Burnout as a concept didn’t seem to exist until recent years, certainly as a word it only came on to
my radar in my late 20’s. In the wake of millennial, multi-faceted careers, the steep rise of social
media and the inevitable worship placed on busy-ness, tiredness, and juggling, so was born Burnout.
In another decade this was probably called exhaustion but Burnout goes a little deeper than
physically tired, it’s an emotional draining, an unsurmountable wall of pressure that we have built
for ourselves and now cannot face. It is the loss of all motivation. It is the big black demon of 21st
Century living, the one thing we all try desperately to avoid, and yet continue to make decisions that
land it in our paths. It is chronic and prolonged stress. It is not fun.
So, how might you avoid burnout? The theory is simple, implementing it is slightly harder. Google
Burnout online and you’ll find a whole hitlist of things you can do, eat better, socialise more, move
away from negativity, get enough sleep, take a digital detox, and don’t forget to exercise, everything
we’ve all heard a hundred times before and yet so often feels like just another long list of things to
add on to our already impossibly long list of things to do. Which is why my advice today quite simply,
Learn the word no and install some boundaries.
This might seem rather obvious, but it also seems to go against our current social programming, in a
world where are encouraged to always say yes, to do more, achieve more and be the best business
owner, employee, friend, partner, parent that we know how to be and YES all at the same time. Yes
has become a golden ticket to contemporary heroism. Stress, crazy schedules and fatigue are worn
like badges of honour. In fact a lot of the time it’s not just about being the best we can be, but often
also about being a version of ourselves that other people deem aspirational (hello social media). So
here we go, in a world of YES, I dare you to say no.
Boundaries is probably the biggest most useful tool I’ve discovered on my avoiding burnout detour.
We hear it time and time again, but it’s oh so true. You can not do it all, and the bit they keep
missing from that sentence, you SHOULDN’T do it all either! We live in a world where we are quite
literally bombarded with information from the moment we awake until we rest our heads back on
the pillow, from Twitter and Instagram, to the news, endless TV channels and people. There isn’t a
lot of space for solitude in the western existence, our access is simply excessive and enduring. Our
brains are buzzing with other peoples’ lives, we know what they had for breakfast, what trainers
they are wearing, how well the kids did in the school down the road, from global news to
neighbourhood gossip, there’s not a lot we don’t observe each day and we need to switch it off, or
at the very least become aware enough to dial it back.
Discipline is needed but quite simply to avoid burnout you have to turn away from what has become
the cultural norm. Don’t spend the first half hour of your day on Instagram scrolling. Don’t go
running if you are tired just because Susan next door is doing her 4th half marathon, don’t rearrange
your week to help out your friend if it makes it impossible for you to get your ironing done before
work on Monday. You do not become a bad person if you say NO.
Work out what serves you. Exercise to create space for yourself, but don’t do it in competition with
others, realise what decision are led by ego, and which are actually for YOUR benefit. Make sure
your decisions come from a place of love for your sanity and your life and wellbeing rather than
choosing from a place of fear, fear of missing out, of not being enough, or how other people will see
Somewhere along the road selfish became a dirty word, I’m here to remind you that no one will love
you quite like you love you, you have to look after number one to be able to, frankly, be any use to
the rest of your world.
I thought when I started writing this blog that I’d be handing out the usual tick list, do more yoga,
learn to meditate, eat well, make space for stillness but actually it is just one little word. It’s learning
that balance is a myth, that peace will not be found when you just learn to spin all those plates in
perfect synchronicity. It will be found when you spin less plates, or better yet don’t spin any and just
move purposefully from one thing to the next, giving your focus and attention to one thing at a time
Say yes only to the things that truly bring you joy, be particular and focused and whatever you do,
remember no one is getting it all right. The competition we’ve created for ourselves isn’t one of
compulsory participation, we can use it to motivate the best from ourselves but we can also walk
away, whenever we need to, and the world will keep turning and our lives will all get a little bit
easier with a little more “no”.