I have a confession: I’m feeling burned out these days. Please don’t get me wrong or think I’m complaining. It’s just a big dash of vulnerability and honesty. See, I adore my clients from the depths of my toes to the top of my head. My time with them feels like play. I’ve always been a writer at heart, and my time spent putting my thoughts to paper fills me with joy. I love my every day life.
Truly. Head-over-heels in love with my ordinary daily life.
Yet, to be flat out honest, I’m finding my soul weary. And to be even more honest, I’ve continued to ignore my heart’s cry for a break.
Here I am each day, doing what I love, yet I’ve been finding myself feeling burned out. I believe connection is of the utmost of importance, and while meditating upon this have realized that, while I seek true and deep connections, the surface connections found in digital space sometimes feel a little forced.
It took a conversation with my own coach for me to discover that I have been missing a critical tenet of living in the zone: regular play.
My coach challenged me, kindly called me on the story I was telling myself, and gave me the exact same journaling assignment I had given a client just five days earlier. Where are your excuses? What is keeping you from taking time off?
(On a side note: this is why coaches need a coach. We are too close to our own stuff sometimes – and need someone to (lovingly) call us on our own bull-shit.)
I see it often with clients like myself whose work is a passion: sometimes we embrace and love our work so very much that our work can feel like play at times.
The truth, however, is that when you don’t include regular non-work play in your world, it’s bad for your well-being, and can actually lead to stress, fatigue, and depression. At the risk of sounding too clinical, let me share the words of Stuart Brown, from his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, “The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression.”
Last week, I had an opportunity to spend some time at an amusement park. I let down the pretense of being an adult and in addition to riding every roller coaster I could, I also rode the carousel. In those moments of simply being, my stress and cares floated away.
I was reminded that play for the sake of pure play is critical. If you can’t seem to step away from your work and life, you may need a reminder that feeling burned out is not a way to love your life.
Here are Ten Ways Play Can Help When You Feeling Burned Out
One – Amuse Yourself.
Spring is here and all over the country, carnivals and amusement parks are opening. Visit with close friend – or better yet, your partner. Cavort through the park with joyful abandon. Spend some time on rides that seem “beneath” you. Like the carousel, the train, or a simple boat ride.
Two – Be in 1st Grade for an Hour.
Purchase yourself a fresh box of crayons and a pad of manila paper (or a cool coloring book) and color. Make a collage by cutting out pictures from magazines and gluing them on a poster board. Use your hands to create a piece of artwork just for the fun of it. And when you’re done, hang on it the fridge.
Three – Embrace your Inner 4-year-old.
Buy a bottle of bubbles, sit on your back porch, and go through the process of dipping into the bottle, not caring when your hands get slimy, and blow bubbles. Let go of who you are from 9-5 and watch your bubbles float into the atmosphere.
Four – Go Back to High School.
Do you remember your first boyfriend? There were excuses for brushing against you. Holding hands was a thrill. And you got butterflies when he kissed you. Go on a date with your partner. Hold hands. Talk. Laugh. Flirt. Connect. Make out like you won’t be going further than 2nd base. Don’t go in with a preconceived notion of anything, just go and enjoy the thrill of connecting with the person you love. If you want to jump forward in time at the end of the evening and make love, by all means do! Just don’t plan your date with the goal of sex, it’s about having fun with your partner without expectations.
Five – Honor Your Inner 12-Year Old.
Do you remember the days before you had your driver’s license? I sure do. The way I got anywhere was to ride my bike. Drag your bike out of the garage, hop on, and go for a ride. Don’t go with the idea of logging a specific number of miles or getting your heart rate to a certain number, just go for the pleasure of being outside in the fresh air. Let the wind caress your face. Listen to the sounds of nature around you. See where the road takes you.
Six – It’s All About the Game.
Do you remember playing basketball with your friends at the playground? Or escaping the summer heat with board games like Monopoly and Sorry? Grab a friend and play a game. It’s not about who wins or what your score is; it’s about the camaraderie and laughter that evolve when you play a game with a friend. Shoot some hoops. Go to the driving range. Drag out the Scrabble board. JB and I have cards, Backgammon, Monopoly and Chess. Some of our best weeks seem to begin with a weekend spent playing games.
Seven -Listen to the Voice of Your Grandmother.
When I would spend time at my grandmother’s house, inevitably I would become mopey and bored. And when I became bored, I would talk to her incessantly while she was watching her “shows.” She would look at me and say, “Debra, go outside and play.” I would go into the yard and pick up cool rocks. Or climb the tree in her front yard. Or run as fast as I could from the back porch to the fence. I went outside and got active without a specific plan or agenda. I got sweaty, scraped my knees, and got dirty. GO OUTSIDE and bum around for half an hour. And when you’re done, come inside and have a cold glass of lemonade to cool off.
Eight – Plan a digital sabbatical.
Don’t allow yourself to get to the burn-out stage (like I did). Take a break of a week (or three) from Facebook, Twitter, and other digital time-sucks. And if you can’t take a large chunk of time, unplug for an evening or a weekend.
Nine – Spend Time In Your Own Little World.
I loved two things when I was a kid: books and Barbie dolls. I would spend hours going on fictional adventures with Trixie Belden, and my Barbie dolls not only had cool houses and a camper, but lived in a vivid and exciting world created in my mind. Spend some time in solitary activity that makes your creative juices flow. Pick up that romance novel from the library, write a story starring your favorite fictional character, or build a model airplane. Lose yourself in the richness of your imagination.
Ten – Spring Clean.
This sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But do you remember how much fun you had doing a really messy chore as a kid? Digging in the flower beds to prepare them for spring planting, hosing off the deck, cleaning windows. Invite a friend over. Squirt each other with the hose. Make a play date out of it!This isn’t about a to-do list. It’s about finding joy in getting sweaty and dirty – with the end result being something you’ll be proud of accomplishing.
Whatever form of play you choose, remember that playing is done for its own sake. It’s voluntary. You experience freedom. You open yourself to creative exploration. When you finish, it leaves you wanting more.
Play helps the brain adapt and improvise when unexpected challenges arise. Playing will allow you to release stress, gain energy, and be more productive. Play is a solid solution to combat the feelings of overwhelmed and burned out.