Fighting Burnout Without Going Broke

Hi, my name is Kristine and I burnout like a candle if I don’t get ample downtime on a regular basis. Preferably alone or with the few people I trust to relax properly around.

These are interesting times. Automation is taking over more and more tasks in the workforce. But instead of giving us more free time, people are working more, feeling the need to be available after working hours, on the weekend and even on holidays. It is something those still in the early stages of their career are especially prone to. We need to prove ourselves, and many bosses come to expect it. Or maybe you need to work two jobs to make ends meet, never really giving you the chance to destress and unwind.

And especially millennials are experiencing burnout like so many candles, at a rate we have never seen before.

It is such a toxic scene, we have even given birth to the wellness and self-care industry. An industry trying to tell us that we’ll feel better if we shell out hundreds of dollars to do yoga in this fancy studio, or that we absolutely need to get scented candles and fizzy bath bombs to enjoy that “spa feeling” in our own home.

Well baloney to that. I’m here to tell you how you can catch a breath in an otherwise hectic life, without going broke doing it.

Identifying burnout

Burnout is not “just stress” or being overloaded at work. Some people can find a heavy workload rewarding, especially if they feel like they are working for a good cause or towards something bigger than themselves. Burnout can be working 9-5 and then immediately being bombarded with questions from two young children as soon as you step a foot in the door and until you go to bed at night.

Burnout can be the feeling of always being behind, of feeling guilty for sitting down because you should’ve finished that report, or cleaned the kitchen, or mustered the energy to hustle for a few hours before bed. It can be piling too many appointments on your calendar, even activities that are supposed to help to you relax and unwind.

I’ve seen some people floating around that after 40 hours at work. Add 10 for commuting/getting up, etc, at least another 10 for cooking, and 8 hours of sleep every night, you are left with a whole 52 hours in your week! Imagine how much you could do with that if you focused!

It’s an attitude I can’t believe isn’t receiving more push-back than it is. How obnoxiously toxic and harmful. One thing is to knit or sew absentmindedly in front of the telly or radio, but to stay focused and keep my mind active and engaged every waking hour?

I know I can’t do it, and you shouldn’t have to either. We are not robots. It is nothing to feel guilty about.

Let go of the guilt

This is something that gets easier with practice. I promise.

So what if the house isn’t spotless every week? Who is it hurting? So what if your colleagues go out for happy hour every Friday? That doesn’t mean you have to join every time, or at all, if you’re not feeling it. So what if you didn’t manage to work 10 hours this week on that sidehustle?

In the beginning, you might feel frustrated about stepping back. You might feel like your progress is becoming glacially slow. But if you can’t remember the last time you spent an evening just reading a book or watching a show that you like without feeling like you should be doing something else – then it might be time to take a breather.

Progress is still progress, but you won’t get anywhere if you hit a wall and can’t do anything for months.

Practice saying no at work

If you are overloaded at work, you might have to learn to say no. This is obviously not an easy task, and depending on how understanding your boss is, it might be downright impossible. But for many, this is possible.

Guard your schedule like a dog. Avoid the time-wasters, but most importantly, speak up when your schedule is full. How is a whole blog in itself, and luckily there already is one. Alison over at Ask a Manager is a star when it comes to giving examples and providing neutral, non-accusing language which can help you make a stand without giving the impression of arguing or not being a “team player”.

Again, it won’t work with all bosses, but you certainly stand a chance with a lot of them.

… and at home

Every year I studied at university, I would get a bout of depression/burnout every late winter or early spring, like clockwork. Back in those days, most of my self-worth was tied up to being useful, and I saw studying science as one day becoming useful to society.

While this is another harmful attitude. It did show me how clinging to the straw of what gives you self-worth can get you through a lot of things.

While I was depressed, I would stop doing anything that was not essential to my vital functions or self-worth. I stopped seeing friends, I stopped exercising and I largely stayed at home. But I didn’t stop going to classes or turn in my assignments at university.

In a part of my mind, I knew with fierce conviction that if I dropped out of university I would loose the one straw that was keeping me afloat. My depression would get even worse and knowing me, I might even attempt suicide. So like a person staying with the pain they know, rather than the pain they do not know, I clung to my education like a drowning sailor.

It was not healthy, and in retrospect, I should’ve seen the writing on the wall. But after a few months I would always resurface again. I learned the valuable skill of throwing aside anything not related to my immediate survival. Of course, this meant that I managed to stay at work, which slowed my recovery from the burnout. But I still survived, and I survived without loosing my job/scholarship/home.

If you don’t listen to your body, your body will hijack the controls at some point.

You are allowed to say no. And you are allowed to take a break.

The paraphernalia doesn’t make it self-care

I know, I know. The marketing industry would like us to think that you really need that lavender candle to properly unwind. But that is a load of rubbish.

If a lavender candle gives you joy equal to the money you paid for it? Go ahead and throw money at that stuff. But if you feel that you have to have a candle, a cup of tea/cocoa and a certain kind of book? Girl, your brain has been hacked by advertising.

I know “hygge” has been turned into this million dollar industry overseas, but take this from a Scandinavian who grew up with the concept before it became a thing. Hygge is not candles or woolen socks or “the right” kind of cup or matching blankets or expensive chocolate.

It can be all of those things, but it doesn’t have to be. And it is certainly not necessary.

Hygge can be curling up on the couch with my husband and sharing a blanket. The blanket doesn’t match our couch, but it is soft and warm so we do not care. Hygge can be taking the time to read (a library book) for an hour before bed with your legs curled under you.

Hygge is taking the time to be right here, right now. The way I grew up, hygge is self-care at its finest. And you always used things you had in your house already. Hygge fights burnout because you take the time in an hectic schedule do just be, forgetting the todo-list for a few precious moments.

Hygge is being present.

You will get there

Patience is a time honored virtue, and not without reason. Lately, I have spent a lot of time reading silly romance books because I find it relaxing. I have been reveling in the literature that is considered “low brow” (could it be because authors and readers both tend to be female, and tend to female wish-fulfillment, hmmm?) in the evenings after work, and it has been lovely.

Yes, I could’ve spend the evenings forcing myself to stare at my screen and try to come up with my next blog post or another Etsy listing. But I find that if I have spent all day at work in front of a screen, I am not eager to get home to spend even more time in front of another flashing liquid crystal display.

I am terribly lucky and privileged, of course. My whole reason of going to work is in order to give my husband the peace of mind to establish his writing business. I have someone who is already working his butt off to establish his sidehustle, so that all I really need to focus on is covering our expenses.

I still enjoy writing this blog and hustling a bit when I want to, but it is not an activity that I feel forced to do, or one that is vitally important to my financial stability. I know that makes me exceptionally lucky, but I do think more of us could probably benefit from taking a step back and taking a deep breath. Even small progress is still progress. And if you only have the energy to work on your sidehustles on your days off, that is all right.

You don’t even have to work on your sidehustle every time you have a day off. You are allowed to take a break.

Share your tips!

What are your best tool and tips for inexpensive self-care and fighting that ever-present threat of burnout? Do you have a fail-safe that never fails to help you relax, or do you like to change it up?

6 Comments on “Fighting Burnout Without Going Broke

  1. First off, nobody bugs me for the first 8 minutes I walk in the door from work, mail sorted, clothes changed, come back downstairs, OK now what do you want to tell me.

    Next I take a hot bath, in the dark, most nights, after the first ten minutes or so, I bang on the wall and my youngest son comes up to tub with daddy, nice bonding after I get some nice me time.

    Last, and weirdest. I go to the closet(walk in) and meditate on the Runes about twice a week at my little altar. Does wonders to reset myself.

    • Those sound like some pretty awesome self-care routines, and definitely helps fight against burnout!

  2. I love how much time you spend on how it takes a while practicing before you’re any good at stepping back and saying no. It’s so counter to what we see and hear from all sides that it’s not easy to make a change, but it certainly gets easier with time.

    • I am glad I got that through. I think it is ridiculous to expect anyone to change ingrained habits in the blink of an eye. That’s not how we work!

  3. “Hygge can be curling up on the couch with my husband and sharing a blanket. The blanket doesn’t match our couch, but it is soft and warm so we do not care.” this bit made me laugh. I see a lot of myself in you. Nothing in our home matches anything else but that’s so, so, not important. I’m always skeptical of “new” trends like hygge where “the industry” takes something that’s been around for ages and turns it into a new trend that you suddenly need loads of stuff for. The best things in life don’t require you to go out and buy a tonne of stuff before you get started. That’s what I like about the Marie Kondo book I’m reading at the moment – she actively tells you not to go out and buy a tonne of stuff, but instead to use what you already have lying around your house.

    • Exactly! We’ve been doing it for years and suddenly it’s the big “IT” thing to do? I’m not buying it, literally or figuratively. 😉

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