The thing about me is that I am highly excitable, driven and inspired by everything. I want to do everything. I want to help everyone and every cause. I will watch a wildlife programme and start wracking my brain as to how I can save the walruses from extinction. I think of elderly people alone in nursing homes and just want to sit with them, even if they’re not lonely. I genuinely care so deeply about everything and everyone that this has become both my utter strength and my utter weakness.
My drive to help, to be involved and to experience everything is fuelled by my passion to find a deep sense of meaning and contribution. I won’t pretend I don’t want money too – I do. I want a pretty little cottage surrounded by nature, but close enough to the sea to smell the fresh, salty air – I want a little lassie dog called Meg and a super fancy, fast car – I really do. But more than that – I want time. I want time to spend with those in world more vulnerable than myself, I want time to sit with people and talk about ways to get more out of life, and I want time to learn about the brain, health, nutrition – and everything it is to be human – so I can make my own life, and the lives of others, that little bit easier.
But therein lies my weakness. I go, and I go, and I go – until I cannot go anymore.
This January, my brakes came to a screeching halt. I was already drained from 15 months of commuting, an intense job, moving house and an emotionally exhausting trip to Malawi, but then I spent three intense weeks taking care of my parents while juggling my job, the gym and all my other commitments I had collected along the way. At the end of those three weeks, I had finally reached my max-out. I came back home to Oxford exhausted and, soon after, realised – I was an inch away from burnout. I needed to stop. I was starting to resent those around me and my previously loved commitments – and I was becoming someone I disliked.
So, I retreated. I removed myself from Whatsapp, Social Media, and any future social commitments. I sent a hippy-like message to those I spoke to most and told them I was going into hibernation and I would be back in 3 months. That was a month ago – and as extreme as it may appear, it was the best decision I have made in a long time. I have upset some people with my neglect and I am sure I will miss some incredibly important moments in the lives of those around me, but I have learnt as a coach that my own needs and mental health must come first. It was time to take my own advice.
Although I have spent quite a few hours of this last month binge watching Game of Thrones, I have also learnt some incredibly important lessons and experienced some profound moments of clarity.
The problem is, when you are constantly bombarded with notifications, updates, Instagram feeds and conflicting commitments – you start to lose your sense of self. By that I mean – you do so much, you start to forget what you truly want to do. I was constantly feeling that I wasn’t doing enough for others, I wasn’t present enough for others, and I wasn’t what they needed me to be. I was trying so hard to be everything to everyone, I eventually forgot about myself.
The Gift of Time
The words “time is precious” are three often spoken words, but words so often forgotten. I believe it’s the most undervalued resource that we have. We need to spend our time doing those things that nourish our soul – those things that when you look back in a year, three years or more, you think; what a gift to have experienced that. I don’t want to look back and regret my time spent; I don’t want to look back and feel that what I did was never enough.
Tony Robbins says “Trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” I love that, not just for myself – but for those around me. I wanted to scream it out loud – I wanted to tell everyone to stop expecting so much from me. Expectations that I didn’t feel I could meet. I had absorbed the needs of those around me until these were expectations that I was placing on myself.
And so, I retreated; I went home to refuel, restore and reflect and slowly, I have started to feel like I am in control of my life again, rather than being swept along – never truly stopping long enough to breathe.
I have spent a lot of time this last month thinking about what truly matters and trying to identify where I want to add the most value in life – and I came across the below passage from Oprah Winfrey. It was in this moment that I realised it is in my very core to love and try to make others happy – and this is where I can add most value. That said – I cannot help everyone; I have to learn to be selective with my time and my energy.
I need this time to quieten my mind and remove unnecessary noise so I can remember who I am and what I truly love to do, at a time when I was starting to forget.
Before I leave you with the incredible words of Oprah Winfrey, remember: until you strip away everything and re-evaluate what it is that gives your life meaning, you cannot build and live the life you truly want.
“When you make loving others the story of your life, there’s never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another. And I know for sure that in the final analysis of our lives – when the to-do lists are no more, when the frenzy is finished, when our e-mail inboxes are empty – the only thing that will have any lasting value is whether we’ve loved others and whether they’ve loved us.”
Oprah Winfrey, 2014: ‘What I know for sure’
Call to Action
What do you think about this?
Post a comment below and let me know if you have experienced burnout and how you dealt with it. I would love to hear from you.
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