Personal Development

Boundaries Before Burnout

Burnout, we’ve all experienced it at one point in our lives. According to NCBI, it can have a wide range of symptoms both physically and mentally. There are 3 main areas of symptoms that are considered signs of feeling this way:

  1. Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and stomach or bowel problems. 
  2. Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work. 
  3. Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity. 

While there are no methods to diagnose this feeling, there are ways to avoid falling into the black hole. Mental health is no joke. With the pandemic hitting hard, we’re even closer to falling into our next recession adding more stress to our lives. Whether it affects you or not, it is inevitable to witness loved ones being a victim of this tragedy, or even having survivors guilt. Some of us are even working longer hours from feeling like they have nothing else better to do with their time! It’s inevitable how intertwined our professional and personal lives have become in the past month.

How I set boundaries

What has helped me despite the ambiguous changes in my daily life, is using my planner apart from mobile calendar(s) for accountability purposes. I find joy in writing down tasks and routines to help coordinate my days better. If you can spare 10+ minutes on your phone mindlessly, why not for your productivity? It only takes a fraction of your day.

Pareto’s Principle, the 80-20 rule, explains that 80% of an output result from 20% input. I personally find my days more productive and balanced seeing the tasks/projects for the week rather than stressing to find it mentally.

sample week schedule

Regular work hours are traditionally known as 9 – 5, so I set my productive slot around that, separate from morning gym routine, making it 7:30 am – 5 pm (more or less). I do this to knock out my main goals, then use the rest of the hours of my day as “homework”, or a hobby (anything therapeutic). That usually entails reading a leisure book or scrolling through social media for an extended amount of time. These days, I find myself on Youtube watching diet vlogs, workout videos, or ways to increase productivity for a boost of inspiration. On either Saturday/Sunday, I like to do a light workout to kickstart my weekend. I typically use weekends to wind down, attend a community event, catch up with friends, or family.

Me Time: Self-care

What I just mentioned may seem heavy for those who live more spontaneously. You might wonder when I give time to myself. Having a separate work space from where I spend leisure time helps me keep a balance of both. I knew working on my bed was not good for my health. There is no stability for your back, nor would I be performing well because of feeling sluggish I’d feel being in bed majority of my day. I’ve also started to meditate again, in the form of yoga, to help ground myself to start each day mindfully, and with a purpose. Meditation has impacted my overall performance in keeping me aligned with myself.

Work area

Truth is, there are many depths to this self-love/self-care act that it can mean anything as long as it makes you happy and is enhancing your overall well-being. Someone can spend time to themselves by cleaning their home while another can be on Netflix (or both!).

Time away can be really helpful depending on your destination. While traveling is an essential luxury, going to a location where the itinerary is stacked may not be as alleviating as going to a place with the purpose to relax. I’m glad I was able to do all the tourist festivities in New York, but also unwind at night around Manhattan to reflect on life, being in the moment. Cabo San Lucas was also amazing just itself being away from the hustling and bustling noise.

How I knew and what actions I took

  1. Identify the red flags – Mood changed to pessimistic for a longer than the normal time frame, and work became burdening. Or, maybe your personal life has been bugging you with friends/family or loved ones.
  2. Patience – After understanding the experience, I knew the feeling was temporary. Burnout is like a wound. Once the injury happens, there’s not too much you can do other than nurture it and give it time to heal.
  3. Communicate – I let those around me know the struggle I was going through as a call for help. Whether it’s taking a day off, or even an ear to listen to, it’s a reminder of how people still care for you.
  4. Initiate – Once you’ve acknowledged the feeling and have received help, it’s time to act on it.

Since my big girl job, I was able to identify my first burnout around August/September where my overall morale began to plummet. I found it hard to sleep at night, wake up in the morning, and even get through the day because of brain fog. I felt like I was barely keeping myself afloat with the below-average work ethic I output. Growing up without the knowledge of mental health made identifying burnout most challenging so I’m grateful for those around me who have helped me every step of the way.


Permission to Start: Taking the First Step

Happy new month! I went on a run yesterday around Golden Gate Park to take advantage of the nice weather. I decided to listen to 4 podcasts to keep my mind going for fresh ideas, concepts, and paradigms. I discovered the podcast Tea Talk and enjoyed their engaging, deep conversations about the stigma between Asian Americans and mental health. I was reminded that mental health is not a big concern in foreign countries, especially Asian countries. The majority of these countries are built on Buddhism dating early back, where their way of living is through ephemeral suffering to reach enlightenment. 

Snippet of the beautiful day

While this may be frowned upon in American society, early generation individuals struggle with the diagnosis of mental health because they are conflicted about accepting it into their lives. At least with East Asian culture, we shine away from showing any signs of vulnerability to not “lose face.” Expressing thoughts attaching feelings to concerns show weakness. Their idea about anxiety, or any relative feeling is that there’s no solution to come of it other than finding it within ourselves to move on and perceive all opinions with neutrality. Not only that, but they are conflict adverse because of their historical collectivist society background that pushed for sustaining peace.

That is also why it is common to see backstabbing in Asian families because they cannot communicate their direct concerns with the other person. Confrontation is an enemy with older generations because their ego getting aside from Confucius’s filial piety (孝). The facade of being normal and avoiding the talks of personal issues encapsulates why some of us don’t have a strong relationship with our families. Communication becomes a bare minimum from our repressed feelings as we think, “It’s better if I don’t say much. After all, it’s nothing they can do to change.” 

The Buddhist teachings described the Eightfold Path people go through to understand the four truths. 

This framework has been passed down for centuries and has been ingrained into our lives regardless of our belief(s). Religion is what keeps people grounded, especially for those who made sacrifices coming to this country. It is the only part of them they feel that they can keep. I’ve learned that you cannot change your parents’ mindset, but at least open it enough so they can at least respect yours. I’ve also made the connection where do’ers like my mom is only trying to preserve the idea of being religious partaking in the directional activities from the Buddhist calendar rather than with the intention to reach enlightenment (happiness). We are all a victim of this too – living in autopilot. But through practice, communication and some form of meditation, I believe we can realign ourselves back to our center.

While this topic has many depths to uncover, I will keep this post to a minimum to relay it back to my point of taking the first step. Please visit my Youtube to hear more and talk with me there 🙂

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. The root of suffering is attachment”

The Buddha

In other words, build a bridge and get over it. Let’s take a look at the Five W’s: 

  • Who do I need involved? 
  • What resources do I need? 
  • Where will this take place? 
  • When will it be done? 
  • Why is this bothering me? 

This cycles back to yourself in finding your happy place. The only person you need permission to regain your inner peace is within yourself. In some sense, the Buddha is right. Suffering is obsolete. There are always moments in your life where you feel joy whether it’s laughing from a joke, or adoration seeing a dog across the street. 

“When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going”  

Billy Ocean

 As I further my journey in life, I’m seeing all the complexities that come with it and feel like I’m given the choice to either take action or avoid it to let it arise again later thinking it isn’t my problem. When in reality, it is because I let it be. I attach feelings to the situation. Taking the first step is always hard, but there is no progress without effort.