This winter was a bit strange for me.
I felt metaphorically stuck. Bogged down, heavy, tired. I was lacking drive and confidence at work, my get up and go had left the building: when you’re a mum you usually have LOTS of get up and go. It was in all aspects of my life – my clothes always looked crap, work felt rubbish, I was dropping balls all over the place, couldn’t be arsed for the gym and my usual healthy living attitude went out the window.
I wasn’t sure why I was feeling so strange. I wondered if it was another Christmas of being single getting me down, or the relentless chill of winter (I’m firmly a sunshine person), maybe the daily battle to get enough sleep in between work and kids and house?
As a knee-jerk reaction I culled my social life, cut down on the office, tried to get organized at home and retreated to the cosy comforts of home with its blankets, lamps and candles, vowing to ride out the storm in a state of Hygge.
I tried to help myself out of the hole. I spoke to friends, questioned why a funk would hover over me for such a long time, asked for good vibes and restful weekends. I visited spa hotels, sat in jacuzzis and stopped giving myself a hard time for eating so much bread (the ultimate comfort food, don’t you think?). I parted ways with a client who I didn’t gel with (both creatively and in payment attitudes) and took time out from the stress of work, relying on my savings and writing income to see me through.
My body was telling me to stop, basically, so I did.
But it felt weird. I looked back at the summer just gone: working eighty hour weeks, turning thirty, dating like a maniac, flying around the world. I wondered if I’d come past my prime in that one busy year and that was it, I’d be slow and unmotivated for the rest of my life?
January came and went and I still felt rubbish. Then in February, something switched. I met a new business partner who completely invigorated the way I felt about work, and suddenly I found a whole new confidence in my business and my abilities. I deleted all the dating apps and stopped giving myself a hard time about not being in love (well, mostly). I Konmari’d my wardrobe and tried not to feel guilty about visiting the gym to only float around the pool. I felt somehow renewed, like me again.
Looking back, I still had no idea what happened in those four funky months. I saw a lovely friend hit a similar mental wall and empathised, but had no idea why we were both struggling. Why we, happy, confident, strong women couldn’t pull it together.
I put it down to life – the ebb and flow of situations, emotions and the universe.
Until this week.
My talented friend Laura wrote about Burnout and I read the whole thing thinking: YES! This is it! THIS WAS ME!
I wasn’t depressed, or past my prime, or rubbish. I was burnt out, plain and simple. Exhausted, spent and done.
It all made sense when I looked back on it. The six months in a job I knew deep down didn’t fit, the time I spent feeling pressured to fit a square peg into a round hole. The deep responsibility that I didn’t want, of a team of people and the 80 hour weeks I was working to lead them.
The exhausting task of parenting two children when I was spending so much time in the office, knowing I was constantly letting one side of the team down: if I left work early to pick the kids up work would be disappointed, if I was late to pick the kids up my childminder-mum and the kids would be disappointed, or the nursery would fine me. The relentless evenings of responding to emails until 1am and the janky Windows laptop I had to do it on.
The cooking, cleaning, food shopping… it was a lot.
And then there was the writing. Being offered work at The Telegraph was a dream come true; I’d spent my childhood writing stories (and then blogs!), dreaming of becoming a journalist one day.
When I finished the job from hell I spent days at my kitchen table, scrawled notes on bits of paper all over the house, banged out pitches on my laptop.
But writing, I think, is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It’s just you and your computer, and it’s your task to come up with a raft of ideas that you think a newspaper or magazine will like enough to pay you hundreds of pounds for. But not THAT many hundreds of pounds, so you have to keep bashing away, constantly coming up with new ideas so you can place and write these articles to make a decent living. It’s really difficult, it’s very solitary, and I don’t think it’s for me.
Coming to terms with that was a big deal. I still want to get the book written one day, but I think I need something external than creative writing to get my mind whirring. I need strategy and knowledge and figures and meetings and work politics. And that’s a comforting thought. No more floating along in business, wondering if writing’s the career for me. I know that for me to be happy at work it’s all about the Digital Marketing (and the blogging, natch). But it was sad to say goodbye to the dream.
So how do you move on from a funk? That’s the question of the week. A million motivational quotes on Pinterest?
I’d like to think the whole thing has been positive. In life we need to experience the lows to appreciate the highs, and I’m looking on my little wobble as one of those lows. I take out of it a new happiness at work, and the knowledge that taking care of myself really needs to be a higher priority.
I’ve realised how much I enjoy a quick pace of life, but not at the expense of my sanity, and so I’m making sure I’m moderating the pressure I put on myself and taking regular exciting trips to the Big City. I’ve got a wonderful portfolio of work projects at the moment, and though I’ll probably always take on more than I should, I really do enjoy the pressure. If you want something done, give it to a busy person, right?
I’m still enjoying that jacuzzi and, I hope the healthy living will one day will come back and my jeans will fit properly again.
But I think the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that climbing out of a funk is not an immediate thing. It takes time, and you should consider all the cogs in your life whirring together to make it whole: family, work, friends, downtime, uptime. Finding balance and peace in the middle of so many moving parts ain’t easy.
“Big things happen, one day at a time”. It might be a cringey Pinterest quote, but it’s definitely one to live by.