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Why fuelling great work, and preventing burnout is bigger than 'self care.'

To celebrate a friend's milestone birthday, and a significant wedding anniversary we escaped to Bali. I had two weeks away of warm, humid, tropical bliss, filled with meaningful conversations, shifts in perspective and rest. Yet I came back to work feeling absolutely empty, done and ready to throw my computer in the trash.

Prior to our trip I'd been hustling hard, in order to meet client deadlines I was over-booked and trying to juggle creative work, motherhood and taking care of myself. I was waking at 4:45am every morning with a tight chest, and unable to be present or relax. I thought once I had time away things would feel different, but returning to work was worse than I anticipated. However my job wasn't the problem, I was.

The truth is as humans we are terrible for saying 'things will be different when...' and tend to chuck ourselves under the bus in the name of what we deem to be progress. We throw healthy boundaries aside so that we can accommodate everyone, and insist that pushing is ok because 'High-performance Harry' says so. Don't get me wrong there are seasons we need to put some hard mahi in. But we aren't machines, we're human beings with relationships, emotions, and a myriad of needs.

Looking relaxed but inwardly freaking out that it was days until I was on a plane back home!

Looking relaxed but inwardly freaking out that it was days until I was on a plane back home!

Warning signs or the greatest gift?

Did I burnout? Thank goodness not completely, but my body was sending me some pretty damn-clear signals I was operating in a way that was not sustainable. For me this looked like:

  • Crappy sleep - I fell asleep absolutely exhausted at 9:30pm, yet was waking with a tight, anxious chest as early as 4:45am on weekdays. and unable to sleep past 6:30am on the weekends.

  • Always wired - Physically I was present but mentally I was in a galaxy far, far, away. I lost the desire to go out, and had no spare emotional capacity left for our gorgeous kids.

  • Loss of appetite and life zest - Nothing was really fun, or funny. And things started to lose their taste. I stopped doing things for joy, and simply began to escape into doom scrolling or escapist procrastination. I also began to feel bitter and low.

  • Lack of inspiration and productivity - My work productivity completely went out the window. I lost sight of why I do what I do, and it became a hard slog of robotically having to ticking one job off at a time. This was a big one for me, as one of my superpowers is being able to get inspired super efficiently push out loads of work at once.

I don't just want to integrate 'self care' into my work. I want to really question what real success is, and drive sustainable work. Here's 5 things I'm considering:

WORKING SMARTER - Am I working the way I'm designed? 
Have you ever paid attention to the way you actually work best? Let's kick aside the fad books and 5am starts and really begin to pay attention to when your productivity thrives. For me this is intense shorter bursts of focused work with time to release and decompress after. I tackle the boring stuff first then get into the work I love. If I'm losing focus, feeling agitated, or work's beginning to feel like pushing you-know-what uphill - it's my warning sign to get moving, take a break and have huge glass of water. Believe it or not I'm working less but achieving greater quantities, and quality of work.

FILLING THE TANK - Is there room in my life for the things that replenish me?
Find the things that get you going. Don't know what they are? Then get out and try new things till you find what sticks. I started with rewatching a funny show, then moved onto ditching my business books for novels, and made space for honest conversations with good friends. I now have implemented 'Feel Good Fridays' these aren't weekly blow outs, I simply intentionally leave flexibility for things that fill my cup; afternoon naps, drawing, lunch with friends, art galleries, just simple wholesome stuff. 

It's self explanatory really, your body needs more than you think to replenish itself. I'm staying in bed to a reasonable hour, napping when needed, taking magnesium before bed, chucking my phone on flight mode at nights and trying to cut down screen time before bed.

PURSUING WHAT'S MEANINGFUL - Am I pressured to perform, or motivated towards fulfilling work on my terms?
There's a societal pressures to chase levels of income, output, recognition and more. And we often succumb to the pressure to perform accordingly thinking that maybe once we get there our business will be enough. But have you really considered that you could pivot from the pressure to perform, to instead pursuing fulfilling success? I've started to flip my measure of success from external outputs, to internal metrics. I now think about my mission, my 'why,' and focus on what makes my heart happy - helping one more person everyday.

"Asking the tough questions, and prioritising ourselves isn't a luxury, it's a necessity for business owners. It's about giving yourself the space and energy to nurture your creativity, find your focus, and ultimately, be the most effective human you can be."

So pay attention and check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Ok? Maybe not so ok?

Wherever you're at remember you're wonderful, and worth taking care of.


Want to dive deeper? I'd love to chat! Here at Kindred By Courtney, I help passionate entrepreneurs pivot, and build fulfilling brands that resonate with their audience, and empower them to achieve their goals. Let's connect and explore how we can work together to make your vision a reality.