More thoughts about working through burnout
|November 27, 2021||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
**Edit: I know this post is sorta similar to the last post I wrote. But, it comes at burnout from a slightly different angle and I think it’s important for me to write because:
- Most people I know deal with at least one episode of significant burnout in their lives.
- I’ll probably go through another period of significant burn out in my life.
- Maybe the words in one of these posts will help me or someone else in the future.
I love horses in a deep visceral way that makes the rest of my life feel right when I’m getting enough horse time. But, just owning them and spending time with them isn’t enough for me. There needs to be some sort of drive and purpose in my horse life.
That’s what burnout took away from me.
Burnout didn’t take away the pleasure that I felt in the actual moment of being with my horses, or the hours afterwards when my hands and clothes still smelled like horses. It took away my ability to prioritize it over watching Netflix. It felt like walking over tacks to drag myself away from whatever mundane time-waster I was doing and even look at the horses.
Burnout took away my horsey day dreams. Without those day dreams, when I thought about horses and riding there was no satisfaction. Often during the day I’ll lose myself for about 5 seconds thinking about a high point during a recent ride/run/moment. The horse-related day dream moments were gone. Instead I just felt guilt, regret, and a huge blackhole of nothingness when I thought about my horses. When people asked me to go riding or meet at the barn my stomach twisted into knots and I felt physically sick. I wanted to do anything except be on horse back, faced with the reality that after a lifetime of being horse lover I felt absolutely nothing for them.
[Deleted paragraph about all the ways I tried to make the burnout go away the last five years]
When I look at the big picture, what burnout does is take away moments of quiet joy associated with things that used to make life meaningful for me. The pleasure of the weekday 30 min run. The motivation to make my first cup of coffee and write a blog post. The satisfaction of trimming my horses feet instead of pointless rabbit hole internet clicking.
That’s why paying attention to the quiet joys is so important. When they start to disappear, it is an early warning signs of burn out. My dance with running burnout lasted only 3 months this year, WAY shorter than past running burnouts, mostly because I recognized it coming and made some changes. Currently I’m happily going out for my 30 minute runs in the evening again and even have some 2022 races on the calendar!
I want to emphasize that burnout isn’t always about ignoring the warning signs and being too stubborn to slow down. Sometimes life slams you again and again, and in those brief moments that you DO get air, it’s just to take a big breath before you go under water again.
If I’m being honest with myself, I got some bad breaks in the last five years. It wasn’t just my inability to see the warning signs of burnout coming and make changes, or the dire predictions of old ladies tutting that getting married and having a kid shifts priorities (**rolling eyes**). [
deleted lots of words that don’t matter because we all have our challenges and most of the big ones are on the blog, so who wants to relive them here? Not me.]
If the first sign of burnout is the theft of the quiet joys, that is why part of the path through burnout for me was to focus on those moments anywhere else they occurred. When I finally found one related to my horses, I was ready to recognize and nurture it.
A few months ago…that moment happened.
View this post on Instagram
That’s how I found myself on a trail ride on a horse I didn’t own, thinking about polo, riding, and what my riding was going to look like going forward, now that I was emerging on the other side of burn-out.
I’m (almost) 37 years old. I’m not old, but I’m old enough that I’ve noticed a tendency to want to take the easier, less scary path.
My current path, as far as I could see it, was the middle-aged woman that sometimes casually trail rides and walk-trots in the arena, mostly out of fear, not because that’s how she wants to enjoy horses.
It was time to find a purpose.
The last piece that burnout took from me.
I knew if couldn’t find a purpose soon that was greater than my desire to play it safe, I’d probably stop riding. I would finally be through the burnout, able to think of my horses and my time with them with fondness and peace, but MerryLegs and Farley would be the last horses I owned.
If felt like a giant decision point.
Which is why I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and said yes to the other quiet voice I’ve learned to listen to over the last 5 years and chose something else less easy, and objectively more scary…. but when I consider the big picture, far less scary than the idea of not owning and riding horses anymore.
PS. I promise that in my next post we will MOVE ON from burn out. I think all the words I needed to say on the subject have been said!