Life is a long run. Make sure you prepare.
Hindsight is a superhero and provides incredible insight. There is another superpower hindsight possesses that sometimes is ignored. You may have heard the phrase, “Sharing is caring.” Passing down lessons learned from your hindsight is one of the most precious gifts we can give someone.
When I was in my early 40’s, I suffered a significant bout of burnout
From the outside looking in, I had it all under control. But due to years of neglect, I was slowly dying on the inside.
Starting in high school, I understood that I needed to become an achiever to realize my dreams. This achiever mentality helped me check off goals and follow my path of accomplishments.
Unfortunately, the achiever rule book did not include any chapters on slowing down or self-care. In my younger years, this didn’t phase me at all. I thrived on being busy and wore it like a medal of honor.
It didn’t help that I had also surrounded myself with other achievers and doers through college and dental school. I was a member of the club, and I felt like I belonged!
I didn’t have any role models showing me the value of self-care and taking time to slow down. And when the occasional balance guru would brush into my life, I would dismiss their ways as too ‘woo-woo’!
One of the ways I attempted to add self-care to my routine was running. Getting out on the trails was my outlet, and I would often enter an almost meditative state on my longer runs.
Running couldn’t always outpace my achievement mentality, however, and all of the miles and events eventually had a hand in my burnout.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight
It’s a process that builds slowly. Because of this, most people don’t recognize it until intervention is long overdue. For me, it began with body aches, headaches, and difficulty sleeping. All things I contributed to the physical demands of my job and natural aging. The lack of sleep led to mood swings and difficulty concentrating, which I contributed to hormones.
In hindsight, this would have been an excellent time to listen to my body. It was trying to give me a gentle nudge that I needed to change. But, that’s not what achievers do! They push on!
However, as the mileage increases, skipping the preparation can lead to increased fatigue and injuries. It is not smart to power-through the longer runs.
Suppose good preparation is part of your routine and becomes non-negotiable for any run, short or long? In that case, you will be much more likely to avoid the harmful impact of under-preparation.
Had I incorporated a simple self-care routine in my early years, my experience with burnout could have been recognized early and avoided
Unfortunately, I kept pushing, and my body, heart, and soul pushed back. I began to suffer panic attacks, my health deteriorated, and I pulled away from my support network. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t ‘handle it all.’
And now, my passion is to convey this message to as many busy achievers as I can. Set up your self-care routine in your early years. Make it a non-negotiable part of your day. And, it’s never too late to start!
The work you do early will come in handy later in life and set you up for success. Don’t power-through in your younger years. It will catch up to you on your long runs!
Signs of burnout can include:
- Muscle aches
- Low energy
- Nausea/digestive problems
- Skin problems
- Difficulty breathing
- Anxiety attacks
- Inability to relax
- Emotional exhaustion
- Loss of interest in people/hobbies
- Compassion fatigue
- Job dissatisfaction
If you are experiencing subtle signs of burnout, slow down. Make room for a few moments of self-care every day. Self-care is different for everyone, so find what works for you.
Please also prioritize time to enjoy gentle physical movement regularly and social time with close friends. Finally, try to be involved in an area of service now and then.
And remember, we can’t master our life today, but we can master today. Small habits practiced every day, add up. Your older self will thank you for it!