Every year, I contemplate what to give up for Lent. With the sole purpose being to grow closer to Christ and realize your own mortality and connection to the afterlife, most people give up things that’ll prolong their lives. They give up bad habits that are tangible and easily managed. However, some of the most damning behaviors we practice are all mental.
I decided to give up the need to be perfect. I have a bad habit of third and fourth guessing myself about things, mainly in professional endeavors. For instance, I struggle a lot as a writer because I analyze my work. I’m constantly wondering if the words I submit to an editor are good enough. I question if my message will be received or if the experiences and knowledge I share will influence just one life somewhere. Obsessing about my talent and professionals skills have led to many a late night at the keyboard.
Burnout affects people in different ways. But the one commonality we all share is that burnout manifests itself in being tired. And being tired will eventually seep into the ways that you parent, how you are in your relationship, and how you are as an employee or entrepreneur. Most importantly, burnout is the catalyst to early onset health problems that are avoidable.
When I talked to someone about this, they pointed out to me that I wasn’t actually tired but rather over-extended. She mentioned that I take a step back and decide what were the real factors contributing to being tired all of the time. This helpful suggestion got me thinking about how we approach and talk about burnout.
The business world often wants to teach people how to hack their way around being burnout. They give you all these tips and techniques that sound good in theory. Although, with the busyness of the 99%, the advice isn’t useful to the 1%. Sometimes, changing your life doesn’t mean making drastic changes. It can start with small decisions in your daily life.
Learn how to power down and stick to the parameters. Last year, I did a smartphone detox. One of the rules that has stuck is leaving my phone downstairs to charge overnight. I don’t check work emails after 8pm. Having that detachment from your phone helps you establish a bedtime ritual where you mentally close yourself off from the activity of the outside world. This assists overwhelmingly in the feelings of physical and mental exhaustion.
Saying “yes” is just as important as saying “no”. A lot of articles regarding burnout discuss the power in saying no and being honest about your refusals to bend when it doesn’t benefit you. I agree with this. But sometimes saying yes reminds you to channel your energy and focus on what’s important. When you have your mind set on what makes you feel good, you’ll intrinsically move away from what doesn’t.
Make real time for self-care. I’ve written about my thoughts on self-care for men. We don’t prioritize it because nobody makes it an option. As a man, you have to be deliberate about the time you spend on yourself. Set alarms for it. Add it to your Google calendar. Whatever you decide your self-care activity will be, you’ll be consistent at keeping that commitment if you see it on a calendar just as any other deadline.
Communicate when you’re overwhelmed. Most perfectionists don’t ask for help. There’s a high level of satisfaction that comes from executing a difficult task or assignment entirely on your own. The problem with that is taking on so much pressure can alienate partners and co-workers. In a work setting, you have to make sure that your peers support you in a way that’s effective for the team and greater good. In a personal setting, you have to let your partner know when maybe you need them to cut you some slack. People are willing to make your life and workload easier. You just have to ask.
Know that your absolute best is good enough. As a writer, one terrible habit I have is freaking out over things I wish I’d said in an article. There are times when I wanted to write about something but because someone else wrote a better article, I let insecurity creep in. People can’t help but measure themselves against the next person because we want to always be perceived as great. We look at others’ achievements – be it money, fame, or followers—and wonder what’s wrong with me. The answer to that is the life you want is not as far off as you think. Maintain your hustle.
Giving up the need for perfection is tough because it’s a lifestyle change. You have to re-write internal dialogue and replace it with positive reinforcement. The real key in beating burnout is shifting your perspective on what you can directly control. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning off your phone after 10pm. Sometimes, it can be more complex like learning how to delegate within company culture and your relationship. Once you know understand that burnout in its basic form is really balancing too many plates, it’ll become clear which plates you can drop.
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