In 2007, when Arianna Huffington collapsed from exhaustion and overwork, her millions of admirers issued a collective gasp. She had been admired and applauded for her work ethic including a brutal schedule spending 18-hour days to build the Huffington Post. She was like a female Navy Seal; something we knew existed but rarely glimpsed in person. When she collapsed from burnout, I felt a mixture of surprise, compassion, and relief.
With a similar schedule at the time, my long days as a mother, keynote speaker, healthcare provider, author, and community volunteer suddenly came into clear focus. I didn’t like what I saw – the paper calendar with no white space remaining, the expression on my son’s face when I told him I had to skip another one of his sporting events, or the anxious looks from my team when I tried unsuccessfully to work through my incessant migraines. Nor, did I like what I felt from the HBCU drumline cadence of my heartbeat as I rushed from meeting to meeting or the gnawing loneliness of missing my personal friends because I failed to MAKE time to join them for a few happy hours.
My wake-up call was not as drastic as Huffington’s. She collapsed at her desk and broke her cheekbone. Ouch! I’ll never forget the morning I propped myself up in bed after another sleepless night of worrying to find myself so drained of energy and enthusiasm I couldn’t think of one reason to get out of bed. Not one. I’ve spoken about this epiphany on many occasions because I know I’m not the only one who has been so drained that they literally crave another life. I didn’t want to die. I simply didn’t want my jam-packed schedule, lack of personal time, dissatisfaction with my accomplishments, and sense of isolation to continue. I wanted a different life. I didn’t know how but I knew it was possible. I got professional help and slowly but surely changed my schedule and my outlook on life.
It’s important that you recognize the signs of burnout and stop avoiding the yellow lights on the dashboard of your life. There are many ways to combat burnout including:
- adequate sleep
- scheduling playtime and downtime
- unplugging from the Internet and working when you’re with family and friends
- regular exercise
- cutting back or eliminating alcohol and caffeinated beverages
- professional help: life coach, mental health professional, physicians
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and focused on where you are, who you’re with, and what is happening at that moment in time. If you are constantly lamenting the past or worrying about the future, you miss the beauty of the only moment we are promised. Right here. Right now. These people. This place. That beauty. That wisdom. That smile.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and dissatisfied with everything. Take some much-needed time to assess how you are spending your time. It’s likely that your schedule doesn’t align with your values anymore. Avail yourself of the numerous resources designed to help you execute a course correction. Then, move in the direction of your heart’s desire where you are much less likely to crash and burn—out.
© All rights reserved. Monica Frazier Anderson 2023