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Want to Avoid Burnout? Get Some Variety in Your Life

| October 18, 2013 | 22 Comments

I have a full time job working at an extremely unique nonprofit that serves as a donor advocate and sell side analyst to promote a Practical Cure for type 1 diabetes.  And I have a part-time job curating and editing content for a super awesome (I’m not biased or anything) entrepreneur website. And I edit/contribute to an online magazine dedicated to being conscious and helping people incorporate giving back into their lifestyles. And I started business school part-time to get my MBA. And I’m training for a half marathon (and just completed a Tough Mudder this past weekend!). Oh and I try to be a good friend, sister, coworker, and employee too.

And I reached my breaking point last week.

Stress

I pulled a muscle in my quad, published an article that wasn’t edited yet, and lost my patience at work.  In my book this constituted a complete failure.  Self-doubt and deprecation started to consume my thoughts, so I did what I normally do when I’m stressed: get outside (usually for a run but since my quad wouldn’t allow it I settled for a walk), listen to some music, and call my mom (you’re never too old to call your mom).

I decided I needed to take a step back and evaluate why I was burning out and what I could do to put myself back together.

Here’s what I learned from doing some research and focusing on my own introspection:

1. Slow down- and then vary the pace.

I have a tendency to run all of my runs at the same intense speed.  Partly because I want to maximize my time and workout and partly because if I don’t feel like I’m giving 110% then I don’t feel like I’m working hard enough (growing up my swim coach used to tell us that “pain is weakness leaving the body.” I guess I internalized that mantra).

But you know what? You can’t and shouldn’t run all of your runs at maximum distance and maximum speed. It doesn’t give your body time to recover from fatigue. The best training includes a mix of different speeds, distances, and intensity levels. Slow runs increase your bone density, build aerobic capacity, improve muscle tendon strength, and contribute to other  benefits for your body.  Slow runs actually enable you to run harder, faster, and stronger on race day.

Going forward, not only do I plan on mixing up my running paces, but I am also going to try to apply this to other areas of my life.

It’s tough to be living every minute of every day at race pace.

Slowing down and taking breaks can help overcome mental fatigue as well. I’m planning to take a few minutes each day to read (I’m more than halfway done with Freakonomics and I highly recommend it) and will try to find some inspiring new playlists for my commute to and from work.

2. Remember what works best for you.

I have a tendency to get caught up in what I should be doing and comparing myself to society’s standards and standards that I created for myself.  As one of my best friends likes to tell me, “Cara, stop shoulding all over yourself.”  Should is based on comparison and an arbitrary concept of what is better, more successful, prettier, etc.  But these ideals are all constructs that we have made.

While we have to follow societal guidelines like laws (I’m certainly not advocating breaking the law), we do not have to follow or adhere to society’s subjective definitions of success, beauty, and happiness.

Success does not have to be making millions of dollars or getting a comfortable 9 to 5 job.  Beauty does not have to be tall or model skinny.  Happiness does not have to be defined by how big your house is or what kind of car you drive.  Happiness in my opinion cannot be defined by anyone but you. You’re the one living your life and searching for your happiness- so how can anyone else define what that looks or feels like?

I’m an INFJ (sorry to insert my Psych nerdiness- this is one of the 16 personality types of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment, a personality test developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs from the work of Carl Jung).  One of my personality characteristics is introversion.  I like to be alone and find that I do some of my best work on my own.  But sometimes I feel like I need to be social or out and about like a “normal” 24 year old. But you know what? Sometimes I like to stay in on a Friday night, make a cup of tea, and do work or read. Sometimes I like to blast music and sing to myself while baking or cleaning my room.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that that’s okay. If doing my own thing helps me to decompress and find my equilibrium then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I don't dance like this...or at least I don't think I do

I don’t dance like this…or at least I don’t think I do…

3.  Get out of the bubble.

I love New York City.  To me it is the city.  It’s brimming with diversity, opportunity, history, innovation, and energy.  As Jay Z so eloquently said, it’s the “concrete jungle where dreams are made.”

But despite all of my love and admiration, NYC (or any place for that matter) can get overwhelming and stifling day in and day out.  So how do you reinvigorate that sense of drive, passion, and limitless?  The only way I know how is through travel.

In college I explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and earlier this year I went to Nicaragua with Under30Experiences.  Both of those trips opened my mind, my heart, and my eyes. They challenged me to explore new lands, understand new cultures, and appreciate different perspectives.

I came back home from those trips excited to work and be in NYC.  They stimulated an inquisitiveness and thoughtfulness within me to live my passions and to seek out adventures, companies, and conversations that engaged my skills for a greater good.  Just sitting here writing this article makes me want to pack my bags and hop on a flight.

San Juan Del Sur

Hey Matt Wilson are there any spots left in the 2014 Under30Experiences Nicaragua or Costa Rica trips?  I think an experience abroad with an awesome group of adventurous entrepreneurs is exactly what I need.

Well, I’m only about a week into my “anti-burnout regime” so this is all I’ve got so far.  I hope I’m not the only one who has come face to face with feelings of uncertainty and burnout.  How do you overcome burnout? Please share your thoughts in the comments :)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

About the Author: Cara Murphy

Cara Murphy is Editor here at Under30CEO and Under30Experiences.  She is also Associate Marketing Manager at the Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance and Editor at Conscious Magazine.  She is blessed to be an Under30Experiences alum (Nicaragua 2013 and 2014, woot woot!) and can't wait to continue exploring new continents, indulging all of her senses, meeting incredible people, and enriching her perspective on life, love, and success. She can't live without hugs, coffee, fitness, crosswords, travel, baking, and multitasking. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cmurphs12 for inspirational quotes, musings, and sunrise photos.

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  • Julie M Holloway

    Great stuff! I agree; get out of the BUBBLE. Best food for the overwhelmed person!

  • Cara Murphy

    I couldn’t agree more! I need to plan a trip even if its just a change in scenery. Getting out of the bubble always help me puts things in perspective.

  • Liz Flores

    I’ve literally been there Carawith the burnout. It was my senior year at ISU when my body and mind just saidenough is enough. I’ve actually been so much better at not stressing overthings that don’t need to be done in one day and not making myself feel guiltyif I hang out with family and friends instead of doing work. My thought is “Is this action going to help me or make me better?” When it comes to hanging out with family or friends who I haven’t seen in a while, I can safely answer yes and it helps me with not criticizing myself. Recharge is sonecessary. A date night, or movie night is very much needed at times. One thingI definitely still struggle with is feeling like I should be doing this orthat. As a 23 year old, I should be going to happy hour every day, or be at the
    bar every weekend. But I don’t like to all the time, and then I get the feeling
    of “am I growing old too quick lol or am I weirdo?”. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels like that sometimes :) Oh and my mom calls me a loner, so that’s always reassuring haha

  • http://under30ceo.com MattWilsontv

    Hi Cara!! First of all, thanks a ton for all your hardwork, and YES, if you want in on one of our next Under30Experiences, as our Editor, I think we can work something out.

    Secondly, please let us know when you are overwhelmed– you are the hardest working person we know, and you kick ass at what you do, but we’re here to support you.

    Last– as a side note, if you are still doing Crossfit, really be careful that you don’t burn out your muscles. I’m not a fan of high frequency lifts like that especially not the high rep olympic lifts… really easy to get hurt, and hard to recover from. Working in a Crossfit style workout is awesome, but make sure you have ample time to recover!

  • Cara Murphy

    Liz, I know exactly how you feel! Burnout is definitely both a mental and physical thing for me. Its when both my mind and body are exhausted.

    And I’ve always kind of felt like an old person though lol My parents and my bosses tell me I was born in the wrong generation!

  • Cara Murphy

    Thanks for your support Matt. I tend to put alot of pressure on myself which adds up and before I know it I’m overwhelmed. I am going to work on recognizing that path and reaching out/letting people know before I’m in over my head.

    As far as fitness, I don’t do Crossfit. I’ve been running alot more since I signed up for a half marathon, but I know I need to make sure I give myself ample time to recover. I’ve been swimming alot more recently which has helped.

  • J Tan

    Hey Cara this is a really cool article for me because it’s quite different to what I’m going through. There are a lot of things I want to do, but am not sure how or where to go 100%, and am almost scared to go 100% in the event I fail. These past few months I’ve had a lot of alone time for reflection and almost need to remember what society wants and actually get back in the bubble (and the hard thump of reality that comes with it). But knowing there are people out there like you doing so much is incredibly inspiring to me and I hope that I too can find a day where I think to myself I’m doing too much and need to slow down. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tyson Hartnett

    Oh yea! Cara hit it in the head here. Going 110% constantly is for mythical football teams whose coaches are stupid. The intelligent people are the ones who rest, plan, prepare, then execute instead of going all out, all the time. I really liked the personal examples, and what you did to get away from society’s rat race. Beautiful

  • Cara Murphy

    Hey Justin, thanks for sharing. You’re right we are going through slightly different things. But I think ultimately, what we are both afraid of is failure. And you know what? We are going to know what our potential is until we fail. Failure is a necessary part of the experience. One of my favorite quotes is by Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” We have to remind ourselves not to be afraid to fail, and also that “failure” is a noun. It’s a thing not a verb- which means that it’s static and fixed in time. As long as we keep moving, that “failure” will be in the past.

    And I’m certainly not someone you want to emulate. I struggle finding balance. Doing too much or overwhelming yourself is just as bad as not doing anything.

  • Cara Murphy

    Thanks for reading Tyson! And you are completely right. Resting, planning, and preparing are all necessary “training” components. It’s not just about the workout. It’s tough to be personal, especially about feelings of failure, but I think it’s important to start discussing topics like this on Under30.

  • Kevin Diamond

    Cara this is so great. It’s awesome that you are able to take a step back and identify what’s working, and what isn’t and most importantly dig up that compassion for yourself.

    It’s easy for others around you to look at you and everything you’re doing and say your kicking firm tush in life, but when you are in the middle of it, it’s often easy to forget :)

    Yes yes yes on Nica2014–– save me a seat on the plane and I’ll provide that inspirational- live-your-life playlist;) (which is 98% Michael Fear’s)

    Keep at it, you have a whole community behind you!

    One thing that’s helpful is also taking the time in your day or week (or whenever you start feeling anxious) to reflect on all the great things you have done, whether it’s been in the past week or past months/years/life.

    Give yourself a rightful pat on the back and embrace all your successes. You’ll find it helpful. One easy place to get started: Mike Hrostoski’s Brag Fridays on Facebook. Every week he posts and everyone shares unapologetically all their successes without shame =) Now that it’s been going on for sometime, it’s become a builtin habit unintentionally, that whenever I do something awesome, one of my initial thoughts is, “oh hell yah I can’t wait to share this on Friday!”

    Keeps you in the right mindset to move forward;)

    Awesome article thanks for getting deep and sharing!

  • Cara Murphy

    Thanks for reading Kevin. I’m certainly not kicking tush in life, but I think I’ve come to the realization that I need to work smarter, not harder.

    And Nica2014 will be awesome! Michael’s playlist was great and included most of my favorite running songs, but Im always on the lookout for new tunes!

    I’m definitely going to check out Mike Hrostoski’s Brag Fridays. It’s hard to share our accomplishments, but like you said it really boosts your morale and reminds you to stop and recognize your successes as well as your failures. One of my favorite lines from Sara Bareilles’ “Uncharted” is “Compare where you are to where you want to be and you’ll get no where”. When you only look ahead you fail to see how far you’ve come.

  • J Tan

    You’re right finding the balance is definitely what we should be aiming for and just gotta remember that failure is part of the process. Hoping to face many failures in the future!

  • Liz Flores

    I remember seeing Pride and Prejudice in theaters and thinking Keira Knightley stole my life lol. That with a mixture of LOTR and I’d be golden!

  • Kevin Diamond

    Ahh love it! (Will be adding to my ‘inspirational playlist’).

    And psht- give yourself some credit. Do I need to copy and paste your first paragraph right here?! You’re definitely kicking ass in life:) Say it out loud once (“I’m kicking ass in life” —it feels & sounds squeemish I know, but try it) :) Haha, it’ll make you giggle no matter how hard you hold back.

    I think you’ll enjoy this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efRIdrl9YNA

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  • Andrea Francis

    It can be really hard to stop going at full speed, and its easy to pretend that its better than resting – I have a terrible guilt complex with that still! After I hit burnout the doctor had two simple pieces of advice: don’t sweat deadlines, and ask for hugs. Of course, going on a trip is my preferred method, but if cash is tight, these suffice!

  • David Eberhart

    Hi Cara,

    Great thoughts on dealing with burnout! You’re well ahead of the competition by learning this lesson young. I’ve been dealing with the issue myself–working a full-time job in a company that’s doubled in size over the past two years, in the middle of getting three startups off the ground in my spare time, and still trying to train like I was a young man. In the fourth month of all this chaos, I literally cracked. I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t young anymore and starting companies at 49 is a lot different than doing it at 30.

    So, I started incorporating some balance. Friday night was off limits–date night with my wife. No work on Friday nights. Thursday night was my “spiritual night” time spent with three other guys who pour into my soul. Saturday and Sunday afternoons were designated as down times as well–no work during those hours. And weight/aerobic training was cut down to once a day instead of two-a-days.

    I’m about a month into my new regimen, but it’s already paying big dividends. Work is getting done more efficiently at the main gig, and more is getting done in the startups than when I was working ALL THE TIME. Balance definitely is key to getting your startup babies off the ground!

    FYI, I LOVE this website and I appreciate your work on it. I’m not your target demographic, but I’ve enjoyed the articles I’ve found here and I’m going to start recommending it to my demographic (45-55 looking to start their own businesses) beginning with this one. Thanks to you and under30ceo.com for adding value to us old codgers too!

  • Tyson Hartnett

    Yes, I agree. comfort is all in your head. you can get comfortable with anything, so keep on pushing.

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  • Professor M.S. Rao

    Excellent article with great insights.

    The following message is truly inspiring: Success does not have to be making millions of dollars or getting a comfortable 9 to 5 job. Beauty does not have to be tall or model skinny. Happiness does not have to be defined by how big your house is or what kind of car you drive. Happiness in my opinion cannot be defined by anyone but you. You’re the one living your life and searching for your happiness-so how can anyone else define what that looks or feels like?
    I also belong to the same personality type: I’m an INFJ. Plato, Jung and Mahatma Gandhi belonged to this personality type.

    Professor M.S.Rao – international leadership guru with 33 years of experience in leadership, and the author of 26 books including the award-winning ‘21 Success Sutras for Leaders’ URL: http://www.amazon.com/21-Success-Sutras-Leaders-ebook/dp/B00AK98ELI which has been selected as the Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year – 2013 by San Diego University and is the recipient of an International Award -‘International Coach of the Year 2013’. His Facebook
    Page URL: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Professor-MSRao/451516514937414 and Amazon URL: http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A16SKI0396UBRP