It was my first time on a film set. The scene was simple, a black backdrop, a stool, bright lights. There was the air of excitement. The girls being interviewed for the documentary were nervous.
They each took turns in front of the camera talking about their lives, what it was like living at home. There was some violence but they were loved by their parents. Then they talked about being taken away from their families by the Children’s Aid Society and being moved from foster home to foster home. They missed their family, friends and communities. They didn’t feel loved. Eventually they turned to drugs and alcohol, usually at age 12 or 13.
It was hard to hear these girls who I’d been working with for the past couple of months describe their difficult childhoods in detail. One after another, each story so similar. By the end of the day I felt completely hopeless.
The project was a noble one. We were making a documentary that introduced the viewer to a number of teenage girls, their childhoods, their hopes for the future. Partway through the film we would then reveal that these were youth in custody. We wanted to bring more humanity to the concept of who a “prisoner” was and explain the history that led these young women to end up in prison.
I had been running a workshop with these young aboriginal women and they decided they wanted to make a film to tell their stories. We had found a local filmmaker who agreed to work with us pro-bono and we negotiated an agreement with the youth custody facility. It was good work. I loved it. But it was breaking my heart.
A couple of weeks after the shoot, I gave my notice at work. I would stay on to finish the projects I was working on but then I was done. After months of wrestling with this decision, I realized the position wasn’t sustainable for me. At the age of 24, I was burning out.*
Some people think that burning out is about doing a job you hate. But sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes you burn out because you care too much.
So for those of you who care too much, I’ve put together 3 things that you can do to prevent burnout now:
1. WHEN YOU FUCK UP, TALK ABOUT IT
If you care about your work you’re probably making huge positive impacts. But, you also really beat yourself up when you make a mistake.
Even when the mistake feels enormous, chances are, the good you are contributing far outweighs it.
This is why it’s important to have someone cares about you and can give you some perspective on what happened. You need perspective and you need someone else’s help to get there
The shame voices will shout, “DON’T TELL ANYONE WHAT HAPPENED, THEY’LL REJECT YOU IF THEY KNOW WHO YOU REALLY ARE.”
But the opposite is actually true. If you share your story with someone who cares, that’s actually going to deepen your relationship with that person as well as work towards forgiving yourself.
And if the person says, “You know what? You’re right, you really are a bad person.” Then they doesn’t deserve to hear your story.
So find someone who deserves it. It could be a good friend, your partner, a co-worker, your therapist or a coach. Someone who will listen and say, “You know what? That sucks but the good that you’re doing completely outweighs this mistake. Everyone makes mistakes and you’re going to be even better at your job and do even more amazing work now that you’ve learned from this.”
Forgive yourself. And keep going with the amazing work that you do.
2. SPREAD IT OUT
I worked with a woman named Haily, who was managing a million dollar project where women living in poverty are hired to work at a vertical farm. At the same time she was doing her Masters full time and trying to spend quality time with her partner and her dog.
“I love everything that I’m doing but sometimes I don’t sleep very much because I’m working on a deadline. And I don’t know why I keep breaking down when I love what I’m doing? And why does this feel so hard?”
Maybe you love everything you’re doing but you’ve scheduled your life so full that you don’t have any time to rest. My wish for you is that you SLOW DOWN. Your life is long. You will have time to do it all, just spread it out!
After chatting Haily realized that she didn’t have to do it all at once. She could do her Masters degree part time so she had more time her partner, her job and TO SLEEP! She’s spreading things out and able to enjoy her life more.
When I burnt out, I ended up quitting my job and moving to an ashram for TWO YEARS to recover. Give yourself smaller breaks NOW so you don’t have to take a bigger break later.
3. BE RADICALLY KIND TO YOURSELF
- Forgive yourself when you make a mistake
- Buy yourself a smoothie
- Take a walk partway through work
- Spend a day at the beach
- Take time to CELEBRATE when you do something well
- Go to the spa
I had to take two years off to recover. You can afford the time and money it would take to do something nice for yourself TODAY and in the long run, you’ll be happier, more energized and love your life more.
My wish for you is to have a full life where you make a big impact with your career and still have energy for the people activities you love outside of work.
Want support to move towards this kind of life? Career Coaching in the Forest is designed to support you to make the changes that will give you more energy and vitality so you can:
– make MORE of an impact at work
– have MORE ENERGY for the relationships that matter to you
– feel better, feel more alive, feel more inspired
Interested but have questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!! I’d be happy to answer questions by email or set up a phone call to get your questions answered :).
LEARN MORE – couragecompass.org/forest
And whether you work with me or someone else or do this on your own, please take care of yourself!! The world needs your gifts and you can only make a big impact if you feel energized yourself.
It’s safe for you to take care of yourself.
*An excerpt of this came from my Finding Yoga article for Yasodhara Ashram. You can read the full article here – http://www.yasodhara.org/2016/03/finding-yoga-crossroads-part-1/