Generally, I have a very blessed and wonderful life, but I’ve always been quite open about that fact that I suffer from depression. These ‘down days’ are always impossible to pre-empt, sometimes not appearing for weeks or even months at a time, but over the years I’ve been able to develop coping mechanisms in order to maintain some sort of functionality when a depressive episode strikes.
This year, however, the down days were increasingly more extreme and lasted for much longer periods of time. I was dealing with a number of negative and stressful situations in both my personal and professional life over a number of months and was struggling with feelings of pressure and de-motivation, but I began to find myself unable to complete even the most menial of tasks. I didn’t particularly want to go outside, my appetite increased and I began comfort eating excessively, I felt physically and mentally tired all the time but couldn’t sleep, I felt physically unwell, eventually developing laryngitis which took several weeks to recover from, I couldn’t concentrate to the point where I even forgot what I was saying mid-sentence. I even started to lose interest in the creative things that made me happy, becoming disillusioned with my own blog and the community. For me, feeling low was part of life that I had learned to accept and work with when I needed to, but when the bad days turned into bad weeks I knew that there was something wrong.
I was suffering with burnout. Rather than just feeling low for a few days, burnout develops over a gradual period of time, often triggered by prolonged and chronic levels of stress. It can also be exacerbated by lifestyle, lack of down time, the need to be in control and negative personality traits (I’m a natural pessimist). Eventually, continuing to blog at the intensity I had adopted over previous years became too much, and so I had to take a break – I had lost all sense of passion and purpose, and it was soul-destroying.
Are you suffering from burnout?
- Feelings of isolation and detachment.
- Being mentally and physically exhausted.
- Self-medicating with food, alcohol and/or drugs.
- Lack of motivation to do even the most simple of tasks.
- Constant feelings of negativity, cynicism, being disillusioned and overwhelmed
- Physical illness – colds, headaches, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms.
- Lack of productivity and interest.
- Decreased levels of satisfaction.
- Forgetfulness and inability to concentrate for long periods of time.
How to deal with burnout
Talk, whether it be to a trained professional or someone trustworthy. I was open and honest with The Bloke and a close friend with how I was feeling, and while they weren’t able to physically change my mental state, the fact that they listened, offered advice and supported me when I needed it actually helped me enormously.
Take an inventory of stressful factors within your life. This proved to be incredibly helpful – identifying all of the different elements that were causing stress, pain and/or frustration both personally and professionally. I categorised the results into two sections: things within my control and things I couldn’t. From the things I knew that I could change, I started to delete, remove and cut down on tasks that were taking up unnecessary time with little impact and causing me to feel disillusioned, particularly within my job. I stopped running my hashtag and Facebook group, left all but two other Facebook groups and removed myself from a whole bunch of Pinterest group boards. I stopped worrying about audience-centric content, going back to basics and focusing on topics that I wanted to write about as I did when I started blogging originally.
Focus on just one day at a time. The biggest hindrance to feeling better was the habitual creation of mega lists, where every little task would be written down at the start of a day. This would ultimately lead to immediate feelings of overwhelm, simply because I had set myself an unachievable deadline. I started to prioritise and realistically look at my daily task list, simplifying it to the core basics. I used the spreads and trackers in my Bullet Journal to keep on schedule with what I was doing. I stopped mentally beating myself up if I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to, preferring to be proud of my accomplishments instead.
Exercise. I forced myself to leave the house every single morning by going for a twenty minute walk regardless of the weather. It helped in the fact that we experienced a wonderfully warm and bright summer, and being outside in the sunshine at 7.30am immediately improved my mood, even if I’d had a poor night’s sleep.
Put the technology down. As someone who makes essentially a living from being online this proved to be difficult at first, but I now set myself a time to stop in the evenings and put my phone away. That way, I’m guaranteed that my evening won’t be ruined by an email.
Make the time for positive people. I text friends that I haven’t spoken to in a while, meeting some of them for a catch-up. It’s amazing how a few hours spent laughing with your favourite friends can boost your mood and motivate you to move forwards.
Create meaningful down-time. Not an easy thing, particularly if you’re responsible for a family, but even a small amount of designated time to relax is incredibly important for your mental and physical well-being. Meditate, read, have a hot bath, write, paint… find something, anything, that allows you to switch off. I find a long, hot bubble bath and a homemade spa treatment works wonders.
Organise. As I started to feel better, I developed a routine and organised myself in a way that allowed me to be more productive. It was a slow process, but streamlining how I lived was useful.
Make healthier choices. I changed my diet after watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix and The Bloke and I worked really hard to eat foods that were sugar-free, dairy-free and non-processed. It wasn’t easy, particularly as I have a penchant for cheese and I had developed a routine of bingeing on whatever I wanted, but we both lost weight, slept better and generally felt more energised.
Start delegating and stop saying yes. This is an incredibly difficult habit to break, but it is one of the most worthwhile things I have learned over the last few years in particular, and I have made an extra effort over recent months to be conscious of the level of work that I agree to take on.
What about you guys? Have you experienced depression or burnout? What were your most effective ways of dealing with it?
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I’ve been taking an antidepressant for years, Suzie. We do what we can to control it. ❤️🙏🏻🇬🇧
Absolutely! I have a few friends that are on antidepressants and they are coping much better
Thanks for being so candid and honest about this issue, and for sharing terrific ideas on how to cope!
Thanks John. It was World Mental Health Day and it’s so important to talk about it!
Yes, agree completely!
Great honest and sincere post about something that most people suffer from at some point in their life.
Getting out every day is a great motivator. I suffer from procrastination big time, so need to focus on improving this but hard when there are so many easy distractions in our lives.
Ooooh procrastination is a big problem I have when I’m feeling low… I’m always surprised at what peaks my interest when I should be getting on with things!
I found that limiting my alcohol intake really helps keep the depression somewhat at bay–at least, I know it’s worse if I drink more.
I don’t really drink that much – only indulging in a few if I meet up with friends every so often and I don’t drink at home, but I have quite an addictive personality so I’m conscious of that… I’m quite a happy drunk when I’ve had more than a few though haha!
Oh god I really have faced the burnout side!
Last year atcwieknrhibfs got on top of me and my own pressures with blogging etc didn’t help.
I learned when and where to say no. Where to draw lines and when to speak up. It helped.
I still suffer migraines, but it’s gone down from weekly to once every couple of months too.
I’m glad it’s getting better Ritu! Saying no is so difficult and yet so important!
You know what it’s like as a teacher Suzie, the fear of being ill, and taking time off, the stress of the demands upon us…
I used to work through everything, suffering physically myself. Noe, if I am not well, I realise life will go on without me, and I get better first.
If someone is asking too much, I say so, or ask for help. There is no harm in admitting things are too much for you and I think that is the first step sometimes.
I hope this is all helping and that you are feeling better Suzie.
Your blogging family have all missed you, but it sounds like you’re doing all the right things. I’m sending all the hugs. ❤
Thank you for sharing about this, Suzie. I have not reached the level you have, but probably close to it. I’m so glad you are taking steps to take care of yourself, and create down time for yourself. I love how laughter and time with fun friends has helped you. I am committed to helping people see the lighter side of life, but doing that is serious business and takes a lot of work. I’ll learn from your example and try not to get burned out. Hugs.
Being positive for other people is such a lovely thing to consider, but it can sometimes become a bit much and an enormous amount of hard work. I’m trying to consciously be more positive when I’m with others so they don’t feel exhausted after spending time with me haha!
I really think my husband struggles with this, in regards to work and writing. He knows what he should do to get beyond it, yet just keeps staying stuck. I’m going to show him this post, maybe it will unstick him!
Thanks lovely! It’s so difficult – you know what needs to happen and how to get there, but I find getting to the actual starting point is the most difficult thing when you’re feeling low…
This sounds very familiar! I experienced a spell of burnout in the summer and recognise a lot of the things you identify. Since getting through that I’m more conscious of trying to have a good balance in my life, which includes time to switch off and do nothing! Very useful post Suzie. Glad you’re doing better now.
I think that’s the key Matt – creating a balance before things get overwhelming! Sorry you’ve experienced it too!
Great post. Honest and helpful. Thanks.
I have definitely gone through before and during having the blog. Before because I was working more hours than I wanted to and during trying to make my blog popular and churn out content on a continuous basis. Exhaustion was not even the word to use, I couldn’t move for days because I was so tired, everything took a massive effort. Unfortunately, my blog suffered and I stepped away for about two months. Whenever I feel it coming on I put myself on hiatus and just enjoy life with the pressure of the blog.
That pressure for content has been a huge thing for me, particularly recently. I think you have really good way of dealing with it
My default when things are stressful or not going well is to work harder… which usually isn’t the best plan, since I work pretty hard to begin with! I’ve never been a patient person, and I think that’s part of it – I want it all dealt with *yesterday*! Lol.
Glad to hear that you’re focussing on self-care and making positive changes! That’s awesome! I hope you continue to feel good going forward 🙂
Thanks lovely! I can vary between both – if someone tells me I can’t do something I work hard to prove them wrong, but sometimes I overwhelm myself and then lose all motivation to do anything… I can never seem to find a balance!
I have had bouts of really serious depression in the past, to the point where I was housebound and actually found it overwhelming getting out of bed or making a cup of tea.
Meds helped, and a determined attitude not to let it beat me. I started with feeding the birds, that took me (just) over my doorstep each day and in time I built on this. It’s hard going though, I feel for you xxx
Hi lovely, thanks so much for your openness and honesty. It’s peaks and troughs for me at the minute, I’m just hoping that 2019 will be better than this year!
I just watched a video about mental health burnouts. I didn’t know that that was a thing until yesterday. Now that I know what it is, I am noticing that I am experiencing it right now and definitely need to take a break. I definitely going to use these tips and try to lessen my burnout mode. 🙂
I didn’t know much about them until a little while ago either – it’s difficult to be able to recognise it when you’re used to living like that over a prolonged period of time
The minute I have nothing to focus on that feeling of total inability to do anything starts to bounce about. It is scary. You articulate burnout extremely well. Nodding along here.
I can totally relate – I have to really be mindful of how I do things to avoid becoming overwhelmed
Sometimes you have done it all too quickly when you realise you are in the middle of the stress and it is harder back out. You always can back out though! I am learning.