Take a Break or Burnout: Hell yes it's okay to wave the white flag!


It will likely happen to all of us more than once during our lifetime. Dealing with work, family, relationships and more will just feel like too much and you'll want to wave the white flag. Call it a timeout, a break, or burnout, it's the same thing. At some point we all need to wave that flag and pretty damn high too.

For me, the flag waving happened last year after feeling the pile on of work stress, relationship drama, need to over achieve angst, plus the passing of my father after a very long battle with cancers (plural) which he won at first then lost. Break or burnout.  What does it look and feel like? Well it will probably begin with endless debates in your head when you wake up in the morning. It will go from once in a while to daily. They will likely happen while doing simple things like putting on make-up before work, doing your hair, picking out clothes, or deciding to hang out with friends. How does the debate in your head go? Probably something like mine did:

Me: I can't do this. I'm so tired, I don't want to do people today. I miss you Dad. Mom, I hope you are okay. 

Me: Suck it up. This happens to everyone. Girl, are you really complaining?

Me: Ugh, I don't want to do this meeting today or talk to THAT person I have no energy for them. I'm so tired. Is this how grief feels?

Me: Oh stop it. You just started a new gig and will look weak if you ask to take a break. Suck it up!

Me: But I'm tired and fried and need to take 5. Is burnout a thing? What if I call this a quick timeout?

Me: *silence*

Even if your internal convo is a bit different, you know what I'm getting at. As women we are constantly having inner debates about taking a break, stopping to breath and fearing burning out. You just don't want to look weak or incompetent. It can be brought on by a death in the family, depression, relationship drama, a pregnancy, or... (insert the reason of your choice). Yet somehow, most of the time, we talk ourselves out of this much needed self-care.

For years I took a pass on taking a break. I'd instead work myself to the bone, power on and sleep in on weekends to solve the problem. This past year as I prepped for a milestone birthday, my awesome father passed as mentioned. For the first time when I started to feel fried, knowing full well I was in grief mode, I raised the white flag high - super high. 

Was it a good thing? It was a great thing! I took extra time away from work before starting a new gig (I'd gotten a promotion but didn't enjoy it because I was burned out and grieving). I spent time taking care of me, myself and I, in little ways. I stayed close to home and close to family, that's it. My closest friends understood and offered an ear, shoulder or drinks when needed, and gave me space to breathe. Work colleagues I consider friends gave me EAP (Employee Assistance Program) recommendations to help me get through the tough moments. By the way... EAP is legit AF, if it's offered at work, use it.

I'm a travel lover, I enjoy exploring and trying things that take me out of my comfort zone. But waving the white flag to take a break and slow all the way down was one of the scariest things I've ever done. But I'm so glad I did. Am I 100% now? Hah, nope. It's a process with no timetable. I am however in a much better place. I'm laughing more, enjoying work with fresh eyes, I have energy again, I'm chilling with friends a bit more each week, making travel plans and I'm back in sneaker-head collecting mode and more.

Think you’re close to waving the white flag? Here are a few signs to look out for that may tell you it's time to take a break or risk burnout:

  1. You consider quitting on the spot at least once a day.

  2. You snap at your co-workers when she/he asks to borrow something like a pen.

  3. You ignore 50% of your emails.

  4. You cancel all social plans on account of being exhausted.

  5. Your favourite lunch is a candy bar.

  6. You’re up to eight cups of coffee a day and still can’t focus.

  7. You pick fights with your partner every morning, then again at night.

  8. You missed a big deadline.

  9. You’ve stopped working out.

  10. You have insomnia or work nightmares. 

(Source: The Muse 2017)

Now that I know there is nothing to fear about raising the white flag to take a break, rather than burn out, I am totally okay with the idea when it feels like I should. When I feel the angst coming on and that weight on my shoulders I don't ignore it and try to just sleep it off. I ask myself what's up, write down my concerns to get at what's solvable or what's just basic BS and okay to ignore, and what I can do to get back to me. And what I know for sure is the next time I need to slow down, take that break and do me, it will happen, no inner debate.