The end of 2017 coincided with the end of me. The old me. Until then, like the circus juggler, I had been quite good at keeping all the balls rotating in the air…until they all landed on my head.
I was out of balance. To be precise, I was burned out. For certain personalities who like to be active all the time it’s easy not to notice areas where a lack of balance could be an issue.
It’s crazy to think that a washing machine will practically walk across the basement floor to let you know the load isn’t right.
When a wheel is out of balance on your car, you’ll get a vibration noise from the offending tire. Some of the machines we create are better equipped to detect a lack of equilibrium than we are.
We pass off exhaustion as just a normal part of getting older. And who doesn’t get cranky and cynical once in awhile? We all have days where we question our abilities, even if we’ve excelled at our skills for years. When these things are happening all at once and seem to be coming on quickly, it’s a problem.
For us driven humans, we may only see the signs in retrospect.
It’s better to make course corrections at the first sign something is off, but you can only act on what you perceive.
Once this insight bounced onto my bean, I made many changes in my life to prevent ever going back to that crushing feeling of overwhelm I’d experienced. I will share three that were paramount in helping crawl, then walk through 2018. Inserting these non-negotiables into my life leaves me with a fresh feeling of vigour here at the cusp of 2019.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Until recently, I could accurately recount the date and location of the best sleep I ever had. It was in Maine, the second night after our wedding 28 years ago. I’ve had some good sleeps since then but that deep feeling of refreshment from rest had become more and more evasive.
I’ve been guilty of getting caught up in the busy-ness of life and work and sacrificing sleep in the process. Don’t we look more important and dedicated to our jobs by letting our colleagues know we worked on a project on our laptops until 11 pm and only slept 6 hours last night? Nope. Busy is the new stupid.
Quality sleep is required for the cognitive function we need to do our best. Constant exhaustion is not normal.
I ultimately visited my doctor, who referred me to a sleep clinic. I discovered I have a mild form of sleep apnea that was causing me to awaken 11 times per hour throughout the night. I now have a machine with a mask I wear at night that allows me to breathe normally. (It makes me look so attractive that sometimes I wear it while out doing errands.)
The machine tracks the hours I sleep and I now average 8 and a half hours a night. That’s 90 minutes more per night than before…the equivalent of sleeping an additional workday a week. (Don’t call me on Thursdays. I’m asleep in my office).
So, check with your doctor to see if there is an underlying medical issue preventing you from experiencing consistent restful sleep.
Count Your Blessings and Express Gratitude to Others
Because complaining can be one of our default responses, being grateful takes some effort. On December 27, 2017 and every day since, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal and it’s really made a positive difference for me.
I downloaded a neat little app from my phone called “Five Minute Journal”. It allows you to add a photo every day and prompts you with, “I am grateful for…” and space to type the three things you’re grateful for as you wake up. Then, there are three things to write under the heading, “What will I do to make today great?”, followed by a daily affirmation before finishing up the day with “3 amazing things that happened today.”
At the end of the year, you’ll have 1,095 things you were grateful for, 1,095 amazing things that you did and 365 daily affirmations. Expressing gratitude helps you to appreciate what you’ve received in life.
When you express gratitude to others perhaps by writing a note or verbally telling people how much they mean to you, it not only blesses them, it also gives you a feeling of happiness and a sense that you’ve given something back to those who have helped you.
This one should be obvious but it doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. Acting like an athlete preparing for the next summer olympics can actually be detrimental, especially if you’re experiencing some burnout. The fumes I had left in my tank were not revived by intense workouts in the gym. In fact, they made me feel worse and may have accelerated the detrimental process.
Just a half hour a day can make a world of difference.
Unless we’re experienced marathoners or preparing for professional athleticism, killing yourself at the gym is not necessary nor advisable. My doctor recommended the short YouTube video, “23½ Hours” by Doctor Mike Evans. In a nutshell, it expounds the incredible health benefits of walking for just a half hour every day. What you do with the other 23 ½ hours is up to you. During my road back to balance, I walked or rode my bike for at least a half hour most days. It gave me energy and helped me to sleep better.
If you’re serious about keeping your balance and not succumbing to burnout in 2019, make sure you put a high priority on sleep, on being grateful and on getting some exercise. If you’re not sure whether you can juggle another ball…don’t. This might be the one that causes them all to come crashing down on your crown.
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Brent Roy is a life and leadership coach who partners with leaders and management teams to help develop their leadership skills and reach their goals. With over 25 years working in communications and guiding teams as well as supporting and advising leaders and executives in the public sector, Brent knows what truly drives teams and motivates employees.
Brent has presented his “Coach Approach to Leadership” workshop to help leaders and work groups build trust through creating a coaching climate in organizations.