‘The Next Right Thing’: Overcoming Burnout
Burnout. Everyone knows the feeling, especially patients and their advocates.
My burnout stems from the ongoing pandemic and the harsh contrast between government mandates and doctor advice. It stems from the quantity and quality of advocacy that I choose to post on social media every day, an activity that many of my friends have pinned to the top of their priority lists. Finally, my burnout is seasonal. Grant season is coming to a close, as is tax season, and the hope of a healthy summer is peeking through the blossoming trees.
This is the time for my body and mind to play catch-up — an internal spring cleaning, if you will — but it’s not always easy.
The “Frozen II” trailer launched months before the movie premiered in 2019 and immediately spoke to my journey with burnout. The tone was heavier, almost R-rated, but was surprisingly appropriate for an aging audience. One song titled “The Next Right Thing” — sung by Kristen Bell, the voice of Anna and an advocate of mental health — has become my spring-cleaning guide.
“This is cold, this is empty, this is numb.”
When I say things like this aloud to myself, I know it’s time to rest. Everyone has a breaking point. The point of self-care, treatments, and advocacy, however, is to improve quality of life, not take away from it. Sometimes, the lines become blurred, and I need assistance prioritizing. That’s OK, but guilt is not.
In one day’s time, I take two nebulizer treatments (which turn medicine into a fine mist for breathing) and about 50 pills, do three nasal rinses, exercise at least 30 minutes, eat three diabetes-friendly meals, drink a gallon of water, and measure my blood sugar and pressure, among other tasks. Granted, this schedule is relaxed compared with my life pre-transplant, but when I add doctor appointments and writing projects into my day, the list becomes overwhelming.
“This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down.”
When I am overwhelmed, I have no drive to do my treatments, and that’s a big problem. “If you don’t take these medicines, all of your organs will slowly fail,” I say to myself as I focus on the only motivator: consequence. Like a toddler who enjoys drawing on the wall, the overwhelming threat of doom becomes old, and the thought of freedom overpowers it.
I take my compliance seriously, so when gravity pulls me down, I write. As I preach in my nonprofit posts, storytelling is distracting, empowering, educational, and uplifting. It’s a platform on which I can remind myself and my audience that I’m working hard for a reason and that I’m navigating through burnout like everyone else.
“But you must go on/ And do the next right thing”
After I write, I look back at my lengthy to-do list and ask myself what task I can complete in the next 60 seconds. Then, I go from there. Baby steps may include washing my nebulizer or changing my clothes. Other times, I grab a few bottles of water from the pantry and just set them in front of me. If I’m really inspired, I take a walk around the block or call a friend. Taking a nap, however, does not mean I failed, and I must remind myself of that every day.
“I’m all alone”
Luckily, I’ve only experienced this feeling a handful of times. In a recent column, I wrote about my support system, my strongest method of spring cleaning. Writing is great, but my family holds my hand through the treatments and advocacy that I’m not motivated to do, which enables a life of compliance. I’m not willing to go a day without medication or advocacy just because I’m overbooked. Thanks to my hand-holders, this long-term goal remains accomplished despite the short-term hurdles.
“I won’t look too far ahead”
If I try to quantify my responsibilities during burnout, I vastly overestimate. My heart and mind become a sinking ship, and I feel I must desperately tread water. Similar to the baby steps, I know my routine will inspire itself once I prove it’s not as overwhelming as I remember it to be. Then, I picture myself skipping through the grocery store. I’ve learned to forgive myself for the delay and trust that motivation will come again in time.
“This next choice is one that I can make”
The feeling of burnout does leave me with positive choices. I just have to see them. Sometimes I’m fraught with energy and optimism, a tricky phase of denial. Other times, stress blossoms into chronic stress like the healthy summer streaming through the blossoming trees.
Just don’t let habitual burnout deny you all of the internal spring cleaning that you deserve. Rest, relax, rejuvenate, and write. Then, you’ll be able to “Let It Go” and do “The Next Right Thing.”
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.