When you are hungry, you refuel with food. When you are thirsty, you rehydrate with water. What happens, though, if your mental energy is burning out from overwork or stress?!
For the past few months, I have taken a break from the blog after regular posting. During that time I was going through a lot and my mental energy was being depleted. So to empower myself, I disconnected and took a much-needed break to recharge. Truly speaking, I was exhausted from work and personal stuff. So instead of posting online on the blog, I spent my time with notebooks and my camera, envisioning the next steps for the online space I have spent the last seven years creating. Now, I am renewed and energized. Making myself a priority in the busy world of entrepreneurship was exactly what I needed.
During the break, I gained insight that I had never admitted to myself. Through reflecting on my past, I came to the realization that for years past, I had been silently struggling with burnout but had never been aware of it and didn’t talk to anyone about it. During my twenties, I had been burning the candle from both ends. I didn’t make self-care a priority; rather, I put myself last. I thought that taking care of myself and/or taking a break would make me seem weak and would decrease my productivity. But I have since realized how I was wrong.
You see, for as long as I can remember, I have been putting one foot in front of the other working hard towards my dream. Being born and raised in Ottawa, like many others, I approached work like a machine. Then, after 22 years of being on the over-achievement train, I remember finally getting my first rest stop after graduation from university when I decided to visit the West Coast. Until that point, for the four years of my degree, I had been on full-steam ahead with no breaks. I only knew one speed: fast!!! And I had quite a few races to run at the same time while speeding along!!!!!!! First race, I was pursuing my Bachelor of Science degree full-time, which had double the class time and coursework of most other undergraduate programs. Second race, I was working at a huge, super busy grocery store in the deli, a few evenings a week and every weekend all day. Third, fourth, and fifth races and beyond included doing school work, maintaining a social life, commuting, volunteering, or sleeping when I could. Talk about interval training!!! I felt like a machine, going through the motions towards a goal automatically and endlessly, never taking a break.
I didn’t think there was any other way! I didn’t have time to process what I was doing or to consider that there was another way to do things. I was on auto-pilot.
After four years on the steam train, the rest stop was a powerful lesson: it’s a wakeup call for how to re-tune my life. On getting out to the West Coast from Ontario, I remember breathing a sigh of relief. Initially, the “No Worries” mentality that West Coasters’ embraced was a stark contrast to the life I had known in Ontario. I was curious and initially a bit skeptical about this laid-back West Coast lifestyle; some of the stories I’d heard were that people didn’t work but spent all their days surfing. Soon, I realized that such stories were completely wrong. West Coasters showed me that being carefree didn’t mean a person doesn’t work hard; the laid-back lifestyle had nothing to do with the amount or intensity of a person’s work. Rather, the people I met worked hard but also made time for activities they enjoyed. On the West Coast, I was surrounded by productivity, innovation, and creativity, yet there was calmness. These individuals lived in a culture where self-care was embraced!! Being in this beautiful setting refueled me. Like the ocean weathering a stone, making it smooth with its constant quiet motion, the West Coast taught me that we all need to make self-care a priority in our busy lives. Life is short. Enjoy the ride.
Fast forward one more degree and years of experience later. Now, I am an entrepreneur and on a new steam train moving forward towards my goals, but I am doing things more efficiently. Entrepreneurship is a solo business, and we entrepreneurs have to be our own best advocates. As I saw my gauge of mental energy getting depleted recently, I decided to take time off to do what is best for me: recharge my batteries. Dreaming about where this blog is going is how I chose to re-charge.
Time off allowed me to realize that so many of us put others’ needs first, and our own needs last. But this should change: our own self-care should be fundamental!
For me, on this blog, I am committed to being real and showing up and sharing my light! But while I love working hard, I also need self-care; it will strengthen me; it will help me avoid burnout; it will keep my inner spark burning! Moving forward, I am committed to helping prevent burnout in all of us. Self-care can do the same for you as well!! It can help you sidestep stress and overwork!! It can give you calm and focus.
There is only one sun, as there is only one you! You just have to keep shining and not let overwork or stress deplete your mental energy. Like the world needs the sun, we need you to shine your light and be you! You have such a beautiful purpose. Making self-care a priority will keep your spark ignited!