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