I had the most frightening dream. The walls were closing in and I was hopelessly trapped. A storm rolled in, the rain poured, and I had no shelter or protection. The water was rising and I was drowning. Suffocating, freezing and choking, I desperately clung on, hoping against hope for a miracle, for someone to come and save me.
Just as I resigned myself to fate, a hand reached out, grabbed me by the wrist, and pulled me from the wreckage. At that moment, overwhelmed by the struggle and overcome with emotion, I blacked out.
When I woke up, the storm had evaporated, the sun shone brightly in the sky, and I was safe in my own bed. It was the start of summer.
But I couldn’t help wondering: was it really a dream? It felt so real…
Sometimes in life you reach a point where you just can’t cope any more. Where nothing you try seems to work. Where you’re so stressed, tired, burned out, that there’s only one thing you can do for the sake of your sanity:
Before I continue, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I haven’t quit my job. What I have done, though, is take the entire month of December off.
In a way, this is an admission of defeat. 2018 got the better of me. I cracked under the pressure. I’ve been chewed up, spat out, and cast aside. But the truth is, I’ve already been down that path in my mind. I mentally checked out over a month ago. I’ve moved on to looking forward, and looking up. And I’ve made a bold decision: The last month of 2018 is me time. This December is MEcember.
“But Evan, you can’t just stop! You have to do SOMETHING!”
This is the most common response I get when I tell people I want to stop working. Don’t worry, I’ve thought about this!
I’m not making any promises about how I’m going to spend my time – this is me time, after all! – but I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied. And, thanks to recent experience, I’ve identified some things I need to avoid too. So, I present to you my December Dos and Don’ts!
- Gym. I’m still signed up to the gym, including all the classes. I’m trying to do some kind of exercise every day, and unless I have other plans, the gym is just down the road.
- Running. I’ve signed up for my first half-marathon, and I’m working my way up to 21.1km. My longest run so far is 15. There’s also the small matter of acclimatising to the summer heat, which on race day in mid-February is very likely to be a factor. In the meantime I’ve also signed up for a series of 5k runs where I’m working on my speed.
- Exploring. My earlier attempt at a staycation wasn’t entirely successful, in part because I didn’t account for how much energy those wanderings would take out of me. With more time to explore now, I can take it at a more relaxed pace. The weather’s a bit nicer too!
- Sleep. This one pretty much goes without saying.
- Socialise. There are still plenty of opportunities before everyone disappears for Christmas. Everyone including me!
- Change of scenery. I’m going to my hometown, Christchurch, for two weeks around Christmas. I haven’t been since June and I’ve almost forgotten what it looks like! There’s people to catch up with there too.
- Blog! Reflect on my experience, learn from it, and vent if need be!
- Game. It’s summer, the sun’s out, there are better things to do than hide indoors and look at a screen.
- Drink (alcohol). Besides the issues I’ve had before, I’m now on medical advice to “avoid alcohol” rather than “limit alcohol”. I guess this means I have a solid excuse to pass. To which I can only say, good riddance.
- Work (or think about work). By the time I go back to work, it’ll be five weeks since I was last there. This is by far the longest break I’ve had since starting the job five years ago. I’m not checking my emails until then. Not sorry.
- Feel guilty for taking time to myself. Why should I? This is in everyone’s interests. I can’t do anything for you if I’m burnt out.
If there’s one thing I want to take away from this experience, it’s that I need to put myself first. To live my own life. To define success on my own terms instead of letting others do it for me.
Come January, all going well, I’ll be refreshed and ready to take on the world again. Either that or I’ll have to dig deeper into the rabbit hole that is the mental health system. Time will tell…
Summer sounds: Hoobastank – Who The Hell Am I?
I’m trying a new thing for summer where I add a theme song for each post. Often times a relevant song will pop into my head as I’m writing. In a way it becomes part of the story, and I’d like to share that experience. Plus I want to share and write about my favourite songs, but I don’t feel like they warrant individual posts. So, welcome to the first edition of [sunshine intensifies] Summer Sounds!
Many of Hoobastank’s earlier works riff on the same theme: This is my life, I’m looking for an opportunity, and I’m gonna take it when it comes. With a generous helping of angst and frustration, of course. Who The Hell Am I? follows this recipe to the letter, and to me best captures the spirit of Mecember:
I won’t apologise
For who I’ve come to be
‘Cause who the hell am I if I can’t be me?
Happy holiday season, and do take some time for yourself if you need to!
How do you deal with burnout? What are your mental health “dos and don’ts”? Would you go as far as to take a whole month off? Let me know!