For most of us, Friday afternoon is supposed to mark the end of the work week. But what happens when there are still things left on our “To Do List”? Like a toddler sliding unnoticed into Mum’s bed in the early hours, work subtly sneaks into the weekend and without thought, we’re looking at emails, marking papers, creating lesson plans, checking in with colleagues and doing our research.
It’s been true for me, these past few months. And I know it’s not good. And it’s not good for the teachers, educators and parents who get to this time of year and are tired and overwhelmed. I meet so many who are running fast, feeling exhausted, behind schedule, and playing catch up. It’s like we’re running on empty and can’t top back up.
3 ways to bring balance, vitality and peace to my busy life:
Over the past 12 months, I’ve personally noticed a decline in my joy, patience and work-life balance. It was my wife who kept asking, “are you ok? Are you going to burn out?” Maybe it’s a guy-thing but I’ve got this mental script that “I’m made of steel. I’ll never burn out”. But I started to realise that this time, I wasn’t bouncing back so quick. The symptoms weren’t going away. My joy isn’t coming back, my patience is a distant memory, and I knew had to make a plan or else I was on the burnout path for sure. I had a sickness, and I had to start addressing it.
Here are the 3 things I did and you can do NOW to bring better peace, vitality and balance in your world.
1. Learn to say NO.
I hear ya.
“Sorry Dan, dumb advice. You lost me at hello. You don’t know me! I can’t say no. I’ve got commitments. My kids NEED to go to swimming, soccer, music lessons, kids parties, and tutoring. I’m given tasks at work and I just don’t get a choice. If I say no, then I’ll miss opportunities, promotions, reputation. Or I’ll let someone else down and then, well, someone else will have to do it.”
So many of us carry a high sense of responsibility and commitment. We buy into a script that we’re needed, and if we don’t do it, then it won’t get done – or it won’t get done as well as if I did it. Even if we don’t verbally say yes, our “responsibility” says yes. And so we take on more and more – and even pride ourselves in how much we can do and how “BUSY” we are.
I don’t want to dump on the hard-worker in you, but the more you say “yes”, the less margin you have. Everything you agree to take on occupies more of the time, energy and space. That is what leads to exhaustion and fatigue.
For some of us, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that when we are needed, we feel important. When we are doing a lot, it gives us a sense of value and worth. When we are busy, we feel significant. But if all this comes at our detriment, then we must question our motive and whether we can still feel value, worth, importance and significance when we are actually doing less, and valuing ourselves more.
Ask yourself: “Do I still have value and worth if I’m doing less?”
So, my question is, what do you need to say “No” to?
2. Take charge of your well-being
We often give power to others and blame them for our own tiredness. Sure, if you’re a parent and you have little ones, it’s a really tough season where you are basically on 24-7. But even in the midst of family, work and commitments, someone has to look out for YOU.
Taking charge of your own wellbeing means making choices that will help bring even a little balance and respite into your life. I work with hundreds of staff groups, teachers and families helping them figure out how to bring balance and top up their emotional tank so they’ve got energy and vitality for what matters most.
I’ve got a video and a worksheet that you can do, asking you to consider the rhythms, activities and relationships that are either depleting or replenishing your emotional tank. This is one of the most proactive steps in preventing burnout and taking charge of our own wellbeing – and I recommend you do it together with a significant other.
One thing is for sure, you won’t drift toward health and vitality – we need to plan it.
3. Rediscover your JOY.
Now there’s an old-fashioned word! But it’s one that matters.
So many of us have lost our joy. We can quickly lose our spark, our awe, wonderment and vibrance – even for the simple and beautiful things of life. Those things are still there, but they get choked out by the pace of life, the hardships, the challenges and tensions.
Recently, I had come home from work with many things on my mind – this had become my norm. Our kids were just being themselves – energetic, loud and boisterous (we’ve got 3 boys under 10). But for some reason, the noise, chaos and annoyance just tipped me over the edge, and I cracked it. I yelled, stomped, gave demands and ruined the evening. I’m only human, but in that moment I realised something… My default had become Grumpy Dad and Grumpy Husband. Over a period of months and possibly years, I had let the hard bits of life grind at me, tire me and emptied my tank. I’d lost my joy – and it kinda scared me.
I gave myself a little personal mission to rediscover my joy. Do these 3 things Dan:
- Dan, be deliberately grateful for 3 things each day. I had to write them down and say them aloud. It was pretty cheesy, but I needed a change.
- Dan, choose one evening per week where I would deliberately be FUN DAD. Yep. I’m coming home to wrestle, to play, to say a silly joke, to watch a funny show, and just be a happy guy. What I didn’t expect was that this choice would be contagious! Everyone was in a better mood and it turned into FUN NIGHT.
- Dan, make a choice to give something away every single week. Sounds weird, but I realised that I work hard to provide and save and grow our security and wealth. But I had fallen into a trap of thinking that it’s all for me and my family – and it made me protective, insular and joyless. I made a choice that at least once a week, I would buy lunch for someone; give a bag of coffee beans; go out of my way for someone; write a card and send a gift to someone I was thinking of… just to find my joy.
If you want a life of balance, health and vitality, you’ll have to be deliberate and plan it. Let me know the things you do to avoid burnout. I’d love to hear from you.
I wrote a course for you:
We’d love to hear your strategies and learnings! Why not add a comment or share with other parents and educators through our Facebook group page.