Off-topic: 10 Ways to reboot after total burn out / stress collapse

Wandering off topic again (“topic” meaning living, working, culture, traveling in Spain etc), but I had a totally revolutionary past few days, rebooting completely and, who knows, someone might find this list useful one day. So…

Last week I was mentally, physically and inspirationally 100% burnt out. I couldn’t imagine ever managing to come up with another interesting blog post or podcast idea, and the mountain of life/paperwork/un-fun crap that needed sorting out seemed insurmountable. I was wound up as tight as I’d ever been in my life, moody, snappy, obsessive about all sorts of ridiculous things, complaining all day, and generally pissed off.

How did this happen? Well, if you really want to know, I would say it was a combination of: trying to keep on top of far too many projects and streams of information at once, never taking a proper break, and quite a bit of latent emotional stress and mental exhaustion related to the death of my mother earlier this year. (Sorry for the heavy stuff at the end there.)

Then I heard someone mention the word ‘burn out’ on a podcast, and I thought, ‘that’s what I’ve got!’ I googled the phrase just to make sure of course, and yup, all the symptoms fitted. If you’ve got this far and you’re thinking, hmmm, burn out, that sounds about right, then maybe this list might come in useful. This is what I did to reboot, and how around a week later I feel about 100 times better:

Ben’s top 10 12 ways to reboot after total burn out / stress collapse (in no particular order):

1. Take a 90 minute to 2 hour walk every day in the park or countryside with enlightening radio/podcasts in your mp3 player/iPod. I was recently led to/discovered the following podcasts, and they were great, enlightening, inspirational, interesting: Front Row Highlights from the BBC (good solid BBC cultural interviews), NPR’s All Songs Considered (lovely music podcast), WNYC’s Radio Lab (philosophical sciencey stuff). Important: walk very slowly, don’t rush, and for at least 10 minutes of the walk, turn off the iPod and just enjoy looking at those magnificent trees/hills/people/fields…

2. Have at least one long hot bath a day. Have two if you want 🙂

3. Stop living and working according to your conception of other people’s expectations of you. E.g. “I must write 5 blog posts a week, people expect it”… Who cares what people might expect of you, you’re burnt out! Take your own limitations into account for once! There are no rules about what you have to do. Do what you can for a while!

4. Take some exercise. (I didn’t get beyond the slow walks, but even that helped no end). Oh, and stop drinking for a while. You can’t reboot with a hangover, even a tiny one. You need to wake up in the morning feeling GOOD! (Eat lots of really nice, healthy food too!)

5. Remove as much information ‘noise’ as you can from your life. I realised that certain activities lead to that nervous knee-tapping thing that nervy people get on first dates. You know, where your knee starts involuntarily bouncing up and down? I realised that trying to read through the 40 or so RSS feeds I was subscribed to on Google Reader caused this as soon as I opened the page, so I wiped the lot and removed Google Reader from my browser bookmarks. I stopped checking Facebook 5 times a day (by removing that from my browser’s bookmarks too), and only checked email once or twice a day. If you notice a tell-tale sign that something makes you agitated, remove its ass!

6. Destroy your “to do” list! Looking at my to-do list (in a text file on my computer) led to instant melt down, so I wiped the lot. About 100 items deleted in one fell swoop. I’ll remember all the important stuff, the rest is gone, the world goes on, hurray!

7. Get up later whenever you can. Just for a while. You can get up super early again next week, when you feel better.

8. Go to the cinema. I saw the wonderful Death at a Funeral. Laughed so hard I cried!

9. Enjoy music and sofas, at the same time. Or your cat. Or garden. All immensely therapeutic stuff.

10. Work out what burnt you out and what you are going to do about it. Do that thing less or more efficiently. How are you going to make it fun again? Can’t? Make changes, no matter how impossible that might seem, or how big they might have to be. Can’t advise much on this one, only you’ll know what to do.

11. Get others to help out with things that need doing while you reboot. A million thanks to everyone who sent in posts on the worst of Spain last week to keep this blog going.

12. Take up the guitar! OK, that’s what I’m doing, but I bet there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, learn, start. Make time for it. It feels so good to be learning something different and new again, and something off-line! I’ve always wanted to do something musical and at last I am. What about you?

Well, that lot worked for me, I feel pretty energised again. (But cautious to keep applying the above for, well, forever would probably be a good idea…)

Any thoughts?