I have been actively avoiding burnout for about 30 years.
From straight A grades in high school, finishing a college degree in three years, followed by an extremely demanding job, three kids, career change, and business purchase, I have managed to continuously plow forward.
Without pausing for a break and pursuing one extreme demand after another, I have been able to skirt burnout by keeping my head down.
The pandemic changed the dynamic.
The week before the pandemic started:
I worked 65 hours.
I drove 18 hours getting kids to and from activities.
I used 9 hours to complete freelance assignments.
I spent 8 hours attending kid activities.
I devoted 7 hours to studying for a professional exam.
These activities accounted for 107 hours out of a week composed of 168 hours. That’s over 63% of my time accounted for.
And this was a typical week, not an outlier.
Note that these times do not include time for eating meals (let alone preparing them), sleeping, paying bills, or other things required for general existence.
Pre-pandemic life was hard, but it didn’t feel unmanageable (most days). I had been keeping up this pace for most of my life.
But starting in mid-March when all of the extraneous activities were suddenly stopped and life slowed down to a crawl, I realized that I was exhausted.
I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
Early on I reveled in the opportunity to spend time with my kids, make home-cooked meals, and achieve my lifelong dream of learning to juggle.
I joined in the standard pandemic activities: I worked more, I made bread, and I did puzzles.
Those things lasted for the first few minutes and allowed me to keep up a breakneck mental pace.
Then I stopped. I started binge-watching Netflix. I stopped baking bread. I acknowledged that my pace was unsustainable.
As the months have dragged on and life still shows very little signs of returning to normal, I’m trying to get moving again.
I’ve signed up for classes that I do not complete.
I’ve registered for fitness programs that I barely begin.
I can’t make it through binge-watching sessions without multitasking on my phone.
I’m burned out. I probably have been for a long time, but I’m not sure how to get started again.
I’ve never taken time to stop and evaluate where I’m at before, and I probably should have.
For now, I’m focusing on the little victories.
And I think I’ll make some bread today.