As I was writing about our 2022 goals and planning our 2023 goals, I realized something. I’ve hit burnout. As a medic, I am very, very familiar with burnout. But maybe you don’t know the signs and symptoms of burnout and you may not know how to fix it. Or you didn’t think you could burnout doing something you enjoy and are passionate about, but you’re ready to throw in the towel. Before you do that, let me see if I can help in avoiding homestead burnout.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is, at it’s core, being overly stressed. The powers that be (psychiatrists) believe that it is work related. While I don’t disagree, I feel like it is more encompassing than that.
Your children can burn you out. That job you love, can burn you out. Those animals you love? Can burn you out. Your beautiful homestead? WILL burn you out. Why? Because burnout is stress and even the things we love most in the world, stress us out.
If you don’t know how to identify burnout, then you will never be able to cope with it.
But What Is Homestead Burnout?
Homestead burnout is no different than work burnout. It’s feeling overwhelmed with all the things that need to be done. Apathy when it comes to chores, projects or other upgrades to our homestead. A lack of empathy with those around you. It’s also a kind of depression, not wanting to get out of bed/house to take care of your farm, life, etc. Homestead burnout can also be trying to push through and failing miserably. Or, lastly, anxiety.
Do your animals no longer bring you joy, or not as much?
Everything you touch seems to turn to
The thought of planning your garden causes so much anxiety that you avoid it at all costs?
The last thing you want to do is start another project?
You and your spouse are not on the same page?
You are staying in your house more and more instead of working your property?
Congratulations, if you’ve answered yes to literally any of these, you are courting with burnout. If you answered yes to the majority of these, you are burned out.
I can’t talk for any other career field, but as a medic, I know more about burnout then I care to admit. Not only because I’ve had it, but because I’ve watched great medics and EMT’s lose the battle with burnout. In an effort of full disclosure, my homestead is my exit strategy for burnout. BUT I’ve put everything I have into my homestead, and guess what? It’s burned me out too.
Coping With Homestead Burnout
The crappy part is that even if you are burned out because of your homestead, there really isn’t much you can do about it, right? The animals, gardens, children, etc don’t just go away when you say, “That’s it! I’m stressed and I can’t function with this anymore.” Because guess what? You still have to slog out to feed and water the animals. There’s still weeds to pick and eggs to collect. There’s nothing we can do about it….
Or is there something you can do about it?
Things That “They” Say To Try
These think tanks that like to tell us how to minimize stress, reduce burn out, etc are obviously upper management and don’t get their hands dirty. For those of us in healthcare, it’s like them saying “I know you asked for increase staffing, higher pay and better equipment, but here’s a pizza party instead.”
I say this because “They” are saying things like “Have a support system” or “Get some sleep”…. and in the real world that doesn’t happen. I can’t just get more sleep. Trust me, I’ve tried. I have a support system. But guess what? They’re burned out too. So what are some ACTUAL ways to help relieve burnout?
If you are struggling with burnout and not sure where to start, there are several really good books out there to help identify and cope with burnout. I found this one and this one to be pretty helpful. Buuuuuttttttt. When I’m burned out the last thing I want to do is read books about burnout.
Identify the things that are burning you out. Really think about what is happening in your life that is causing your stress levels to be so high. There may not be much you can do about those stresses, but at least by identifying what they are, you can start looking at ways to reduce those. The first step in fixing a problem is realizing you have one, right? Same thing here.
If you are struggling to figure out what is stressing you out, simply look at the things you are avoiding. This may not look like active avoidance, “I refuse to weed the garden.” Instead, it could look something like, “I’m too busy to weed the garden, I’ll do it later.” Lately, I have been avoiding my goats. Not purposefully, but avoiding all the same. I just don’t hang out with them like I used to because I feel this all consuming drive to get all the things done. This resulted in not realizing that they are all covered in chewing lice and now I’m behind the eight ball on treatment.
Now, that you know what is causing your burnout, you can start to take steps to reduce it. Unlike normal burnout, it may not be as simple as walking away from that job or cutting back hours. Again, you can’t just stop homeschooling the kids. You can’t just stop being a farmer. But there are things you can do and the first is ask for help.
When you reach out for help, you need to be willing to accept that help in whatever form it comes in. This is really hard for us women. We want it done THIS way. But when you are at your wits end, sometimes done is better than not done, even if it’s not the way you would do it. You can always fix it your way later.
You can put off that project until you’re ready to concur it. It’ll still be there.
You can spend an extra 10 minutes playing with your goats. Everything else can wait.
You can make that homemade bread. If it sucks? The pigs can eat it.
Reducing stress doesn’t include doing nothing. Sometimes it’s as easy as doing something you WANT to do, instead of HAVE to do. But if doing nothing works, then do nothing for a short time every day and call it your meditation time.
Understand that it doesn’t all need to be done right now
For the last twenty years or so, we have had it crammed into our head that tomorrow is never promised. So we have been killing ourselves trying to get everything done. Go see that play, hang out with friends, get the garden in, homeschool the kids, work more, save more. More, More, More.
But trust me, there’s always tomorrow. Yes, I understand that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But would you rather die stressed with almost everything done, or happy with a million unfinished projects. Personally, I want both. But I also understand that by stressing myself out getting everything done, I am not happy. Jared isn’t happy. And the farm suffers.
Learn Something New
This may seem counter productive because we are trying to reduce stress, but learning something new or different can help ease stress. How? Because when we are learning, we tend to give ourselves grace. We’re just learning right? It’s okay to get it wrong because you understand that you can’t be an expert in something you are just learning.
Whenever I’m burned out, I pick a new craft, book, baking technique and start to learn it. This really helps pull my focus off the things that are burning me out, and pulls me back to learning which is something I love.
Work On An Easy Project
When you have the anti-Midas touch, sometimes it’s really easy to get even more stressed and burned out. No matter what you are doing, everything turns to crap. But find a project that doesn’t require a lot of brain power from you. Or something you’ve done a million times and probably won’t screw up. Then go do it.
Part of burnout is depression. You just don’t care about whatever it is that you’re doing. But by working on a project that is easy, you are doing something. Even if it’s just taking out the trash or cleaning off your desk. That alone will help you beat back that depression. And if you just can’t, that’s okay too. At least you tried.
How I Deal With Homestead Burnout
I’m not going to lie, usually I step back and punt. That means that I just don’t do the chores or I fall back on planning, cleaning, organizing, or my Finish Line Goals. I am beyond blessed that I have that option, and I know it. There are times when I simply cannot gather up the gumption to build a fence, work on the gardens, or literally anything else. So I ask for help, and do something else.
If that’s not an option and I have to do the things that are burning me out, I do it carefully and slowly. There’s nothing more frustrating that things not going how you want or need them to go.
Lastly, I go play in the dirt. For some reason, that is my reset. It doesn’t have to be anything major, either. Simply watering my plants or spreading grass seed is enough to remember that not everything has to be done the way I want it or think it should be. And that’s okay.
How Can You Deal With Burnout?
The reality is that you will burn out at sometime. Probably multiple times. That’s okay! You are normal. Identify that you are burned out, figure out (if possible) what is specifically burning you out, and then step back or go slower. Or don’t do it at all. Remember, at the end of the day, it’ll get done or it won’t. And both of those answers are just fine.