I woke up already exhausted by the day ahead. After the alarm sounded, the most I could manage was a few steps toward getting ready for work before I was back in bed. I’d lost control of my body. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I couldn’t convince my feet forward, and the longer I lay there, the harder it got to change course. After a while, I was forced to accept that I just couldn’t do it. I stayed home.
I’ll admit I probably could have toughed it out, but I saw no benefit in doing so. I’ve come to a point in my life where I know that forcing myself through a bad day there is no way around won’t make anything better, least of all me.
If it had just been mental or emotional fatigue, I could have talked myself through it like I have been doing for a while, but maybe because I had been pushing myself too often already, my body stepped in and forced me to take a break.
I hate the term “mental health day”, though some might call what I did exactly that. I have noticed I’m not the only one who finds it hard to find the want on occasion, but what I see is people taking these “mental health days” and coming back as burned out and bad-tempered as they were before.
It’s rare that one day is enough of a break to relieve enough stress to change your perspective or renew your motivation and unless you spend it doing something that actually helps you’ll come back to your day-to-day feeling worse.
What helps is reflecting on what led to these feelings. When I thought about it I realized I’d been neglecting my mental health lately. My body had been trying to tell me in a kind and whispered way and I didn’t pay attention, so now it’s screaming.
This is why I have been so tired. This is why the tension in my neck has been giving me migraines. This is why my stomach has been hurting. This is why my mind feels scattered and full of fog. I’m stressed out. I am overwhelmed. I am anxious and quite probably depressed. I hear you. I hear you!
So I started today by sleeping. Sleep is the best way to heal your body fast and when I felt better in my body, I felt around in my mind for what I need to get back to myself today.
I spent the afternoon doing things I wanted to do and not feeling at all bad for not doing all the things I should be doing. I spent time on my blog. I wrote in my journals and notebooks. I listened to all the podcasts I have been saving for later. I talked to my sister. I made a lot of tea and the season’s first batch of cold brew coffee.
Then I thought about what I will need to feel less stressed and more fulfilled going forward.
What’s made the burnout so hard to see is that on the surface of my life, I really am happy overall. I’m married to the love of my life. I do good work that pays well. I even have a side job that speaks to my passions. I have friends that I enjoy spending time with and family that make me feel good about the life I have built for myself. What more could I need?
The problem is a lot of what I have in life leaves me with very little time for doing things that are just for me. I love my job, but it’s for someone else. I love my side hustle, but it’s also work I do for someone else. I love my wife, but marriage is rife with compromises. I love my friends and family, but the social expectations take a lot out of me.
When do I belong only to myself? When am I free? What do I do that is just for fun, or for nothing else other than it makes me feel good?
I don’t know how to fix it yet, but I do know what the problem is and that is a critical step toward a solution. I feel better already and knowing that it isn’t what I already have in life that is the problem, but something else entirely that I am missing makes it easier to return to my life of obligations and blessings both.
Suddenly, I’m hopeful and excited about tomorrow again.