Burning Out and Slowing Down

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you. Unplug quote by Anne Lamott

For those of you who have been reading for a while, you'll know that an awful lot has changed for us this year. I quit my full time job so I could focus more on blogging, and we'd prepared ourselves to make things work with only one income. Then, as often seems to happen, the universe had other plans for us and my husband was made redundant. So now we were looking at making things work with zero income!

I had always planned on getting a part time job so that I had some money that was 'mine' (as it was always going to take a while for blogging to start bringing in any money - and there's always the possibility that it never will!) So, I started working two days per week in a bakery, which I love. It's such a wonderful departure from the stress of my old job, and it's a perfect example of a local business doing a few things really really well, which is exactly the type of business I like to support, and working in one just feels right for me!  However, change doesn't trickle in for us. It tends to rush in like a tidal wave and leave us bobbing about trying to gather up all our things before they float away...

D had been working freelance and taking on every bit of work that he was offered which meant we didn't really know what out routine would be week to week, and he was doing so many different things that I was never exactly sure where he was! Then, my sister ended up in a situation that meant she needed to find somewhere else to live! Our parents would of course have welcomed her back home, but she has three house rabbits that needed a room, and somehow moving back home when she'd left just felt like too much of a step backwards for her so we did some incredibly fast decorating and she moved in with us a few weeks ago. It's all good, we're the best of friends so living together (again!) is actually quite good fun, but it does mean our bedroom resembles a small jumble sale because the contents of the spare bedroom that  the rabbits now live in is in there, the rabbits (who are in the room next to ours) seem to enjoy waking up and clattering about at 6.30am, and obviously three adults living in one house all trying to live separate lives is going to cause a few problems with boring logistics like who's buying washing powder and where did the last of the porridge oats go!

THEN, D was offered a job teaching (wahoo!) It's full time, and about an hour and a half away which is a bit rubbish because his days are going to be really long again, but it does mean we're now in a better financial situation than we we're when we'd done the maths to see if I could quit my job back in July. Great as this is, it does mean that we now only get one day a week off together, so we're going to have to really make the most of our evenings, and the school holidays which he will also have off.

So, in the space of four months, everything has changed again! I had hoped that this house move would see us properly settling into married life, and while this has been the case in many ways, I've found myself craving the old routine we used to have, where we knew our working hours and we weren't decorating!

I've also found it really difficult to adjust to blogging being 'work.' I used to blog as a hobby, mostly evenings and weekends, and when I first left my job I was pretty good at switching off in the evenings and logging how many hours I'd 'worked.' Recently though, I've been carrying on into the evening, trying to learn about SEO and image tags and logging into wordpress then logging back out again being it makes me want to pull my eyes out of my skull! I've been completely uninspired to make anything until about 8pm when suddenly my brain seems to switch into 'make all the things' mode! Consequently I've had several evenings where I've still been looking at a screen at midnight, then feel guilty for not getting up in the morning and even more guilty when despite all these hours, I'm not actually managing to write very much! And of course, D really doesn't want to come home from work ad spend the evening watching me staring into my computer! I realised I hadn't actually had what I would consider a day off for weeks!

All these things, accompanied by suddenly getting a crazy amount of eczema on my scalp, as well as the GP telling me after my last smear test (If you're female, get one - they're totally not scary!) that I have some kind of mysterious symptomless thrush (didn't even know that was possible!) meant that suddenly I went from 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming' to 'the tidal wave of change has stolen everything and I'm actually about to drown!' I decided I'm terrible at blogging, that nobody is reading (even though they are!) that I'll never really make it a success (when of course success is all relative so it's up to me to decide when it's been successful anyway!) I just didn't want to do it anymore and suddenly not wanting to do the thing you love is quite a scary feeling.

In short, and more than likely the reason for the eczema flare up - I was pretty close to burning out completely.

So, I actually gave myself (nearly) two days off! Tuesday morning I took my breakfast back to bed with me and did some online-Christmas-window-shopping. I then spent the rest of the morning sorting out the jumble sale and neatly putting away all my sewing equipment and fabric.

I haven't really mentioned this before, but I'm also a carer (though I prefer the term 'friend') for a young man I used to work with. (You can read a little more about him over at my friend, and old boss' blog, Land of the Blue Rinse) He's autistic, and this means he faces a lot of extra challenges on top of the usual challenges of an hormonal 12 year old! I spend time with him most weeks going shopping, cooking, or going out for tea. I collected him from school Tuesday afternoon and we went straight to the supermarket to buy some ingredients to make biscuits. For the first time he used the self-scan checkout pretty much independently, looking for the 'stripes' on each item and holding them up to the screen, waiting for the beep then putting them into the bag. It was incredible! I cried with pride, gave him the biggest hug (which thoroughly confused him!) and as well as being so so proud of him, I was left with a feeling of 'you know what, I am good at stuff!" It may not have been the thing I was feeling downtrodden about but it was a good reminder to stop beating myself up!

On Wednesday, I slowed down even more. I took myself out for breakfast and spent the morning wandering round Norwich, treating myself to a few Christmas decorations and a new oil for my diffuser from Neal's Yard. I try to pick essential oils based only on their smell as I think thats often a good indication of what I need in that moment, and interestingly the one I was most drawn to was the 'Focus' blend. I went for coffee with a friend and then went with D to my parents house for dinner (can't beat a shepherds pie sometimes!) Then we came home and watched Grand Designs on the sofa, with a salted caramel green tea and a coconut yoghurt and I realised I actually felt calm. Just goes to show how fraught I'd been feeling that I was suddenly able to recognise when I'd switched off!

So, my new promise to myself is to give myself at least one day off a week. The day will be changeable depending on what I'm doing but, I'm going to block out a whole day every week. I may find that on a day off I really feel like writing something, or making something for a tutorial, and that's fine, but I really think giving myself the opportunity to slow down if I need to will be so helpful! After a couple of days off I've been so much more productive and it's only lunchtime - this time last week I was procrastinating and beating myself up about it!

So, the moral of this rather long story is a simple one, a message to myself. Take time to actually look after yourself. Slow down. All the way down. Slow down so much sometimes that you are in danger of stopping, or else one day you'll find you don't want to get out of bed and you will have no choice but to stop, and that's definitely not a good place to be!


  1. I love this! We really are more alike than we realise! X

  2. I can relate to so much of this! Specially the physical stuff. I've had all those things for ages (eczema since i was 14, I think). When my mind is not at ease my body starts telling me so, with various aches and upsettings... As I don't have a job, on the outside I might look like i'm careless and not really doing anything at all but my mind works overtime, constantly thinking of new ways to make money and get busy. Add to that an anxiety disorder, and boom!
    It's not easy, so congratulations on finding that one thing that helps you cope with it all. Taking days off (off thinking mostly!) is the best.
    TREAT YO'SELF! *she says and goes to the cinema on a week night*