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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Burnout


Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I'm a person who likes to stay busy. I homeschool my six children, cook a lot from scratch, run a home-based business, write, grow food and animals, volunteer and generally just DO too much. Sometimes I need to take a conscious step back. I'm sure it's true for a lot of us that too many simple things can create a complicated life!

As described by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her bestseller, Simple Abundance… “It’s burnout when you go to bed exhausted every night and wake up tired every morning – when no amount of sleep refreshes you, month after weary month. It’s burnout when everything becomes too much effort: combing your hair, going out to dinner, visiting friends for the weekend, even going on vacation. It’s burnout when you find yourself cranky all the time, bursting into tears or going into fits of rage at the slightest provocation. It’s burnout when you dread the next phone call. It’s burnout when you feel trapped and hopeless, unable to dream, experience pleasure, or find contentment. It’s burnout when neither the big thrills nor the little moments have the power to move you – when nothing satisfies you because you haven’t a clue what’s wrong or how to fix it. Because everything’s wrong. Because something’s terribly out of whack: you.”

For me, it’s simple living burnout when take-away, or packaged food, or not recycling, or buying something rather than making it all seem like better options. When it’s not fun any more. When we are no longer excited by our journey… If you feel like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your simple living route has come to its end, but perhaps it’s time to change your habits, your plans, or your environment. Or perhaps take a break from routine and get back to basics (and ‘basics’ will mean different things to each person.)

Despite much preparation and forethought, there are some moments when I lose sight of our reasons for choosing this lifestyle for our family, and just crave a bit of so-called normality, some time on my own, and a nap! At times I have a few doubts about my commitment to living simply, and begin to wonder whether or not mainstream alternatives are so terrible after all… Then as soon as things run smoothly, I find joy in the cream turning into butter or the first blossoms on the stone fruit trees, or the perfect white egg warm in my hand.

Remaining focused can be a matter of re-reading your favourite self-sufficiency books. Sometimes I will steal an hour to read and pore over photos of chooks, trees and fences - to daydream and plan and be grateful and proud of our achievements. A few moments remembering our goals and taking stock can be enough to refuel the fire.

It’s worth taking steps to avoid burnout even if it seems like it couldn’t happen to you. Your children, partner, plants, animals, friends, colleagues and family all need you to be as healthy and contented as possible. I’m reminded of Covey’s idea of “sharpening the saw”. Taking the time to sharpen your saw will assist you in getting through the tough times – in our family it is illness, too little time at home or financial pressures – for you it may be something entirely different. It might even be the build up of many things that bother you. And if you’ve no time for the garden, unread books on the bedside table, a fitness regime abandoned, yoga classes have gone by the wayside or [fill in your own unfulfilled needs] then your saw will be dull. Eat well, exercise and don’t take on more than you can cope with. Take time for you…

I’ve always been an advocate in remaining as organised as one feels comfortable with. For me that includes the whole plethora of organisational tools – a diary, a calendar, homeschooling plans, menus, lists for household chores, shopping and errands. Along the way I've had to learn to delegate by encouraging our children to do their chores and help me with other work. Sharing jobs around the home makes more sense than having one person responsible for most of the work. At one stage I had to take delegating a bit further and use paid help. For some reason it still seems a bit luxurious, but at that time of our lives it was the perfect option for staying afloat in the midst of chaos.

Simple living folk are contenders for burnout due not only to the workload we take on compared to many other households, but the isolation we often find ourselves in – with no one to bounce ideas off, have a whinge to or share resources with… We soldier on because we’re meant to - it was our idea to do all this! After deciding to undertake something ourselves – despite often facing a lot of negative response from family, friends, institutions and sometimes even our partners – we can feel that we must not ask for help in order to save face. Do you find yourself in this situation? Are you afraid to ask for assistance when you need it because you feel as though others will think you’ve brought all your woes upon yourselves? I am. Though I’m discovering the benefits of accepting offers of help, and being realistic about how much I can comfortably manage alone. The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” springs to mind. I think it takes more than one person to run a household or keep a property too. Sharing work makes sense.

Another way I find support is by regular contact with others living similar lifestyles. Sometimes this involves going to meetings, but I also enjoy conversations via telephone, letters, e-mail and internet forums. I’m also uplifted by reading others’ stories in books, blogs and magazines.

How do you avoid burnout?

* adapted from a 2002 article written for homeschoolers

References
Simple Abundance
Stephen Covey

18 comments:

Kathie said...

I have nothing to really add, just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post.

The Mom said...

I could have written this post in so many ways. Last fall I got burned out to the point that I no longer recognized myself. It took about 6 months for me to really step back and get myself back. There are still days I struggle with burnout, but I try to take care of it before it builds up.

Catherine said...

Oh! Thank you so much, this is soooo timely for us!! We are also learning to delegate and simplify the hard way... We are both quite burned out, and I totally relate to what you say. Thank you so very much for this great post!

FrugalMaman said...

Thank you for putting into words what I or my husband sometimes feel. In my enthusiasm to simplify our lives, I often take on too much myself. My husband gets burned out from his job as a high school teacher and I try not to ask too much of him when he's stressed - which is often. Luckily he gets a lot of vacation and is home for the summer, which does help with the load My two beautiful boys are 9 months and 3 years and so can offer only limited help. I do get my oldest involved in doing the laundry, cooking, gardening, tidying, grocery shopping. I present the tasks as enjoyable and make it fun, because with the right attitude, I do enjoy these things. I appreciate the reminder that I can give myself permission to take a break from my quest for simplicity. In choosing to do things differently from the "norm", it can require more effort at times to stick to your guns in the midst of constant temptation to do it like everyone else. Living simply on a plot of land in the middle of nowhere is one thing, but doing it smack in the middle of suburbia is another. What I take from your post is that I need to find a local community where I can meet other like-minded people. You're right, it would be wonderful to have others to commiserate with.

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed this post. My biggest problem is the alone factor...not having anyone, to talk to, who is trying to live simply and all that goes with it. I do read alot of blogs and books but its not the same as talking to someone in person or via phone.

Coleen

Jenn said...

For me, the biggest thing is to remember not only that I need downtime, but that it's okay and valuable to take time for myself. I often find myself worrying about what I feel that I should be doing when I'm trying to take some time off, which defeats the purpose, but remembering that I need this time makes it easier to have it which, in turn, allows me to avoid burning out in the long run.

Rhonda Jean said...

A great reminder, Bel. The "me" time is absolutely necessary.

You won one of the Envirosax bags. Can you please send me your postal address. Thanks love.

Sikantis said...

Thanks, it's important to speak about burnout.

Diane said...

I think "simplicity" is a total misnomer. To me, living simply would be having servants to fulfill every need. What you are doing is living "complexly" (ouch), fitting into the complexity of living systems, of ecology. When I stopped buying bread and made my own my life didn't get simpler and when I started maintaining my own yeast culture it got even more complicated. Ditto for gardening, drying laundry outdoors and many other changes. So you should be very proud of juggling so many complexities. What should we call this instead of "living simply"?

renee @ FIMBY said...

How did you read my mind and life right now?? This was one of the most timely post I've read all week.

Anonymous said...

Great post Bel. A place I've been before, good to be reminded that it's ok to tend to me.

cheers Kate

dixiebelle said...

http://eatatdixiebelles.blogspot.com/2009/08/sharpen-your-axe.html

Greentwinsmummy said...

I loved this post. As mama to 4 year old twins,I often mutter holy mo this way of life is h.a.r.d
but its not without reward,the rewards are many & precious.Yet for anyone that thinks its all wafting around in a pretty apron baking & then drifting round the vegetables with a beautiful trug & a soft smile lol are not quite there on the accurte scale.

Having to do out & chop kindling because you yes argg! KNEW it was running out but then got sidetracked with escaping hens,squabbling children & ringing phones when it was light & now its raining heavily & dark as pitch can up the blood pressure a little lol! as can many other things when you cook every meal as I do here,nearly everything I do lol has potential to be complicated!

Its often struck me that its not an 'easy' life. But thats because I am still learning & very slowly more & more becomes second nature,I get quicker at it,need to reference it up less first,the girls get older etc,slowly it feels a bit easier...sometmes.. lol!

I wouldnt have it any other way though & it comforts me that my girls are growing up with these behaviours so it should be all second nature to them when they are older :o)

My way of dealing with a tough day is to count the hours down,sometimes thats the best you can do. Then fall into bed,early as you can & think well that was hard,but its over!

Tomorrow normally is a bit brighter :o)
GTM x

Kez said...

Great post Bel!

Pink Feather Paradise said...

My Fiancee and I are both burned out... and I didn't realise it was a real condition... I am at a stage where I loath going to bed as I know I won't feel any less tired in the morning...

I was sent a book by a lovely bloggy friend of mine its called Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh and it was like someone giving me permission to have some me time.... I have booked 2 weeks at a beach hut and admittedly I will be taking the children but I am also having some days on my own... I am so busy running around making sure everyone else is okay that I tend to overlook my own needs...

thank you for openng my eyes a little further...

x Alex

Anonymous said...

I don't have 6 kids.
ET

Bel said...

Thank you to all of you who said you enjoyed this post!

I hope that those of you who are seeking some like-minded company find it. Try your local community centre, community gardens, co-ops, gardening groups or neighbourhood centre perhaps. My like-minded friends I've met through homeschooling, LETS, Seed Savers and Transition Town meetings.

Rhonda, how exciting about my win! I have contacted you via email.

Diane, good point, in many ways there's nothing simple about all the extra work we're doing! I have no idea what we can call it, because it's living busy, but it's a nice kind of busy - not a commuting, buying, doing, watching, going kind of busy...

Dixiebelle, seems like we're on the same wavelength, thanks for sharing the link to your blog.

Greentwinsmummy, you're right, I think it will be worth it in the long run. I strive for balance with my family too.

Alex, enjoy your days at the beach. What a blessing. :)

L. said...

Love your post. I´m from Portugal and feel so many times like you... In my contry there aren´t many people o "live simple" so it´s a lonely journey. Thank you for your advices. (Sorry my bad english)