How To Not Burn Out

How to not burn out (insert laughter here).

I’m laughing because I am burned out.

I’m so burned-out I think I burned out my burnout.

But, I’m not out of the game and that counts for something (no it doesn’t not really).

Because, I can do better than just ‘not out of the game’. I want to be in the game and feeling good, not barely in the game coughing up a lung. (If this sounds familiar to you, well, I have I’ve written about this before Feeling tired, maybe you’re burned out).

Here’s what happened this spring. I was living my life of too-much-stuff (I always have too much stuff) but this year I didn’t have any wiggle room for the over-stuff of life.

So, I’m careening along like the Dukes of Hazard car, on two wheels and spring comes. Spring, for me is final exams, final projects, final grades for my 210 students, a graduating senior, sick parents, athletic kids with LOTS of final year events, a dog that pees during stress, another dog that eats butter, when people are too busy to put it away, and barfs in the car. Then the flu. Then a cold. And seriously could somebody please invent a lawnmower that doesn’t yank my arm out of the socket when starting?

Here’s what you should do.

Call my phone and leave this message:

“So, what happened Doctor I-Know-Everything-About-Health? How did the stress management expert, who is so sure she can help people, go so far astray? Riddle me this Smarty Mc-smarty.” (No don’t say that last part it’s mean).

Here’s what went wrong. I didn’t listen to what my body was saying. My body was saying,

“I’m tired, mom.”

And I was saying, “Shut-up you sissy. Take a nap and get to work.”

[Tweet “When your body says, “I’m tired, mom.” Don’t say shut-up you sissy. Take a nap and get to work.” #burnout”]

My mind can be kind of nasty, never letting me just be a little human. My mind taps it’s little time piece and say, “Tick tock, times-a-wasteing.” I got afraid that if I didn’t keep working and keep selling books that I wouldn’t get another book deal. I worried that if I didn’t go to every book store event and tweet every last thought I’d be washed up.

Then, I got washed up in another way.

I got sick.

Yeah, this is a continued battle for me. I have to learn the lesson of Listen To Your Body every spring (and Christmas and if I’m honest, I’m not great during Arbor day either).

My body knows what’s-what and my mind can be kind of a bully.

Next time my body says, “I’m tired Mom.” I’ve got to remember to say, “Ok honey, take a break. It’ll all still be here when you return.”

[Tweet “Next time my body says, “I’m tired Mom.” I’ve got to remember to say, “Ok honey, take a break. It’ll all still be here when you return.”]



  1. Virginia Pickerell on May 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Burnout? Exhausted? Yes…but have been there many times, and the amazing thing is I finally get it…again! And, again!~ And, again!

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      HA ME TOO! again and again and again!!

  2. MM Finck on May 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I relate to. every. word. Even the sick parent. Thanks, Ann, for your honesty and wisdom. xx.

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks so much for your kindness.
      I wanted to share this, even though I know I should be an expert in this. I’ve been teaching this for years and years and still have to remind myself to be kind. To stop solving everyone’s problems. To rest more.
      xo Let’s keep in touch, we are of like minds.

    • Ann Garvin on June 23, 2015 at 12:36 pm

      It is my pleasure!!

  3. Jan Christian on May 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    So sorry to hear about your burn out. Can we bring you gals a dinner sometime?

    Want to let you know that “The Dog Year” appeared in the BOOK OF FAVORITES that was distributed at the 18th annual MPL Book Club Cafe held on May 19. Each participating book club submits some of their favorite reads of the year, and yours was entered by the Orchard Ridge United Church of Christ’s Women’s Book Group. I like to use the FAVORITES book for ideas for future things for us to read, and I know that other groups do, too. . .

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      Oh my gosh, it is not an exaggeration to say I think about you and Jack every day. I miss you so and we would LOVE to see you. Let’s work on this today.

  4. Vicky D'Agostino on May 27, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Ann this post is hilarious and a tad heartbreaking. How did we manage to convince ourselves that doing it all, having it all are the holy grail of the powerful, successful woman? Tomes have been written on that but your post is spot-on. Talk nice to yourself, and yes, take naps. Thanks for writing!

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      Right?!? Mostly, I’m just interested in everything but then I became the go-to for everyone in all things and I got really, really tired. I have to say no to people. I have to learn to disappoint and that is always super difficult for us good girls 🙂

  5. Linda on May 27, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you for the reminder Ann! I should schedule this reminder to pop up on my calendar at least once a week! Yup, right next to that one that tells me to put healthy things in my body!

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      I know, I need a tattoo (as much as I don’t want one).
      I need a reminder that says, Ann, sugar makes you sick.
      It’s good to know that everyone feels that way, right?

  6. Denise Thornton on May 27, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    You make a good point. It’s always easier to tell others to take it easy than to do so ourselves. And reminders on this topic are always useful.
    Also, regarding the mower. Last year I switched to a Fiskars reel mower. I’ve had a reel mower for a long time, but it made a lot of noise, was very challenging to push and would only cut at one low height. I’ve been reading grass should be cut higher, so I got the Fiskars for that reason, but it is a joy to use. It is easy and quiet and a really good aerobic work out. (Better for the environment too.)

  7. Maria Dybevik on May 28, 2015 at 2:38 am

    Oh, Ann! Don’t read this…go take a nap. Okay, so I know you are reading this, so pay attention: simplify whenever you can, say ‘no’ when you are asked to bake something for that last game, let the dust sit on your TV stand…maybe write a message in it to your family, “I am napping, do not disturb.” As for the dogs, gotta love the hounds, but not the butter-barfing-in-the-car-moments. Tell that husband of yours to put the darn butter away (I am sure it was him).
    Take a deep breath of that awesome Spring air we all live for in WI, absorb the vibrant colors in the flowers and trees, then decide what you don’t have to do that day. Best of luck, Maria (Brad Halverson told me he always thought you needed extra sleep)

    • Ann Garvin on May 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      Awww, I didn’t see this until now (I was sleeping). lol. Thanks so much for your lovely words. This was a hard spring with sick parents. I’m feeling so much better now.
      Brad is totally right!

  8. Aarynn Bosshart on May 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Oof, sounds like an extra busy spring. Congrats on your daughters graduation! I hope you can have a nice relaxing spring with your girls :). My problem is that on top of everything going on in my world, I still try and make time to waste time on social media, Netflix, and American Idol… and make time for important stuff like coffee dates, time with my hubby, phone calls to the family, and hobbies (music, writing, exercise, etc). I need about a 34 hour day, and I think I could make it work.

  9. Merle Drown on May 31, 2015 at 1:04 am

    As you so wittily remind us, to be human is, well, to be human. And accepting that, with grace and humor, makes for better biscuits…

  10. Michelle Finch on June 11, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks, Ann! You are spot on in this blog. As a person that is in a helping profession (realizing that not everyone would agree that lawyers are “helpers”), the candle is always flaming and some days the smoke is so thick that it’s hard to breathe. Learning to say “no” includes learning overcome the feeling that I must read work emails after 5 pm. The social worker gene, which seems to be dominant in my family, hammers away at my conscious….must solve problem….must make sure client knows I am attentive to their issue NOW, even if it’s midnight…must answer…. It’s a slippery slope. My goal is to learn to let go, breathe, read a good book and set boundaries, and smell the roses (or, more likely, smell the dogs). Thanks for the pep talks Anne- much needed and much appreciated! –Michelle

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