Beating Burnout: Respecting Your Limits

By: Cassia Egan-Lawless

Talking about burnout doesn’t necessarily feel right at the end of summer when kids are going back to school and maybe you’re going back to work after your summer vacation; it feels like the year is just starting to ramp up. But burnout happens no matter the time of year and no matter where you are in life. What exactly is burnout? It’s the state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. As the stress builds you lose your motivation and interest that led you to that role in the first place. 

I have dealt with burnout a few times in my life. The first time happened in high school. I was a trampolinist (Yes it’s a real sport and it’s in the Olympics!) from middle school until the end of high school. I joined a small club team in Minneapolis and loved it. I excelled pretty far and fast and I always felt like it was my thing to have. While other kids joined the high school teams or clubs I was off on my own being a part of this team doing a cool sport. Because it’s a younger sport, meaning a lot of young kids join, I was usually one of, if not the oldest on the team. As the years went on a lot of kids eventually left, but I stayed. For a while I actually enjoyed it. Everywhere else in my life I always felt the youngest, so to have a place to go where I was the oldest and best was great for my leadership skills but also my self-esteem. A lot of the kids looked up to me and my coach even made me the captain. 

But that feeling eventually wore down and suddenly being the oldest and alone at my level felt lonely and boring. I had been going to practice three times a week for two and a half to three hours a time since fifth grade and I was isolated from my school peers. Part of the fun of being on a team is that you get to be around people your age and make friends by learning teamwork and life skills. You go and grow through those lessons together and it’s exciting! Those relationships are what make you want to stay. The next closest age a teammate was to me was in middle school. It’s hard to share experiences with an 11 year old when I already had my license and was going through very different life experiences than my younger teammates. 

That isolation and tiringly constant routine is what led to my burnout somewhere in my junior year of high school. I didn’t find joy in jumping, my hard routines that I couldn’t get through hung over my head, I was tired all the time, and I didn’t even want to go to the gym anymore. Trampoline wasn’t fun. My last competition was the state meet in April of 2015. I still went to some practices and helped the kids my senior year but I didn’t compete and less and less time was spent at the gym. I stepped back and wanted to participate in a big school production because it felt like I had missed out on that camaraderie for so many years. 

When I did go back to the gym to jump around and play I was much happier. I didn’t feel like I had to stress to push through mental blocks of trying to perfect my routine that I had experienced so many times when I was a competing gymnast. 

While I didn’t experience the type of burnout people in the workforce do, it was still enough to make me step back and realize the issue. It was my time to hang up the leotard and I accepted it instead of pushing through and making myself even more unhappy. Looking back on it, do I wish I could’ve stayed on and moved to an even higher level, of course I do. But I’m still incredibly happy of what I was able to achieve as a competitive athlete at such a young age. Now when I go back to the gym to visit my coaches and jump around I’m reminded of what I love about the sport, the ability to fly and feel weightless while also having an amazing bag of tricks I will never lose and few in the world are able to do. 

I’ll touch on one more area of burnout that I’m experiencing right now that more people might be able to relate to. I graduated college last year and jumped straight into applying for jobs even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Guess what? I’m still doing it now 15 months later and I am so tired of it. I have a better idea of what I want, but it’s gotten to the point where it feels like I’m throwing my resume into a void. 

To help with the stress and hopelessness I’ve been feeling, I reached out to people for help. I contacted my school’s career development center and talked with an advisor. I’m reaching out to people in my interested field and taking part in informational interviews that are giving me great advice. I’m reevaluating what I really want to be working towards and knowing that my first job doesn’t have to be perfect. What I do there won’t be what I’ll do for the rest of my life. It’s still hard staying optimistic and hoping to see an end to the beginning, but I’m trying to find that excitement of starting my life that I felt 15 months ago. 

If you’re going through burnout right now here are some helpful tips: 

  1. Find someone to talk to
    1. Chances are your friends and family have also been through it and can help you out. 
  2. Try to look at work differently 
    1. Even if your job is boring, try to find ways that what you’re doing is helping reach a larger company goal. Make friends at work and commiserate together.
  3. Reevaluate your priorities 
    1. If the stress is too overwhelming set boundaries and say no more often. Log off when the day is done and turn off your notifications for the rest of the day. 
  4. Exercise! 
    1. Carve out time to go to the gym. Go before or after work. It’s the perfect excuse to put on headphones and literally ignore everyone. Even a 30 minute walk does wonders to clear the mind. 
  5. Make it healthy 
    1. If you’re stuck at a desk all day it’s easy to eat sugary snacks to help you through the day but try and replace a bag of chips with a bag of sliced apple or carrots. Those will give you more energy in the long run, rather than an hour sugar high. 
  6. Just be
    1. Find time and space for quiet that allows you to recharge and hear anything your intuition might be telling you about what you or your body might need. 

Burnout definition and helpful tips 1-5 credit to HelpGuide

Photo credits to Cassia Egan-Lawless and Google

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