So this is Burnout
I ignored all of my own advice about rest. I read about it in various books and articles, from Passion Paradox to Grit to Mindset from scholarly journals on resilience, mindfulness, and wellness, I read a lot about how to take care of myself. And then chose to ignore all that I had read.
As I finished up my PhD I took a few days off but then I immediately continued to push the pace and finish up some papers for publication. I was so excited I started writing down ideas for other papers.
After the IAAF World Championships with my foot injury healed up, I couldn’t wait to get back out running. While I took a few days off after the race because I just did not want to run in the oppressive heat in Qatar I got right back to training when I got home. In fact, I was so excited about training, I went a month without a day off.
All that advice I’ve given you about taking breaks and allowing the breakdown to build up, I ignored it all. And now, now where am I at? While my body feels good my brain is completely exhausted.
I had been feeling ‘off.’ A friend and colleague of mine asked me the other day how I was doing. While I said I was good, both my answer seemed somewhat untrue and while she did not think I was lying to her, she also knew something was up. Good friends who know you better than yourself are the best.
I have been taking care of the wellness side of life. Eating well. Getting lots of sleeping. Exercising. Enjoying the sunshine when it’s out and around. Maximizing my outdoors time. Yet, I still feel really tired, mentally not physically tired.
I was caught up in the cycle of life. Like mental health and wellness issues, because I cannot wear the ‘injury’ on the outside I also forgot to measure how my head was doing. With no visible signs, I was like a piece of ductile steel that reached its breaking point. When it snapped, there was no immediate recovery. Just a longing to try to get back to the breaking point and to undo the damage.
With this exhaustion comes heightened emotions. I’ve lost my fight and competitiveness. I feel guilty for not putting in hours and miles of training. I am having trouble writing and pulling together my thoughts. All of which is to say I’m don’t quite feel like myself.
All that work I put in needs a chance to build up. When we put ourselves through a period of stress we breakdown our muscles, including our brains. After those periods of intensity, there needs to be a time to let the body and brain rebound. Really, it’s the Growth Equation from Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’ Peak Performance and Passion Paradox.
Do I have a path forward? Sort of. I definitely need to rest and heal up. I’m not going to lock myself in a room, I don’t think that’s going to help me either. I will finish out the term at the university because working with the students brings me joy. I will find ways to enjoy time being active outside with friends and family. I will be sure to do daily check-ins to see how I’m feeling. Following the advice of Stulberg and Magness, I need a few weeks before I go back and do a check-in from there I’ll decide what’s next.
I’m asking you to hold me accountable for taking a break. To be ok with not seeing the numbers in Strava. To be ok with being active for the sake of being active, not for the sake of training. To be ok with just doing nothing sometimes, because some times doing nothing is the best course of action.