Subtle Burnout: surviving, thriving with a side of crying.

Words by Chelsea, 24 VIC

This pandemic has forced me to deal with the circumstances that led me to burn out.

‘Ah ha’, you may say ‘I know that feeling all too well’. But for myself at least, the signs flew under the radar until it was too late. So, here are three tips to surviving even the subtlest signs of burnout.

  1. Focus on what serves you and prioritise it.

Masks back on, the nightmares about not being able to pay rent, and a slight sense of never-ending doom have all returned.

Groundhog Day, am I right?

That’s what lockdown feels like; number 4 saw me attempting a 1000 piece harry potter puzzle and cradling a bottle of Pino Grigio instead of binging tv series. Now with us just having emerged from lockdown number 5 I feel completely numb but heading into lockdown 6, I’m confident in my strategy – focus on what serves you and prioritise it, without judging yourself. By doing this you come to realise that all the noise and opinions of others are insignificant.

Instead, pay attention to the small things, the things that are free, the things that make you marvel. Those things hold an inherit authenticity. The things that cost us nothing hold less expectation and stress to be completed. They allow us space, physically and mentally.

Blocking out all the noise and learning to appreciate the joy in small things like a bowl of ice cream or a sunset while walking is great, but all this ‘gratitude’ can be exhausting!

So, if you’ve reached capacity just know that someone else out there (me) is going through the same thing. The self-talk voice memo I use goes something like this: “Although I feel frustrated, I’m choosing to be kind to myself, I’m choosing space to allow me to process.”

  1. If you feel stuck, make a list.

I thrive under a structure and have chiselled away at one since university, allowing me to manage creative arts endeavours, 4 casual jobs and a social life. But this structure melted from ice into water as life became hectic again.

The rona and the sensationalist 24-hour news cycle had my self-worth on a kind of life support that I feel ashamed to admit. Until the Capricorn energy in me awakened and was like “girl you need to make a list, get your shit together!”

So, I made a list to a) make myself accountable and b) feel like I had a purpose for that day. Remember it doesn’t have to be a long list either. Even if it’s a simple ‘to do’ list, I’ve shown up for myself. I still achieved the minimum. This proactivity in advance, like writing the list the night before, helped me to engage with activities and keep me accountable.

So far, it’s seen me re-arrange bedroom furniture and colossally de-clutter my life. Every time I chose to add something to the list and then tick it off, I got closer to sweating in my active wear and not my sweatpants; I felt better.

There are still days when I procrastinate, staring into the fridge for the 10th time that day; wishing its soft purring sound and cold interior had all the answers. I won’t deny that there are slip ups, but no one’s perfect.

  1. Know and respect your triggers and the coping mechanisms that keep them at bay.

The winter blue is upon us yet again and although I’d love to live in my oodie for the rest of lockdown, that might turn me into a couch potato. Melbourne’s weather has transitioned from the period I like to call “The fifth season – Everything in one day” to winter. Cue the “winter is coming!” game of thrones by lines. It’s the ultimate mood disruption, seasonal depression, leaving me with no control over my emotions, mainly my crying reaction.

Emotions can suck, but if you stifle them, they fester in their own little bubble until they are ready to pop releasing a stench that reeks of fear. Suddenly you’re caught in the sticky web of burnout once again.

Knowing your triggers and acknowledging that all emotions are valid has helped me to better recognise my coping behaviour. Upon the eve of a burnout ‘the hangry’ descends upon me as silently as the moon rising. So, my preparations are as follows: a bowl of sweet chilli chips and 3 dips; and suddenly my resting bitch face has no one to back chat.

Besides that, escapism is just as important.  It allows us to let go and offers release in a fun and creative way that sees you sailing away on a cloud of endorphins. My personal favourite is singing, karaoke style into a hairbrush to Careless Whisper by George Michael, I’ve also played songs on repeat and screamed into a pillow but whatever works for you.

Extreme cases of emotional rollercoaster have taught me that my body and mind can balance their equilibrium I just needed to remind myself of one thing: You are not your feelings, you are having a feeling.

Just like you clean a house, our lives, actions, and emotions need the same care. Emotions don’t have to be dire to reach out for help, reaching is your strength shining through. Never be ashamed of it!

Burnout may find ways of disguising itself, but the current pandemic has aided in exaggerating all those frustrating habits to a point where I must deal with them. Although it is a long-winded process, and I’m nowhere near done, I’m finding my own way through. I’m singing lots of Britney Spears, chiselling out new routines from puddles of tears and buying way too many house plants! It may be unconventional, like writing this article but I’m committed. Ultimately, I’m responsible for those feelings and reactions and I’m choosing to take it one day at a time.

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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