generally running myself into the ground from work, blogging and my overachiever bad habits.
12 months on, I’m getting closer to slowing down, but it’s a daily (weekly, monthly…) struggle to prioritize what’s actually important. To choose between what’s healthy for me, and what offers the best path to my ultimate goals & lifestyle balance.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Intention is Everything
This time last year, I was running around like a headless chook, thinking I ‘had to’ do all the things to get ahead.
I had to be on both Instagram and Snapchat to be a ‘real’ blogger.
I had to learn German to show I was serious about living in Austria.
I had to post weekly on the blog to be consistent enough for readers to follow me.
I had to put in overtime at work to show how truly committed I was to the company/my career/success.
I had to Skype/Call/What’s App my family more often to make up for the fact that I was living overseas.
Obviously all of those ‘had to’s‘ piled on top of each other were killing me.
On top of which – it was all bullshit.
No one ‘has to’ do those things – there’s very rarely a gun to your head making you do things you don’t actually want to do.
I realised that the pressure that we put on ourselves to live up to certain standards is immense and ever-present, and can become crushing if it goes unchecked.
What I’ve tried to do to alleviate that in the last 12 months is make more intentional decisions.
Not just participating in an activity because I feel I ‘should’ or I ‘have to be there’ because X,Y, Z person or article tells me I should.
Maybe it’s part of the I don’t give AF attitude of reaching your 30’s, but the lesson I’ve learned and tried to live by in the last 12 months is that you don’t ‘have to’ nearly as often as you think.
Not going to lie, this book had a big part to play in that change of mindset:
It taught me that you can always be more intentional in the activities you do, the pressure you choose to take on and most importantly, the way you spend your days.
That simple idea blew my mind and is still something I’m working to integrate in my everyday life, resisting the urge to do something because I ‘have to’.
Nope, actually I don’t.
Your Mornings make your Day
It may sound a bit woo-woo and unfathomable to some of you, but in the last year I’ve gone from hating my mornings, being the worst kind of morning person to a full on freakie-deakie early riser who loves seeing the sun rise.
This time last year, I was waking up and spending 20-30 minutes scrolling my phone, schlumping out of bed grudgingly and grumping through the first 2 hours of my day.
These days, I’m actively loving that I (and by association, Stefan) get up earlier. Our Sundays feel free – with so many hours to relax, go exploring, have local adventures and still be back home in time to make a home cooked meal.
The biggest daily change made? nowadays, I don’t touch my phone, read an email or check Facebook until I’m on my way into the office. The first 2 hours of my day look something like this:
6:00am – 6:30am I’ll slip into some Yoga gear and wake up with a quick 20-30 minute Yoga session from YouTube. Normally it’s Yoga with Adriene or Boho Beautiful, depending on how intense of a workout I’m after.
6:30am – 7am Dedicated 20 to 30 minutes writing, normally in the hammock in our spare room. As the sun rises over the rooftops outside our window, the perfect silence of the morning settles around me and I can freely journal, draft blog posts or just freeform write whatever is clunking around my brain in the morning. It’s like a refreshing rinse of the subconscious and other ideas floating around my mind. (Yes, I may have gone a bit full hippie here, but it really is as blissful as it sounds!)
The rest of the morning is normal getting ready stuff, but that first hour honestly makes all the difference to my mindset and clarity for the day ahead.
I’m calmer, for having exercised, and happier for having put my own priorities (writing and creativity) before everything else. I’ve not read it yet, but apparently this book, Miracle Morning, has more inspirational advice around why your mornings make such a difference.
I’m also very aware that this is a limited luxury that only a twenty-thirty something with no kids can indulge in, so savour it daily as the extreme privilege it is!
Shut Out the Noise
An extension of the last point, over the last 6 months, I’ve been shutting shit down. Limiting the amount of noise and advice I give airtime to in my brain and spare time.
Whereas a year ago I would sign up for multiple writing and blogging courses, join bloggers Facebook groups left, right and centre to cram as many tips and tricks as possible and generally be constantly absorbing any information I could get my hands on to be better, to learn more, to ‘get ahead’, now I’m shutting out the noise.
In the last 3 months I’ve unsubscribed from loads of emails that weren’t bringing value anymore, or only advertised more courses to me. Those 20+ Facebook groups I was lurking in but not learning from? Gone. The courses I was signed up for because it was a ‘great deal’ and never looked at? Cancelled.
Now, I’m only listening to the sources I trust, contribute to and get value from.
For me, that’s the Build Blog Freedom course (amazing for SEO) and the Secret Bloggers Course (fantastic community and relevant to my needs).
Everything else – sliced and diced from the minimal bandwidth in my brain. It means I can focus on what matters, and not stress things I’m only participating in out of guilt.
Mental Health is as important as Physical Health
I mean, people are screaming this from the rooftop these days, but last years burnout hit it home for me. You can’t ignore your mental health, just because the symptoms aren’t as obvious as your physical health.
Lapping up the last days of autumn with my best basic fall girl photo here 🍂 I never really got the whole ‘fall’ feels thing living in Australia, but now in Vienna I adore this time of year, even as I can feel it slipping away so quickly! Can you believe Christmas markets open NEXT WEEK??!! 😳 So for now, I’m savouring my favourite time of year with a walk through the leaves – cliches be damned!! TELL ME: Are you an autumn or winter person?
Picturesque walks in Autumn are for my mental health you guys….the boots too!
Taking time out for self-care, slowing down and being aware of your state of mind, is just as (if not more) important as checking in with your physical health. Because if you leave that mental health shit unchecked, you can become a grumpy, frustrated mess of a person.
What do you really want?
The near burnout a year ago had the flow on effect of making me really assess what kind of life I want to build for myself, long term.
For the last 4 or 5 years, I’ve gone from just surviving as an expat with no friends or job, to thriving.
On my plate right now, there’s a career at a wildly successful company, working 50-odd hours a week, while freelancing on the side for Lonely Planet, Forbes Travel and the Telegraph UK, all while keeping up this blog.
All of which is INCREDIBLY WONDERFUL and I’m extremely grateful – but now that opportunity has knocked and things are rolling, it’s time to take a step back and figure out where all of this is heading.
More importantly, where we want it to head and what is best for Stefan and I in terms of work/life balance. Which again, comes down to intentional decision making.
I’m extremely happy and proud of the work I’ve done over the last 4 years, so now, it’s time to look ahead at what the next 4 years could and should look like, on our own terms.
The process started this summer, which I wrote about in-depth here, but I think it’s still growing and changing. The important change made over the last 12 months has been that instead of just being super Australian and ‘going with the flow’ I’m questioning where to head next, and how my decisions are ultimately contributing to the ideal lifestyle Stefan and I want to build together.
Gosh it all sounds awfully grown up doesn’t it? I can assure you, it’s not, on a day-to-day basis. I still feel like a floundering mess of a person who subsists on wine and fluked her way into this adulting thing.
None of it is clear, and none of it is easy, but just asking the question – what do I really want – has changed my entire outlook for the future. It also released the pressure to ‘just keep swimming’. Putting me back in control of the direction my life is taking.
If you’re feeling how I was a year ago – overworked, stressed, pulled in a hundred different directions – I can only gently advise…. slooowwww dooowwwwn, for your own sake and that of people who love you.
The tips I’ve shared above came to me the hard way, and honestly, I’m still working daily to stick to them. Still tripping up, still unsure of myself….but things are infinitely better than they were a year ago. I’m more at ease with my decisions, more sure of the direction, and better equipped to get through the day ahead.
How do you handle overwhelm and burnout? Have you or someone you loved been through this? Let me know in the comments, because talking about it has helped more than anything.
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