You’ve realized you’re doing a job you used to enjoy but you’ve become stressed, overwhelmed and burned out. Regularly hitting the snooze button to squeeze in a few extra minutes of precious sleep, drinking a continuous stream of coffee to get you through the day, and the dreaded Sunday night blues (which precede the Monday morning I don’t wanna’s) are a few telltale signs you’ve noticed. And you begin asking yourself. How the hell did I get here? Where did I take a wrong turn? How could something I used to enjoy have become something I now dread?
When you’ve reached this state of burn out or overwhelm it is partly because you’ve turned yourself off. At some point along the way it gradually happened. It wasn’t a sudden change, which is what makes it so undetectable. Bit by bit, your energy waned and you sacrificed small pieces of yourself. You stopped making time for the other things you love – because you just didn’t have the energy, or the time. And 6 months, a year, maybe even 4 or 5 or 6 years later, you begin to realize that you don’t recognize yourself anymore. You spend most of your free time numbing out and recovering from work because you’re so exhausted. You’ve all but forgotten the things you used to enjoy. And you’ve convinced yourself that a night on the couch with a glass of wine and another episode (or 5) of Nurse Jackie is your “me time”.
It can take a while to realize you’ve gotten to this point. Slowly, over time it sneaks up on you. But once you’ve realized what’s happening, there’s no going back. You know something needs to change because you can’t keep functioning like this.
But how to you turn yourself back on when you’ve been turned off for so long?
You’ve been brushing yourself aside for quite a while and it’s turned into a habit. It’s been so long since you’ve really felt connected to yourself, who you are, what you enjoy, the things you love, that you feel a bit…lost. OK, let’s be honest, maybe A LOT lost.
First thing’s first, forgive yourself. Really. Take time to truly forgive yourself. It can be easy to beat yourself up once you’ve gained some clarity about your situation. How have I let this go on so long? How did I not see this sooner? Please, be gentle and kind to yourself. Now is the perfect time to give yourself a break.
You’re a human being. You’re imperfect. You were striving to work hard and do a great job. Your intentions were in the right place. And now that you’ve realized what’s going on you’re ready to change the situation.
Next, it’s time to take action. Time to get reacquainted with yourself. Find some time to sit down, get comfy and do some thinking. Grab your journal or a pen and paper. It’ll be helpful to jot some notes, ideas and reminders down.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
What relationships and people matter to me?
What activities and experiences get me excited and make me happy?
What inspires me?
What do I want more of in my life? (AKA, what do I want to say “hell yes” to more often?)
What do I want less of in my life? (AKA, what do I want to say “hell no” to more often?)
What do I like to do for fun?
For each question you ask yourself, be sure to follow it up with “why”. The answers to why are the keys to freeing yourself, rediscovering who you are and reconnecting with the you that you’ve been missing.
Having trouble answering these questions? Enlist the help of your partner, spouse, friends and family. Ask them to help you remember if you’re struggling. It’s entirely possible they’ve noticed a difference in you lately and they’ll be excited to help support you.
So now that you’ve taken the time to refresh your memory and reconnected with yourself a bit, what’s next?
Now it’s time to slowly start turning yourself back on. It was a gradual process getting where you are now, and it will be a gradual process getting back. As you look at your notes and the answers to the questions you’ve asked yourself, what pops out at you? Start by choosing one thing and making time for it in your life again.
Feel like you have no time? Take a look at your answers to the question about what you want to say “hell no” to for hints about where you can make some time.
Because, here’s the thing, this is your life and you get to decide!
Want to spend more time with your kids? Maybe the house doesn’t have to be neat as a pin.
Missing those coffee dates with your girlfriends? Maybe you don’t have to spend your Saturday morning responding to work email.
Completely gave up on that knitting project you were so excited about? Bring your needles and yarn to work and spend some of your lunch break working on those kickass legwarmers instead of eating at your desk.
Slowly, over time, you can add in more and more. Hot damn, it’s gonna feel so good! And before you know it, you’ll be feeling more like you again and it might just be easier to get up on Mondays.
Will you figure all of this out overnight? Nope. But once you’ve identified the what and the why you’ll be on your way to reconnecting with you and turning yourself back on.
So, what is the one thing you are going to make more time for?