5 October 2018

Let's Talk About Burnout.

Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout

It's a scary word: burnout. This word describes the state of your body and mind when you're completely exhausted on all levels. It's emotional, physical, and mental effects are scary - trust me, I now know. Burnout happens when you're overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to carry on with the tasks you're doing - be this work or home related.

I like to be a busy bee, and I'm guilty of glorifying 'busyness'. I work my ass off on my business which I love; look after a house; look after my two naughty boys at home (in case you're wondering, no kids for me - but my fur babies are real terrors); and support those around me in every way I can. I like being busy, I like telling people how busy I am and how much I have going on. I down way too many coffees a day, and vent to my best friend at the end of a long day over a glass of wine, comparing notes on who's life is more insane. And I know I'm not the only one who does this - most of us are guilty of glorifying a mad schedule and busyness.

The trouble is just like the technology I work with every day, we all have batteries that need recharging. More than that, we need human support and interaction - especially those of us who work at home and hardly ever get to breathe fresh air during the daytime through the curtains of home offices, sofas, or kitchen tables. And it's not just the daytime - I have been known to sit and work on projects from 8am in the morning until 3am at night. That's the hustle, right?

Wrong. I recently experience what burnout really means. I thought I had it before and just ploughed on through because who really knows what burnout is? Feeling a little tired and under the weather? Feeling a little overwhelmed and overworked? I can tell you now that burnout is a physical problem that effects us on so many levels which you cannot even imagine.

Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
what I'm wearing: wool trousers, top, wool gillet, headscarf all Zara // bag TKMaxx // necklace H&M

It all started by my feeling more down that usual - it's been a hard year and I felt very lonely (joys of sharing my life with my fiancé's first love: his job in the military) so I didn't think much of my moods and periods of feeling low more often that usual. I put the blame down to loneliness and thought like I have been dealing with it for 5 years, I'll carry on dealing with it now. Quickly these moods spiralled out of control - I didn't take pleasure in doing anything I loved anymore, I couldn't remember the last time I felt truly happy, I didn't want to go out and see my friends or family, I didn't want to be around people. So I locked myself in my home office and worked long and hard hours, trying to put this in the back of my mind. The problem is, when you feel shit it takes you twice as long to produce good content which is why I was working double time as I knew I wanted the best content for my clients in the time they agreed to pay me for.

I kept taking on new projects, thinking and knowing I don't know how to fit these in, but a couple of weekend shifts and late nights couldn't hurt, right? Alongside my studio work, I was doing super exciting things like appearing on the BBC South, meeting with some of my favourite brands, planning exciting things for Dalry Rose Digital and my blog. I was hoping my low moods would disappear and this streak would be over.

Then I noticed my body started acting up: from migraines to missed and late periods, stomach pains out of nowhere, nausea, tiredness, and severe aches and pains all over my body - something was wrong. The thing is, I kept using 'busy' as an excuse - "I'm too busy to go to the doctor"; "I can't stop because I'm too busy". So like the donkey that I am, I ploughed on through hoping and wishing everything would be OK and I would feel better again.

Then came the tears. I would wake up in the morning and I would cry for hours. I would spend my day feeling depressed and in pain, not taking any joys in my life. Somehow the day would go by, I focussed on my work, and then I would spend my evenings crying. One day I came home from a great and very exciting client meeting and the feeling of overwhelm hit me like it does every day - I collapsed on my bed, made a blanket burrito and sobbed so loud that my fiancé heard me and came in asking what on earth has happened. I couldn't talk to anyone about it because: a) I have NOTHING to be depressed about in my life and I'm truly grateful for everything that I have and everyday; b) I didn't know how to explain what I was feeling; c) the subtle hints I was dropping to people to say I'm not OK were being ignored (perks of being a day to day drama queen - it's the typical story of the boy or in this case girl who cried wolf. Shit, I really need to stop throwing hissy fits when I can't find an outfit to wear for dinner...) so what could I do? How could I communicate how I was feeling, especially when people started to get angry with me for the way I felt? All I could do is quietly carry on burning out and letting that light that shines within me fade away.

It was a Sunday morning when the burnout hit me hard. I spent the previous week in excruciating pain, a horrible mental state, and now on top of everything, I couldn't hear out of my right ear. I still had work to do, a house to clean, animals to tend to, family and friends to visit - and thinking about all of this caused a panic attack - so I spent the morning walking around trying to juggle my chores and work whilst sobbing my eyes out and hyperventilating. Now as I'm telling you guys this I realise how sick and not normal that was - but imagine how I felt at the time. It took my mum and fiancé to sit me to and do what I call a 'mini intervention' where they effectively ganged up on me to tell me they were both worried and I needed to change things. I listened, I was defensive because I had it all under control (right?) and I didn't need people getting all up in my face about how much I should be doing because I can handle it. The more they talked, the more I understood that I was digging myself an early grave. It's not only my emotions that were affected, but my actual health. My body was giving up on me because it couldn't cope with the amount of pressure I put on it. I was trying to have the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect body - everything at the same time, whilst doing it all alone. Anyone who has managed this, e-mail me to tell me what you're taking and how I can get hold of it. joke.

They convinced me to start small, like shutting down my laptop on the Sunday and going to grab lunch at a local food festival. I reluctantly agreed under one condition: whilst there's we'll take some photos for a fashion brand I was working with. Again, seriously Lana?

Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout

I actually had fun at the food festival and enjoyed some delicious street food, had a chance to be away from the computer screen and catch up with my fiancé. We mooched around for a while, and then on our way back found a location for my fashion brand collaboration photos.

When I got home, I felt like I could take a small breath - but I also understood I had a big journey ahead of me to fix things. I need to focus on my health and sanity, I need to recharge my batteries because who on earth can pour from an empty cup? And I need to fix my health and put that as a priority because if I'm in bed for a week with migraines, body pains and earaches there isn't a second me who can work and pay my bills.

So if you feel like any of this is relatable to how you're feeling, or just want to avoid the white frankly dangerous burnout, I have my top tips / promises to myself to ensure I live a balanced and healthy life.

Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout
Hampshire bloggers, fashion blog, UK fashion blog, tips on how to manage burnout

Tips For Avoiding Burnout:

1. Set strict rules for yourself when at work. I work Monday to Friday, 8AM-5PM. It says so on my email signature and I tell my clients those are my working hours. But what is so easy to do is when you're getting texts or Facebook messages from clients at 9PM on a Saturday is to reply - but then you set a standard and expectation that you're available 24hrs a day. From now on, I am sticking to my schedule - and it's cool if I get messages out of working hours, but my out of office message will appear not just on my emails but also on my social media channels and any automated messages so I can switch off with peace of mind that no one is waiting on me.

2. Take regular breaks for yourself. I feel guilty taking breaks because there are lots of things to do during the day - I spend my lunchtimes doing laundry or cleaning rooms instead of sitting back and enjoying food and that's not OK. By taking regular breaks you will end up being more productive throughout the day - I remember my favourite part of working from home was that I could take a half an hour nap at lunchtime in-between client projects and I was so productive after that! So my nap times are coming back, most definitely.

3. Seek help if you feel like you're burning out. I left it too late guys, I was 'too busy' to go to the doctors to prevent burnout so instead I had to go to the hospital for treatment of burnout instead. If you feel like something is not OK, go and see your GP straight away and talk to them. I've been on the receiving end of GPs who simply want to conveyor belt you out of their room, but be persistent with them in seeking help.
If you run your own business and have got to the stage where there is enough work for two people to handle, then get an assistant. I've been thinking about this for a long time and should have done this a while ago, but it's a completely new territory for me so I've been putting it off. However I'm so excited to grow the business and let someone help me so I can focus on serving my clients even better from the creative direction.

4. Go outdoors. I used to take my dog to the woods for a long walk every single day but thanks to my mental and physical exhaustion I now take him for shorter walks. I'm brining back long walks regardless of how I feel because I know they will help me feel better in the end. Fresh air and exercise is a combo to help your brain and body relax - plus I always get fantastic ideas out on walks!

5. Set yourself realistic goals. There are literally only 24hrs in a day so what can you achieve work wise in the time you are given to work? What can you achieve at home? Remember you also need to take time for yourself - be it a bubble bath, a nap, or an evening out these are important. So set yourself realistic daily goals to hit and don't feel guilty if you haven't managed it - sometimes it's an achievement to simply get up and get dressed. Reward yourself and love yourself - just think if you wouldn't talk to your best friend like you talk to yourself then don't; and if you would encourage her/him that they're killing it, do the same for yourself.

I know it's cliche but self-care is so important. I knew this for a long time and have even been giving you guys tips on how to look after yourself, but I put way too much pressure on myself in the last 6 months that I burned out. Like I said, I know I'm not going to be back to myself overnight not just because it's going to take time to recharge but also because my body has gone through some traumas which need treatment and healing, but I can't wait to get back to my normal happy self with bags of energy, creativity, and motivation.

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