One of the most universally experienced struggles during a deployment is there not being enough of you to accomplish all that is required…running out of energy or steam or drive or desire before the day is over.
We have lots of terms for describing this problem: hitting a wall, being at the end of your rope, dropping some of the many balls you’re juggling, running out of room on your plate…however you describe it, this experience of burn out is a real thing and a real problem.
Some of us experience little burn outs all throughout the day or week. Some of us manage to keep all of the balls in the air no matter what happens until we’re so burned out we drop them all at once.
What if you could figure out why these burn outs really happen so that you could help them happen less? What if I were to tell you that the source of the burn out has nothing to do with how much is on your to-do list or how busy you are? Let’s dive in:
So, the truth is the real reason we experience burn out isn’t because we’re too busy, it’s because we’re draining ourselves mentally and emotionally in other totally preventable ways, then we become easily overwhelmed by our regular responsibilities no matter how many there are.
Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you. Think of a time when you had a ton of responsibilities and things going on, but you were passionate and excited about what you were working on and even if you weren’t getting enough sleep and didn’t have a lot of extra time you got it all done and felt proud of yourself in the process (maybe college?). You were the hero of that story for sure. Now think of a time where you didn’t have a lot going on, you had responsibilities but not too much and you still felt exhausted and unmotivated (maybe when you were recovering from an illness or injury?).
It’s very powerful to start to show ourselves that the amount of responsibilities that we have is not the source of our burn out. If we have an unreasonable amount of responsibilities it can definitely contribute to the problem, but we tend to think that it’s the main reason we’re struggling. The problem with that is that if your lengthy to-do list is the cause of your feeling like there isn’t enough of you to go around, then there isn’t a lot we can do to improve that (particularly during deployments when we have taken on our partners responsibilities as well).
So, I am going to share with you the 5 ways that we drain ourselves mentally and emotionally so that we do not feel as equipped to take on our responsibilities:
1. Resisting Reality – When we don’t love our current reality (like a deployment), without even realizing we spend a lot of time thinking things should be different, wishing they were, imagining they were, thinking something has gone wrong, and feeling tight from the resistance. Another problem that comes a long with this is we tend to think the problem is outside of us and outside of our control when we resist our reality.
Try this: A beautiful thing happens when we open up to our reality and accept it, it all gets a little easier. We soften into acceptance. More things feel like they are in our control and we see them more easily. We’re afraid if we accept our current reality that we don’t like, that it will never change. But there’s a big difference between wanting something different for your future (something that you can actually work on) and fighting against what’s currently happening (something you can’t really change). Remember, when you fight with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.
2. Judging Your Humanness – We tend to live in 2 extremes when it comes to our humanness and the fact that we will make mistakes. We either have a plan to do everything perfectly and according to plan OR when that doesn’t work then we are very hard on ourselves and unaccepting/unforgiving of our mistakes and flaws. This can be so draining!
Try this: Make a plan for how you want to do it and how you want it to go AND plan on messing it up sometimes. Plan on making mistakes, plan on your humanness, plan on being nice to yourself in these moments. When you handle these moments with understanding and grace for yourself, you get back on track with the plan so much more quickly and drain less of your precious energy.
3. Lack of Personal Gratitude – We want to feel seen and understood and we want to know that people are grateful for what we do. It’s ok to want those things, but the problem is that even if other people know how much you do and appreciate you, they are generally not great at showing it to you in the exact way you want.
Try this: spend time each day or even through out the day during each task thanking yourself. This seems simple, but as you start to observe this one, I think you’ll be shocked to see how infrequently you are currently thanking yourself and what a difference it makes in your day and your mood and your energy levels when you do.
4. Forgetting to Cheer on the Hero – Not only do we forget to thank ourselves, we forget to cheer ourselves on. If we don’t make ourselves the hero in our own story then we usually take on the role of the victim. We start to feel sorry for ourselves and think that it shouldn’t be this hard and we shouldn’t have to do it alone. There are few things more draining than feeling bad for yourself. Also, watch out because we can’t have a victim without a villain. Once you start feeling bad for yourself, we tend to vilify people and things in our life.
Try this: Cheer yourself on! Seriously…we need to champion ourselves in our efforts in our days, in our lives. This is how we become the hero in our story and then there doesn’t need to be victims or villains. One of the best ways to feel energized and up to the task is by owning our responsibilities, practicing confidence, feeling capable, and increasing our feeling of being the best one for the task at hand.
5. Falling in the Comparison Trap – This one is so easy to do and for whatever reason I think women struggle with this one so much. When we compare our performance, abilities, possessions, etc with the people aound us, we will quickly feel like we come up short and have our energy zapped. The problem is that it’s so tempting to do this, especially when we’re already feeling low. Add on top of that our accessibility to other people’s lives (thanks to social media), and it can be a recipe for disaster.
Try this: No one needs to be right or wrong. No one is better or worse than other people. Practice loving your way and the way other people do it differently. Practice being happy for other people and being happy for yourself. Practice disagreeing with someone and still having tons of love and respect for them. One quote I heard recently that I loved is “You can’t compete with me…because I want you to win too.”
Now that you understand these energy suckers you can work to avoid them or at least decrease their occurrence in your life so that there is more of you to give. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself during deployment when more than normal is being asked of you. The best news about all of this, is that your to-do list can stay exactly the same, you’ll just feel more up to the challenge.
Be the hero in your story. Increase your capacity to give by changing your attitude. Step up to the plate and remind yourself that you are the best one for the job. Cheer yourself on! Become an expert ball juggler and be nice to yourself when balls drop. Get a longer rope. Structure your day and your responsbilites on a bigger plate. You’ve got this!