Burnout: The End of the Hangover

MAY 02, 2016
Megan Weigel, DNP, ARNP-c, MSCN
When you are living your purpose, burnout can be like a hangover.  Causing the hangover is fun, but when the hangover sets in, you wonder what you did to yourself.  Like the movie “The Hangover”, the sequels get more painful.  They eventually cause harm.  They eventually take you out of your game.   I promise the reader that I will not go beyond “The Hangover, Part 3”.  This is the end.  And it starts with that ugly two-letter word. 
 
NO.
 
I haven’t learned to say no.  
 
Why haven’t I learned to say no?
 
Because I like what I do.  AND, habits are hard to break.
 
So…where am I on the burnout scale? 
 
Dangerously close to a precipice…again.  I don’t find it disheartening this time.  I see it as a launching pad to the life of my dreams.  And it is my choice to launch. 
 
I am in clinic from 9A-5 or 6P.  Once or twice a week I have enough time in the hour I have for lunch to run an errand or go for a run (to actually take a break).  The other times, I work while eating, reviewing charts, signing notes, etc.  The decision to take the break for an errand comes at the sacrifice of leaving tasks undone so that I can take a breather.  Two nights a week, and sometimes three, I speak to people living with MS or peers in the field.  Sometimes these talks take me out of town.  Every Wednesday, I teach yoga to people living with MS for my non-profit, oMS Yoga, from 7:15-8:15PM.  We don’t usually leave the studio until 8:45PM, and then we sit down and work on any unattended business until about 11PM.  Once a month I run a neurology clinic at the local indigent health center.  Once a month I receive acupuncture, and if I’m lucky, once a month I get to see my counselor.  All after work.  This equates to crossing the threshold of my doorstep at no earlier than 9PM most weeknights.  In bed at 11, up at 5 to exercise, hitting snooze until 7 because I’m exhausted, and arising tired to do it all again. 
 
This did not change after Hawaii.  I could not say no to many things for financial reasons.  But, it’s the same hamster wheel every year.  And I keep saying yes because I kept saying yes before.  It is a habit.  I love to talk to people with MS.  I love to educate and to empower.  My non-profit, oMS Yoga, is my heart.  How does a change even have the chance to start when you love what you do?
 
That’s when you start to take a look at your life.  And you dive deep.  And it gets ugly and uncomfortable.  Again.
 
I am 40.  I have been divorced for 4 years.  There is nothing in this world I want more than to get married and have a child and yet, I am devoting no time to that.  And I am 40.  And single.  And not home until after 9PM.  I have not created room for MY dreams to come true.  How do I begin to say no when I’ve always been a yes-woman?  How do I explain it…to myself?
 
Did you know that no is a complete sentence?  I didn’t.  But I sure do now. 
 
No explanation required.  You know it in your heart.  You are not required to share your why.  No is enough.  And actually, no one cares why.  They just wanted to know if they could have your time, your energy, your skills, etc.  Once you say no, it is highly likely they have already tuned out the rest.  So, you learn to save your precious breath.
 
Almost 9 months later…an incubation period…and I am starting to get it.  I had to plant a seed.  I had to nurture it.  It had to make me feel excited, and then sick, and then tired, and then I was ready to welcome the change.  How do I bring how I felt in Hawaii to my everyday life?  With some coaching, I created a mantra.  Create Joy and Ease. 
 
I looked at my hamster wheel.  What do my financial goals equate to in yes’es?  Beyond that, am I willing to say YES to me?  To my dreams?  To the people I love?  Or does the hamster wheel win again? 
 
Trying on easy does not equate to laziness.  In fact, trying on easy, for personalities like mine, is really quite hard.  There are growing pains and hard conversations with yourself and others.  When I got right down to the person I want to be in all aspects of my life, the words that kept coming up were joyful and graceful.  Joy and ease are absolutes, and self-care is a must.  It must come first, and until it is engrained in you like making coffee in the morning, it must come with (sometimes uncomfortable) reminders. 
 
The funny thing is, once you believe you are enough…once you believe that you deserve what you want…once you believe that it is possible…it all starts to show up.  It starts to work.  And the burnout?  It starts to burn up. 
 
This weekend, I am in New Orleans at a teacher training for yoga, practicing and assisting for 8 hours each day.  We are also connecting.  We are serving one another and ourselves, deepening our teaching and expanding our practice.  At the end of the day, the facilitator asked us to say aloud to one person the thing we needed to give up to be fully present for tomorrow.  I smiled.  Earlier in the day, I had scribbled on the bottom of a page of my handout, “It feels so good to be doing just one thing.”
 
I couldn’t check my email, social media, or my text messages for 4 hours.  Dear God!  And guess what?  Nobody died.  I wasn’t pummeled with “where are you?” texts.  The presidential candidate slate didn’t change.  The stuff in my planner was still the stuff in my planner.  I couldn’t finish Monday’s tasks earlier (it’s Saturday, by the way).  And I felt okay.  I felt light.  I felt GOOD.  Best of all, I really felt connected…to myself and to the people in the room. 
I am taking that home.  Do just one thing at a time.  Be present. 
 
These are the things that I do, that support my joy and ease.  I encourage you to use them as a launching pad to finding ones that resonate with you.  But launch.  Please launch.  Light up, don’t burn out. 
 
Write yourself notes where you can see them: positive affirmations, goals, ways of being that resonate with you.  Sign up for some help digging deep with a life coach or an empowerment workshop if you don’t know where to start.  Meditate.  Move your body.  I recommend yoga, but you can find yoga in any movement.  Eat clean, healthy food, and give yourself a treat regularly.  Play outside.  Spend time alone.  Listen to music and cook, or tinker, or build or paint or write or whatever floats your creative boat.  Include people in your life who support you.  Say yes to yourself, to your dreams, to the people and spaces in your life that mean the most to your heart and soul, to your spirituality.  The rest will follow.  The words, “be not afraid” are supposedly said over 300 times in the Bible.  Do not be afraid to walk away from the edge of the precipice.  I share these wise anonymous words as much to myself as I do to you:  Doing too much doesn’t make you a superhero.  It only makes you tired.
 
Life is too short.  Wake up, dig in, and enjoy the journey!
 


Copyright© MD Magazine 2006-2017 Intellisphere, LLC. All Rights Reserved.