Last year, I went through something I wasn’t ready to talk about until just a few days ago. My decision to address it publicly came to me all at once, from the least-likely source. I was at home, scrolling through Twitter when I saw a New York Times article that felt like a punch in the gut. The title itself wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, but I had a visceral reaction to the article, which described symptoms including feeling drained at work, uninspired, and in “a funk.” It was describing burnout.
Shortly after celebrating the Ten Year Anniversary of cupcakes and cashmere last year, I felt really depleted. I wouldn’t go so far as to label it as depressed or anxious, but I was simply overwhelmed. Leading up to the party, I’d felt a bit reluctant about celebrating the milestone. I recognized the importance but felt uneasy about being the center of attention and placing so much emphasis on my accomplishments over a decade. It all seemed insurmountable, especially when everyone at the party asked, “What’s next?” It was a natural question, but it left me panic-stricken about how to move forward.
Creating content for a living is one of the greatest joys of my life. It’s a privilege to look forward to work as much as I do every single day. I get to share the smallest moments in my life, like how I make coffee and how I do my nails, to the more meaningful lessons I’ve learned over the past decade. But alongside the good comes a tremendous amount of pressure to continue creating inspiring content. I hadn’t realized the weight of that pressure until last year.
For a while, I kept these feelings to myself, soldiering through my feelings until I realized I couldn’t carry them on my own. I remember exactly where I was when I confessed to Geoffrey how overwhelmed I felt. We were sitting in our living room, and I felt so incapable of moving forward on a small work project, I broke down. I never felt depressed, but instead had a desire to disappear from my life for a while. I imagined driving off in the distance with zero plans or expectations from anyone. As soon as I admitted it, I expected to feel worse, like I’d failed as a business owner and a mother, but the opposite happened. As soon as I admitted it out-loud, to myself and G, I felt an enormous relief, like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized I had to take a step back and reevaluate what’s important to me.
A lot has changed since I launched this blog in G’s apartment, writing five articles a week. I didn’t think about work on the weekends or document my mornings within minutes of waking up. There was a clear separation between personal life and work. These days, my job is almost unrecognizable, due in part to hard work and growth but also to social media. Now, I feel a responsibility to document so much more of my life. Most of the time, I love it. I love the personal connections Instagram allows me to make with readers, and sharing parts of my life that can’t be captured in a blog post. But it can also feel overwhelming. Prior to saying it out loud, I hadn’t fully realized that being “on” all the time was at the core of my burnout.
In the past year, I’ve realized I need to make clearer distinctions between “work” and “life,” especially when my personal life is so intertwined with my business. It’s not something I can shut off completely, but I know now that I need to touch-base with myself and how I’m feeling before I record or post anything. Instead of pushing my feelings aside and trudging on, I pull back. I give myself the permission I need to not post for a few days (or even a few hours). At first, I thought pulling back would feel so foreign and anxiety-inducing, but it’s the best gift I could give myself. I’m able to stay in the moment, and only post when I truly want to so that I’m never putting on a fake front and am able to experience the full breadth of joy my job provides me with. Here are some of the small steps I’ve implemented in my own life to avoid burnout:
1. Don’t ignore the small warning signs. The clearest sign I’m approaching burnout again is when I feel overwhelmed by even simple tasks. Whether you feel intimidated by small tasks or just aren’t feeling joy in things you used to love, pay attention and make changes whenever possible. For me, I found there was a direct correlation between screentime and how I felt about myself. Fortunately, there was a lot of room for improvement. I put my phone down to avoid mindlessly picking it up, or go for a walk without it now.
2. Talk to a friend or therapist about how you’re feeling. Open communication is an integral part of tackling emotional mountains, whether you feel depressed, anxious, or burnt-out. When you share your feelings with someone, you realize you have a system of love and support, and no longer feel alone. I also remember feeling so much shame and guilt about my lack of motivation: I have such an incredible job (I hesitate to even call it a “dream job” because I wouldn’t have been able to conjure it in even my wildest dreams) that I felt guilty when I didn’t feel 100% about it. But opening up about your shame makes you realize you’ve done nothing wrong, and that there are steps you can take to improve your mood.
3. Pay attention to your basics. Last year, our team shared our tips for what we do when we’re feeling “blah.” I’ve realized that my mood is really impacted by my basics-I’m careful to make sure I’m exercising semi-regularly, sleeping, eating well, and spending time with people I love. Even having a good cry can feel cathartic. Don’t let those practical basics slip.
It’s been over a year since I felt those gut-wrenching feelings of burnout. Today, I’m a different person. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t need to guilt-trip myself for feeling under-motivated or overwhelmed. Instead, I embrace the support of friends and family, and take the steps towards never feeling that way again.
I’d love to hear: Have you ever experienced burnout? How have you combatted it? x