For most of this week, I have been off work sick. This is an unusual occurrence for me. Given that I work from home a lot and have done for years, being sick doesn’t necessarily mean not working. I can’t even remember the last time I took a sick day.
But this week I got hit by something that wiped me out. Over the years, I’ve got pretty good at spotting and managing signs of work stress. I have tools and techniques in place to make sure I spot burnout before it arrives. My ‘no work phone on vacation’ has been a rule for a decade. I stopped checking emails after 7pm or at weekends years ago. All of these things stop me from arriving at a place I swore to myself long ago that I would never get to. I’ve watched too many friends crumble because of stress. I know that the journey back is a long and painful one. If you ever properly make it back at all, that is.
But as I lay in bed this week, my brain was chattering to me. Why wasn’t I reading? Why wasn’t I using the time to write? Why wasn’t I using my sick time effectively?
Wait? What? That was the warning sign I had failed to see. My life is busy, but no more so than anyone else’s right? Perhaps not, but clearly the pressure I put on myself to try to get everything done had taken it’s toll. For an introvert like me, even going out with people socially, no matter how much fun I have, is exhausting. Combine that with a three hour plus commute a couple of days a week and my body clearly had enough.
This week has been ECGs and blood tests and more blood tests. At some point I shut my brain up and allowed myself to just lie there while my joints ached like they belonged to a ninety year old. Even typing this now, I hurt.
Burnout comes in many forms. But my body has sent me a clear signal that I can’t keep juggling everything. For once, I am going to listen to it. That doesn’t mean giving up on goals and dreams. I’m going to just have to get better at taking time for mental and physical relaxation. I’m going to have to cut the busywork from my life where it doesn’t have significant benefits. I need to be intentional. When I feel better, it will be time to hide away somewhere and really think how this will all play out for the rest of the year.
Now though, I am going to rest again and not feel guilty about it. I’m sick and tired of feeling guilty all the time. No more.