It’s 3 am. I’m huddled under the covers staring at glowing images of my addiction. I know I’ve hit rock bottom when I’m in on my phone in bed studying the latest political polls.
There is a correlation between my happiness and my knowledge of the current political world. It might seem like paying attention to political news might lead me to unhappiness, but following politics is my escape. Somehow knowing what is going on in the outside world will give me some kind of control in my daily life.
I recently hit that rock bottom. I can tell you the polling trends of the top 10 swing states. But for the first time, I hit rock bottom and didn’t feel like I was a bad person. I kept hope in my heart.
Of course, I don’t like how I felt. Laying in bed on my phone makes me feel like crap. I’m disappointed that I’m not practicing the habits that serve me. I feel shame that I’m not accomplishing my goals.
For the most part, I dropped all of my nine healthy habits. I was eating junk food before bed. I barely had the energy for work and basic family chores.
Despite all of the above ugliest, I kept joy in my heart and didn’t feel like a bad person.
Here are some tips on how I didn’t hate myself during a very dark time.
- I stayed aware of what is going on: wildfires keeping me inside AND the pandemic that creates suffering and fear for everyone either directly or indirectly.
- I acknowledged that these things were not going to go away.
- I accepted that I was responsible for what I did and didn’t do despite these external events.
- I asked my family for help.
- I enjoyed the escapes of political news, tv, food, and just relaxing.
By staying present in all of the ugly feelings, I avoided the self-criticism that turns darkness into suffering.
By staying present and joyful during this crash, I learned some things.
First, I realized what was truly going on. I’m burnt out. The day we started the shelter in place, I committed to being a leader at home and work. I realized that being there for so many people had worn me down. The breaking of habits and just letting things go was a beautiful response to being burned out. The burnout snuck up on me. It slowly piled up week after week, and I didn’t realize how heavy it got.
When I realized the burnt out, I learned two great pieces of advice for handling this:
Vagueness is prohibitive to health. In other words, to make healthy changes, you need to be precise about what you will do. What, when, and how are you going to exercise or change what you eat.
The only discipline needed to care for yourself is merely putting your oxygen mask on first. In other words, commit to doing the small healthy habits that will prevent burn-out. Do these ahead of any other task you might do for other people, including family and work.
It seems silly that I fall apart because of burning out and didn’t realize what was going on. But it is sad how many times I have beat myself up for being “bad” and also being blind to what was really going on.
I am walking away from this latest crash relatively uninjured and some new tools to get very sharp on bringing back those habits that serve me well.