Founder of @letterstodeardiary, Madi, shares her experience of taking time away from her passion project, writing and creating content for twenty-somethings, and why you should take time for yourself, too, in a world plagued by hustle culture and burnout.
I am not sure how to start this post. Three months away from the thing that gave me a sense of purpose during one of the strangest, most difficult times as a post-grad in 2020 was not an easy decision. So I will start as I would with any of my friends that I haven't spoken to in a while and say that I missed you! I am so happy to be back. I want to start this off by promising DD is not going anywhere. Is it evolving? Of course, but so am I. Since March, I have moved, as I documented in my last blog post. If you have done anything big or small to change your life recently, I commend you. I am so proud of you. Change is hard. I've never been good at it, and I think I underestimated how different my life would become after moving.
I am still figuring out my new normal in my college city that I am now living in as a post-grad. But after a few months, it is truly the best decision I have made for myself since graduating, but of course, I am still figuring it out. To put it bluntly, this hiatus resulted from me being f*cking exhausted. I hate having to admit it, but I have been burnt out. Between work, moving, and all of life's ups and downs in between, the last thing I have been able to prioritize was my passions. Which is sad, right? We live in a world where to survive, sometimes you must push what you love to the side. But, that is what being burnt out will do to a person. It will also convince you that taking time away from your passions or side hustles is selfish and makes you move backwards. That is just not the case, but inherently a result of the pressure of hustle culture and the 24/7 nature of social media. So, if you have or have felt the way I just described, here is what I recommend: give yourself a break, and here is how I did it.
Cutting Out the Excess
When you are feeling burnt out, you have to start healing by cutting out the excess in your life. I have been saying 'no' a lot more recently. Yeah, it started out of necessity when trying to juggle unpacking, setting up a house, and balancing work, but now I find myself saying 'no' for myself. If you are a people pleaser like me, saying 'yes' may seem easier in the moment and for your own anxiety, but it's good to ask if saying 'yes' serves you. Sometimes the answer is 'no,' and that's when it's okay to say 'no' to plans, extra projects, or anything else in between.
Learn that Doing 'Nothing' is Self Care
In our culture, taking a day to simply do nothing, or maybe just take care of yourself, can be considered lazy or selfish. Maybe it is because of social media? (It definitely is). These thoughts are still intrusive ones that I experience when I take a day to rest or for my mental health, but I am working on reminding myself daily that self-care isn't always productive. Sometimes it's taking a shower, ordering a comfort meal, and watching your favorite movie. Setting time aside for you and only you is actually one of the most productive things you can do.
Reality Check: Social Media Edition
This is advice that I still need to remind myself but take social media reality checks. What does that mean? Take a pulse of how social media makes you feel and what is "real." I understand that social media is a contrived and filtered reality, but when you spend hours a day on your phone and timelines, sometimes we can forget it. For example, you might be home working while someone you follow is off traveling, and you may wonder, why can't that be me? But, you must remember you may be on vacation next time they have to work! Social media is a highlight reel, and you have to keep that in perspective. I have been taking reality checks when I can feel myself comparing myself or life to others and creating content that reflects this.
Routines Suck, But They Work.
My most unpopular advice in this post is that you have to get back into a routine, especially if you start feeling burnt out. This doesn't just mean setting goals but also setting limits. For example, for me establishing a routine includes working out in the morning a certain amount each week, but in turn, it also means going to bed early and maybe saying no to a fun plan to make that a reality. Obviously, you can't follow a routine perfectly, but I mean that you will feel better when you start creating goals and plans for yourself and your week and stick to them. (I know this is the least fun advice.)
Don't Push Others Away
When you feel exhausted or burnt out, it might seem easy to push your friends and family away and to be alone, but in my experience, that will only make your feelings of being sad worse. Even if it is difficult, connecting with the people who love and care about you is the most important part of coming back from a difficult time, especially when you feel like you are struggling the most. Whether it be burning out, depression from a breakup, or maybe even anxiety from work, lean on the people in your life rather than pushing them away. I promise it will help.
I used to think that you have to work yourself into the ground to be successful, but that just isn't true; it's actually the opposite, especially when your mental health starts to sh*t out. Hustle culture is dying, and we are learning this slowly but surely, but it is still ingrained in many of us, including myself. You don't have to have a breakdown to have a breakthrough. Balance before burnout is the key to any success. Not working yourself until you have nothing left to give.
I hope you all got something from reading what I have learned from my time away, whether it be confirmation for rest or new tactics. As two years of this blog is approaching, I continue to change and grow, and I hope to continue reflecting that in my work.