Yesterday was World Mental Health Awareness Day. As I've previously quipped it really should be a year-round effort, as it has a tendancy to affect all of us at several points in our lives - and I'm pretty sure we all know someone who, right now, could do with a bit of being understood.
I wanted to just jot my thoughts on how I got into a burnout - and how I've dealt with depressive nosedives and burnout bouts.
If you're feeling continually overwhelmed or persistently tired, it's a possible sign of burnout. Been there, done that myself...
For me, it happened whilst I was still trying to build my career in tech. I was doing the day job in tech, managing servers and writing deployment code, and in the evening I was writing Minetest mods and managing game servers.
I took a week-long holiday at one point to do three projects - introductories to Angular.js, Vue.js, and Android SDK development.
I went to tech meetups, ran a tech meetup, and more.
There is only so much a person can do before they have no energy left.
Burnout shares some things in common with depression, one of which is the sheer overwhelmingness of mundane, everyday life: things you enjoyed become a chore; things you were good at become difficult or even insurmountable; you wish someone else would go to the fridge for you (seriously.)
If anything is starting to feel difficult where it shouldn't be, keep an eye on yourself. Make sure work breaks happen away from screens. Be selective about social engagements.
I manage now to recognise when I've overloaded myself, and make a point of offloading things. If it's for organising events and people, I take notes, set up calls/prep emails and hand the knowledge over to someone else. I still answer questions, but I become a background contributor.
If it's my own projects, I re-asses to see what I truly want to do, and what was taken on "just for funsies."
And then I spend time on me.
For me, burnout is as much about "trying too hard to do too much" as "expecting too much of myself."
What you choose to do will vary on your comfort level and where you're at. There's no sure-fire solution - just suggestions for actions which you can pick and choose for yourself.
- Talk to a close friend - someone who knows you and who can empathise with you
- Talk to someone you barely know - someone (kind) who can just listen to you without judgement. You'll rarely ever cross paths again
- Talk to your pet - it loves you, always
- Talk to a rubber duck - it never judges
- Talk to a fictional character. A kind one, preferably. Gandalf, perhaps.
Take time out
- do housework to a "that'll do" state - something you can get quick, small wins in, especially if things have piled up
- go on a walk - get outside, do something different
- hide under the duvet - with books/video games/series binge/your favorite indoor solo activity
- write - or paint or doodle. Draw the perfect square, with the perfect shading. Throw it away afterwards.
- dance - move and flail and sweat. Be the unequivocable star of your own show.
- meditate - be still, seek peace in quietude. Tune the world out.
- do a crafts project - make some simple food, do some sewing, paint a chair... something you can do whilst your mind wanders into a podcast...
- reserve a karaoke booth for just yourself, and scream into the void - whatever works for you
What I'm pretty sure is most important is that whatever you choose to do, you should do it with the minimum amount of expectations possible - from others, and from yourself. Social engagements are expectations. Goals are expectations. Normative standards are expectations. Instruction manuals tell you off.
Give yourself a space and an activity that has no expectations for success or completion, no lower bar to call "failure."
And when you've done it, know that you've done it for you.