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How I Overcame Burnout


Burnout.

noun.

physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress (Google Dictionary)

There was a time when I was free, happy go luck, fun, on top of the world and super friendly.

Then there was a time when I wasn’t.

Everything that used to be fun seemed like work. Planning parties, getting together with friends, SINGING. Oh yeah, let’s not forget about that.

I left grad school with a Masters degree in one hand, and the weight of sleep deprivation, undiagnosed celiac disease, endless critiques of my voice, and a whole lot of student loan debt in the other.

I wasn’t depressed. Sure, some days I felt sad, but it was different. I just felt so TIRED. I felt like I wasn’t quite sure why I had felt the need to rush to my masters straight from undergrad. Blowing through two years of grad school on fumes of youth and adrenaline could only have lasted so long. When I came down from that state, it didn’t just seem to fall, it seemed to crumble.

Day by day, month by month, I worked to overcome this. I feel like only recently did I actually climb out of the hole. I knew I wasn’t lazy, but I couldn’t figure out why I felt this way. Now, I can spot a burnt-out person a mile away, and believe me, they are everywhere. Yet, no one really seems to be talking about it. So here I am, with all the praise hands, to tell you, you don’t have to feel this way, you won’t always be burnt out, and YES, you are still you, you just have some dusting off to do. Here are 5 ways I overcame my burnout, that could help you too.

SLEEPING

Do I even have to say this one? If you eat healthy every day, exercise, but you don’t prioritize sleep, my friend, it is seriously time. If you have trouble sleeping, I have heard from multiple doctors that magnesium citrate will help you sleep more peacefully without knocking you out the same way melatonin does. Maybe you could ask your doc about that. Prioritizing sleep does not mean sleeping 7-9 hours a night Sun-Thurs and then staying out till 3AM Friday and Saturday. It just doesn’t work like that. I’m not saying be a hermit, but it really messes with your body to do this. Also, do not fall prey to the “I’ve trained my body to work off of 6 hours of sleep,” mindset, it is a myth. Humans can COPE with only sleeping 6 hours a night, but this leads to overeating, exhaustion, adrenal fatigue and ultimately burnout.

Finding what you liked to do as a kid

This sounds too easy to be true. But when I was a kid, I really liked singing, reading, jamming out, being outside, moving my body, hanging with friends and gardening. These are still my favorite things to do, but while I was in school a lot of these got left by the wayside. Find your way back to at least one of your old hobbies. I bet you’ll like it even more now.

Getting yourself out of stressful situations

After I graduated, I needed money, QUICKLY. No one really talks about how the moment you graduate is kind of like stepping off a cliff that you didn’t see coming. For me, it was my first time truly understanding just how expensive supporting yourself is in the city. So, I got a serving job. Being a server rocked me to my core. The stress of not making the guests mad, not making you bosses mad, not making the kitchen mad, and not making the other servers mad, was TOO MUCH. Some people handle this like champs. The way my brain managed it was to dream about serving the entire night after I finished work. I am dead serious. I was in a perpetual loop of serving. I felt like I had back myself into a wall so it took me awhile to see that it wasn’t the only way I could support myself. Slowly, I transitioned into teaching voice lessons for about 60 % of my income, and working and arts admin job for the other 20%, with singing and other small gigs filling the last 20%. Obviously, this varies depending on time of year etc. If you would have told “burnout me” that there was a way out of my extremely stressful job, I don’t even know if I would have believed you. At that point, I barely had the wherewithal to find something else. Step by step, I did, and I am happy to report that I no longer dread work or dream about it all night long. If you are in the middle of your program and burnt out, this is going to be a little tougher for you. There does come a point where you have to push through the finish line. Are there any side activities you can ditch? Can you ask your day job boss for the week of exams off? You don’t have to do it all, but you should try to finish what you came to do.

Talking about it/Going to therapy

Some of the time, our loved ones know us better than we know ourselves. They know something is up. But it will help to talk about it. Because stress is a main cause of burnout, there’s a lot to unpack when you finally come to face it. Like A LOT. Personally, I spent the last semester of grad school going to therapy, which left me in a better place than I would have been when I graduated had I not gone. I spent a solid 4 months going and working through some of the events that started the burnout in the first place. ****THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH GOING TO THERAPY**** These people are experts, and they can and will help you. Going is the hardest part.

Travelling

I’ve spent a lot of time and resources the last two years on traveling. It has given me such a great perspective on just how much living there is out there to do. Really unplugging and connecting with those I’m traveling with has also been monumental in remembering how important our human relationships are. It has reminded me how to be present. It has also reminded me that everyone out in the world faces challenges, and that we can be connected by them instead of isolated. PS. Don’t even try to tell me that you don’t have the money to travel, because the last two years I’ve been doing it on server/music teacher wages. You can make it work.

I hope this helps someone out there. If you want more weekly words from me, be sure to sign up for my newsletter BELOW!!

 

Lauren Therese Anderson, Mezzo-Soprano

©2018 BY LAUREN THERESE ANDERSON