How To Give People A Watered Down, Exhausted Version Of Yourself!

Are you constantly asking "Why am I so tired?" Most of us are. The solution is both simpler and more complicated than you'd think. Click through and find out how you can have more focus, more energy, more calm!
For years, the question that ran in a loop through my brain was “Why am I so tired?” In those exhausting years, before blogging was even a proverbial twinkle in my eye, I was an ESL teacher.And I looooooved it.
I was that teacher who came early and stayed late and brought in themed snacks to match the books we were reading. I sang songs about colors with exaggerated gestures and those facial expressions unique to teachers who are trying to get people to sing along.
I come from a long line of teachers (education is the family business) and we’re all equally committed. I remember my dad creating all his own worksheets for his Social Studies class and my mom’s holiday-themed clothes that kept her second graders endlessly entertained. (Christmas tree earrings, FTW.)
Like many passion professions, teaching expands to fill the space you give it. You’re never ‘done.’ You never look around your classroom and think “Welp, that’s it! I can go home and stop thinking about work because I’m finished.”
You can easily spend every evening and weekend poring over the curriculum, planning new units, fussing with bulletin boards.
And I frequently did. Slowly but surely, like so many teachers before me, I started to burn out. I’d check my email while my students practiced their keyboarding skills. I’d assign “silent reading” while I silently read my most recent issue of Real Simple.
This wasn’t who I wanted to be! Disappointed and overwhelmed, I called a huddle with my veteran teacher parents. I was hoping for some time management tips or a pep talk that would return me to my high-energy, super-engaged self.
But what they told me was a lot more realistic and a lot more useful.

“Well, of course, you can always do more. But if you do too much, you’re not giving them your best. You’re giving them a watered-down, exhausted version of your best. They don’t deserve that and neither do you.”

This applies to just about every area of our lives, doesn’t it?
When we have eight social commitments each week, it’s difficult to really be there for our BFF when she’s blindsided by a breakup. When we take on a zillion projects at work, it’s hard to give our passion projects the attention they deserve. When we post seven times a week, it’s hard to create the meaningful, longer pieces we’re really proud of.
Being exhausted and overwhelmed serves no one. You deserve to actually enjoy your job and relationships; they deserve the best you have to offer.
Are you guilty of taking on too much and then doing a less-than-amazing job on all of it? Where could you cut back? If you’ve stopped overdoing it – what did you stop doing?
photo credit: moore christophe // cc

13 Comments

Melissa Dalgleish

I'm proud of you for lightening your editorial calendar, mostly because I know how difficult decisions like that can be.

I'm also a former educator (or rather, as you are, someone who educates without being a teacher) and I remember those days. It wasn't until I moved into a different career, one that let me do things like, oh, exercise and cook dinner and spend some time every day not thinking about teaching and research, that I fully realized how exhausted and overwhelmed I had been for a long time. It's hard to see when you're in it, especially when you're surrounded by people who are all doing the same thing you are and making it seem normal. Giving up on the tenure-track was a hard decision to make, but I'll never be a professor, and I'm totally okay with that. Instead, I get to help my students far more directly and often than I could if I was faculty, and I get to have a life outside of my job.

Win!

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Leah K Stewart

Wonderful and honest post. During my Burn Outs (yes, had several before I got a handle on it!) I remember looking at myself after snapping at a friend or holding back stress-tears in company and thinking… is this really me? those of us who are efficient and reflective really are asked to do more and more while those who may not care as much or are more chaotic in their organization are often left a freer reign. It's amazing how quickly we can make everything feel like a must! Changing paths is so hard, but I've never seen a person regret it.

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Keep Warm (Danielle)

I really struggle with this all the time. I don't have an enormous group of friends but I feel like I'm always busy. I like to try to have one night a week at home with nothing on but since my mom died a few months ago I find that I'm wanting more than that. I just don't know what I can cut back on. I'm in a job that is ok but that I know is not for me in the long run, but I don't know what I want to do and I certainly don't have the energy to try new things or find a passion or remember a dream or even make a plan. I need to work on giving my best self to others and myself…

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Sarah Von Bargen

Danielle,
I'm so sorry for your loss. I think you should cut yourself some slack both now and in the coming months. I imagine grieving a parent is a lot more draining and time-consuming than you currently realize. <3 <3

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Sarah Bishop

I lost a parent not terribly long ago so I offer condolences on your loss.

For me, the first few months after my dad passed I threw myself into everything. Was easier to be exhausted than to think or deal with anything. This was (not surprisingly) a unsustainable plan. Eventually it caught up with me and I made some changes.

I cut way back on my out and about nights. I journaled, spent alone time reflecting on what I needed most, slept way more than I thought I ever need and eventually made the changes that worked for me.

Nowadays I have a no-guilt policy for spending Thurs nights and at least one weekend a month home alone being as lazy or as productive as I want. I use a planner to write out my activiites so I can see where I'm spreading myself thin and proactively schedule a me day as needed.

I echo what Sarah Von said in her response to you. I also add that the grieving process varies person to person and will surprise you by when and what catches you off guard and reactivates your grief. ::gentle hugs to you <3::

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katielookingforward

Well I probably love and appreciate this post more than most as your mother was my teacher, but their advice is so true. Doing more and more isn't always a good thing. I recently had to tell the yoga studio that I couldn't do any more weekends for the next couple months. I need my schedule free, and that means I can put more energy into my weekday classes.

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The Tarot Lady

Really great post and it comes at a time when I am gently and quietly making changes to pare back my own busy life. I am craving more simplicity and looking for new ways to find that.

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Amanda

THANK YOU! I'm a pre-school teacher at an IB school in Beijing and I am WIPED a lot of the time. There's always something to do and I feel guilty if I'm not (trying to) do it all. (I had to write "trying" because in reality, even when I go early and stay late, there's no way to get everything done.) I want to print this out and hang it up! I should probably read it every day.

Also, I think your posts have been great lately! Love these types of posts!

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Rachel

This is a great post. And a lighter editorial calendar filled with more posts like this sounds awesome. Keep up the great work, I love your writing.

Reply

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