Stewarding My Reserves

I seem to be through the worst of this burnout. But stewarding my recovery is its own challenge.

December 09, 2018 (updated December 09, 2018)Filed under blog#burnout#productivity#restMarkdown source

Assumed Audience: anyone and everyone, but especially people who have followed along as I have written about my experience of burnout.

I’ve slowly but surely been coming out of this burnout over the last seven weeks or so. I pulled hard on some levers at work and got some changes there, which gave me the space to start recovering. I have also been working aggressively at identifying what steps I need to take to deal with my mental health more generally—including dealing with a bunch of griefs that have mounted up over many, many years, and which I have (for various reasons, many of them good) simply set aside to deal with later. Do that too long, and later becomes now, whether you want it to or not.

I find that this recovery phase has its own dangers, subtler but no less real than being in the thick of the burnout was. Now, I’m tempted to dive back into the deep end—to forget just how rough a spot I was in not that many weeks ago, and pick up too much, and… land myself back in that mess. As one of my pastors put it to me last week (putting to words things I’d been thinking), it’s easy to forget that just because we’re through the burnout doesn’t mean we have any reserves.

Spoiler: he was right. I don’t have any reserves.

I felt, this week, a bit of a slide toward the same malaise and cynicism and deep fatigue that characterized me for a good long chunk of the year—and it’s no surprise why. We’ve been going nonstop since before Thanksgiving. I drove away from my house for a quick personal trip only twelve hours after we got back from visiting Jaimie’s family in Texas over that holiday. I gave one of the best (and probably one of the most important) tech talks I’ve ever given at Olo the day after I got back from that trip. I helped finish getting the Rust website redesign out the door in time for the Rust 2018 Edition launch this week.

And it is very obvious to me that this has been too much. I need to steward my recovery carefully, so that it proves to be a genuine recovery and not merely a little upswing before dipping back into burnout. I need to go ahead and deal with those unprocessed griefs. I need to say no to more things outside my family and work, no matter how good or appealing those things are. In the medium term, I need to build better patterns of life around all these things, so that I don’t end up again where I was in early October.