• Michelle Buyer

#32: Burned out and not doing enough

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Two years ago, in my offline personal journal, I wrote, “I saw a meme that said ‘I wish my toxic personality trait was going to the gym.’ I want that to be me.” At least I know I accomplished one thing. Congrats to me for reaching that goal a long time ago.


Aside from that, I’ve been feeling pretty lost. I still go to the gym each day, but I’m not making progress. PRs are rare. I mostly use the same weights as I did last December, that I worked back up to again in August.


I was thinking about powerlifting in the new year, because why not? I feel like I’m wasting my potential by having the dedication to go to the gym each day and put it to use in competitions. Then I think again about how much more dedication and focus it requires to be in the best shape to compete.


In terms of eating, I lost a few pounds on Nutrisystem before going home for Thanksgiving. I meant to restart when I came back to Seattle, but then my birthday came up and I didn’t get back on track. I can’t be too mad at myself though. I’ve been enjoying food and maintaining my weight. This last week I only ate cookies and vegetables. Technically, that’s progress, because I used to just eat cookies and not vegetables.


I wanted to wrap up this diet before our family vacation, but I don’t see that happening now. I’m tired and burnt out from dieting. Nothing I was doing was working—mainly because I couldn’t stick to it long enough to make it work. I’m starting to feel the effects of eating only cookies, but I don’t want to stop eating cookies. * I know that I should take a break from dieting to give myself a chance to reset, but I don’t like the way that I look now and taking a break feels like giving up. I promised myself I wouldn’t give up. But If I continue like this, I’m just dragging myself through the mud.


Truly, I’m living my dream life in Seattle. I love my job, I couldn’t ask for a better social life, and I work out the way I wished I would as a kid. I was running on adrenaline for the first few months here because everything was so new and exciting. Now that the adrenaline has run out, I’m left feeling like I can’t keep up and that I’m not doing enough all at once. I can’t find the words to describe it well, but here’s my best attempt.


On the one hand, each time I leave Seattle and take a break from my routine, I realize how much energy it takes to wake up in the morning to go to the gym, perform my best at work in the office* and make plans with friends. As a result of this constant energy expenditure, I notice that my performance in the gym is lacking and I’m struggling to focus on work for the same period of time that I used to. This drag in my performance is causing me to feel like I’m not doing enough. Why can’t I do more than before if I’m doing the same things each day? It feels like I’m not making any progress because I don’t have anything new to work towards. When I think about not having new goals, I’m reminded that I’m starting to see signs of struggle to keep up with where I am now. Where does this leave me, other than frustrated and angry with myself?


My general response is “I don’t know.” If I try to find motivation that doesn’t exist, I risk having it backfire and ending up more frustrated than when I started. My gut tells me that I’m burning out, but how do I know if this is true or just an excuse? Besides, it hasn’t even been six months yet… This isn’t a time issue either. There are enough hours in the day/week for all of these things, plus a few extra for me to do nothing. Why do I feel this way?


Typical descriptions of “burnout” talk about burning out at work due to high stress and little rest time. That definition doesn’t quite match. I don’t feel burned out of any one aspect of life. I feel like I’m struggling to keep up and find excess motivation to grow on the whole. I’m not particularly stressed. As I mentioned, I have personal time. Is this struggle just part of being an adult? Is this the brain fog I’ve been dreading (and trying to prevent) for years? A common remedy for burnout is setting aside time to re-charge. When am I re-charging?

I’m an extrovert, time with friends should give me energy. I’m happier after I see my friends, but not rejuvenated. I love all of my friends here, I feel pressure to make plans to catch up with people before too much time goes by and I lose them. My gym time good time for zoning out mentally, but it’s time to focus physically. Then there’s work time. The difference between work and school is that I’m responsible for keeping myself accountable and figuring everything out. There aren’t office hours that I can go to after I complete 95% of the assignment. The last 5% is always the most difficult. I’m spending a similar amount of time on work that I spent on school, and the stress is confined to 5 days a week. I’m re-charged by tuning out all other thoughts and hyper-focusing on the task at hand, but this is a different type of exhaustive effort.


Each of these activities has its own benefits, but none make me feel rejuvenated completely. I can’t think of anything that I’ve done to feel rejuvenated in the past, because I’ve never had this issue before. Maybe because I’m re-energized by achieving my goals. Time spent alone doesn’t make me feel better. It’s just time spent doing nothing and feeling lazy and fat.

Obviously, there’s an issue that needs to be solved. I only have 100% of my effort to allocate. I’m not going to sacrifice work. I already feel terrible about my performance in the gym, nor can I see myself spending any less time with friends, because alone time isn’t helping anything. I’m getting really frustrated here. I’m generally happy with my life, so I don’t know how to change my attitude. I have to come up with something though. For now, I’m taking a de-load week at the gym (there’s no sense pushing myself into the ground even further) and trying my best to eat healthier foods rather than just cookies. I’m limiting myself to 2 focus blocks a day, but setting timers for 2 hours and 15 minutes during which I refuse to be interrupted.


*A side note: I’m bothered by the way people talk about eating desserts. When I talk about eating cookies, I mean that I ate the entire box of cookie dough. When other people talk about eating too many cookies, it means they ate 4. I feel worse about myself hearing what other people are eating (because I’m insecure.) I still look the way I look and someone else looks the way that they look, so why do I need to know what you someone else ate? If I had my dream body, I probably wouldn’t care as much because at the end of the day I look the way that I want to.


*I’m constantly being asked what I want to do in my career. Everyone wants to help me by giving me some piece of unsolicited advice, while my peers are telling me what role they want next. I appreciate all advice, especially because it comes from such a good place, and I love hearing my friends become so passionate about their future. But this information is overwhelming as I figure out what I want. I worked so hard over the last 23 years to get to where I am now. Now that I’m here – like, truly here and not stumbling to open an Excel file – I need a minute to appreciate where I am before I can decide where I want to go. It’s overwhelming to see everyone around me with the next big idea and not have my own version.

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