January was a challenge for me, and while I loved it, I did find it to be ... well, exhausting. On the eleventh, I talked about the Pomodoro Technique and how it works for me in an average workday as an author, but what I didn't confess to is that life as a blogger is different - at least, for me. When I'm focused on a book (which I promise I will be this month), the Pomodoro post linked above is an example of what a successful novel-writing day looks like - but I'm not only a novelist.
I'm a blogger too, and that means taking breaks from novel writing to build and create content for this site, as well as maintaining my social media presences around the internet - but I'm not only a blogger, either.
More importantly than anything else, I'm a mom, and while my kids are the biggest blessings of my entire life, they're a lot of work, too. Motherhood in itself is a job, with constant demands, high pressure, and - sometimes - very little return on investment.
Generally, I like to think I'm pretty good at balancing the demands of my various careers, and I can definitely say that doing what I do (despite my issues in my struggle to maintain mental wellness) from home makes things a lot easier than they otherwise would be, but while working at home definitely has its benefits, I'm willing to admit that it also has its drawbacks.
It's a fragile sort of lifestyle, and it all gets unbalanced so easily. It gets hard to do it everything myself, hard to keep everything going - and growing - in a way that I can keep believing in, especially on the days when no one seems to believe in me. I get tired and beaten down, I push myself too hard to prove myself. I get burned out. I lose focus - or faith.
Somedays I have just regular normal problems - worrying about finances and career choices, worrying about whether I'm doing right by my kids as their mother, worrying about my own health and mental wellness, worrying about how long until my van needs another oil change.
Other days, it's worse. On those days, I feel like I'm failing at motherhood because one of my kids is in trouble or sick or being a brat. I feel like I'm failing at adulthood because my income isn't what most people would call "successful," and because my career, while very fulfilling, is still based on a dream I'm not sure will ever come to fruition. I feel like I've failed as a daughter because my father and I are estranged, and because I still can't take care of my mother (who is in very ill health) the way I would like to. I feel like a failure as a person because I mess up just like everyone else, and I let my self-discipline slide - or I'm simply too exhausted or depressed to maintain it - and then my whole life gets out of whack.
Sometimes I need to take a break. Sometimes I just need a little extra self-care. Because I know we say this all the time, but in life, it really is the little things that make all the difference - it's too many early mornings, too many late nights, too many skipped lunch breaks. It's not enough rest, not enough fun, not enough downtime. Not enough faith.
It's burnout. And I know it's best to maintain a balance that prevents burnout, but it can't always be prevented - so when it hits me, here's how I beat it.
When I don't have a lot of time but I just need a little boost, I keep things simple with a cup of coffee. If I'm in a hurry but I need a little extra indulgence, I'll add a packet of hot chocolate to the cup before brewing my usual coffee - that extra little bit of sweetness makes my regular cup of coffee feel much more indulgent, and it's a way to spoil myself that doesn't take anything extra from the day. But if I suddenly find myself blissfully alone with a few minutes to spare, I'll change things up with a nice strong cup of my new favorite coffee, Folgers Gourmet Selections, in Mocha Swirl. Now and then, I'll step it up another notch - I'll add whipped cream to the top, and sprinkle it with cinnamon so it's pretty. (You may remember seeing one of these self-indulgent, spirit-building brews at the bottom of this post.)
And once it's finished, I'll slip away for just a second and hold that mug in both hands to soak in the warmth. I'll bring it up to my face, inhale the smell of it. I'll take that first sweet, cinnamon-scented sip and I'll sigh over the deep chocolatey taste. And then somehow, if the coffee is right and the baggage isn't too heavy that day, my life will seem to set itself right again, and I can go on.
Sometimes coffee doesn't work though, and I need something ... more.
On those days, if I'm not alone, I let the kids hang out together with video games or a movie for a while, and I retreat to my bed. I spray everything in the room with something comforting, which used to be regular Febreze until just recently, when I fell madly in love with Febreze ONE in Orchid scent. So I spray my room, take a minute to inhale and breathe, and then I curl up in bed with my favorite devices. Depending on my mood, I might watch YouTube or WWE on my phone, surf Pinterest on my tablet, or just read a book on my Kindle. Knowing my kids are in the next room assures me that they're alright entertaining themselves for a while, and taking the time to relax makes me a much better mother when I'm up and running again.
When I am alone and have some time for a full-blown self-care day, I go all out and really indulge myself. I make that special cup of coffee, the one with all the good stuff in it. I stop to really enjoy that first inhalation of the smell of it, take that first delicious sip, and then carry it upstairs. I'll change my phone to a fresh battery, grab my tablet and Kindle, and carry it all into the bathroom, where I run a bath. I'll use my phone to play music (I love the Classical Light station on Slacker Radio!), and I'll read while soaking in a bathtub filled with body wash bubbles that smell like heaven. I'll shave my legs, not because that's particularly rare or luxurious, but because freshly shaved legs feel good. I'll exfoliate. I'll use a hair treatment. I'll take the time for lotion. I'll give myself permission to skip work for a WHOLE DAY, which is rare for me, and I'll make myself go to bed early for some extra rest.
These things feed my soul and bring my spirit back up. They're small indulgences, but when piled one atop the other in this way, they give me fresh hope and renewed energy. They make me more patient, more loving, because they make me less overwhelmed, less world-weary, less troubled.
They beat my burnout - while helping me to nurture the flame of my determination to succeed. Because as I said before, it really is the little things that make all the difference.
Questions For The Comments Section:
- How do you beat burnout when it hits in your life?
- We all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so what's your favorite way to prevent burnout from hitting in the first place? Do you have one, or do you just try to treat it when it comes, like me?
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