When the burnout comes, what do you do?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 31, 2007, 3:41 PM | comments: 9

I've had a lot of conversations lately about burnout. With friends, co-workers and even in discussion forums. Burnout is the condition in which you no longer have any brain cycles left to devote to something. It's a mental phenomenon, which unfortunately can manifest itself physically in the form of fatigue, stress symptoms and the like.

And it's not something that comes from one particular source either. It's usually a combination of things. It can come from work, friendships, relationships, domestic tasks, and when you think about it, even the things you do in your leisure time. You have a finite amount of brain power to process it all.

Naturally you want to give up the things that take up the most CPU cycles if they don't particularly feed your soul. Most of those times it's work related, but you can't exactly just toss that aside if you enjoy eating daily. You can find another job, and I've been there, but that process is itself exhausting.

Me, I just want to take a break from people sometimes. Unfortunately, that's not very easy unless you intend to be a farmer in Idaho. That and, really, it's usually people who can enrich your lives in ways that "things" can't. So that's no option either.

So I'm starting to wonder, can you avoid burnout the way that you diet? Or I mean, the way I diet? I don't give up any one particular food (well, red meat, yes, but that's for different reasons), I just eat less of everything. Is it possible then to just back off a little on everything and have a net gain in available brain matter? The thinking goes that if you pay attention to everything just a little less, you avoid burnout.

I know this is some goofy psychological or philosophical bullshit, but still. I've burned out before, I've watched it happen to people I'm close to, and I can see it in my future again too. It starts when you start to feel overwhelmed, but you can't really pin it down to one specific thing. I feel a lot of happiness right now, and I'd like to maintain that for as long as possible.

What do you do to avoid burnout?


Comments

Joe, July 31, 2007, 8:19 PM #

I've taken days off to sleep and do absolutely nothing, and that's worked for me on occasion. I've booked myself a CP trip (only 2nd of the year, 3rd park trip all year) to help liven me up.

Travel, or at least driving the open road, really helps me find some clarity and rejuvenation. Sometimes all it takes is the right conversation.

I'm bordering burnout on a few different levels, so I totally understand the vibe right now. I may have to just get a bottle of tequila, jump in the hot tub, and take like a week off.

Yeah.

Neuski, July 31, 2007, 8:38 PM #

When I'm burnt I definitely not in the mood to burn money on a trip.

Catherine, July 31, 2007, 10:17 PM #

I think burnout for you, Jeff, is a particularly difficult situation especially when it comes to dieting. Even though you know I am not happy with the amount of whole, natural foods you eat (that would be - none) that's not what this is about. If you limit your variety so much ANYWAYS, then that is a sure fire way to end up burning out with anything. My mom and I have been trying new recipes every week and that has really been helping with avoiding burnout. Take last week - banana bread (you don't like bananas) and a fantastic summer salad (you don't like greens). This week it's eggplant parmesan (you don't like veggies). A few weeks ago we made an amazing orange chicken, you would have liked that, but my point here is that try a little variety and that might help with the burnout. It's a wonder to me that you can lose weight at all with your dietary restrications, so I say go ON with your bad self!

Jeff, July 31, 2007, 10:50 PM #

I don't really think it's fair to say that I don't eat any natural or whole foods. That's not even remotely true. I'm not burned out on dieting, I was making a comparison to reducing stuff you deal with the way you reduce calories.

Carrie, August 1, 2007, 12:12 AM #

Cath, easy there, kiddo. Between this and your post on The Changing Me, what is intended as support is coming off to me as criticism. Sounds like you are listing your perception of Jeff's faults. :)

Neuski, August 1, 2007, 1:13 AM #

I agree.

Catherine, August 1, 2007, 1:13 AM #

"So I'm starting to wonder, can you avoid burnout the way that you diet? Or I mean, the way I diet? I don't give up any one particular food (well, red meat, yes, but that's for different reasons), I just eat less of everything. Is it possible then to just back off a little on everything and have a net gain in available brain matter? The thinking goes that if you pay attention to everything just a little less, you avoid burnout."

I was responding to that paragraph. I should have made that more clear, sorry. I cannot think of one whole food that you eat. Can you enlighten me?

CPLady, August 1, 2007, 2:28 PM #

I think of "burnout" as in a depletion of internal "energy". Therefore, in order to not burn out, you must have ways of replenishing that internal energy.

Since, as you pointed out, you can't always cut back on things that tend to bring on burnout, then you have to focus on getting more of the things that re-energize you.

What works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for another (just like dieting). And, just like dieting, sometimes you need to have a full blown pig out now and then before you get back to the grind.

Figure out what works best for you to "re-energize" yourself. It could be a day off work to spend time alone doing whatever you want to do. It could be spending time with a person who lifts your spirits. It could be a good book, good music and a soak in the hot tub with a glass of wine.

You can do it in small increments, or one huge pig out. Just so long as you replenish what you are losing.

Jeff, August 1, 2007, 2:51 PM #

Very wise. And you managed to nail down most of replenishment activities in one sentence. :)


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