It’s a collapse.
Complete mental exhaustion.
While most people experience burnout from time to time, multipotentialites are prone to hitting this point more frequently and more intensely. It makes sense, considering how passionately curious we are, and how easy it is for us to lose ourselves in our projects.
Now don’t get me wrong, the multipotentialite tendency to jump into a new interest immediately and go hard is one of our greatest strengths. Our fiery passion means that we learn at lighting speeds and acquire new skills much faster than most people. It also means that we can inspire others more deeply, since this kind of enthusiasm is very infectious.
But at the extreme, even strengths can become liabilities…
Since our projects are just so much fun, it’s easy to push ourselves too far– to sort of O.D. on them. A new activity that was once a blast, can quickly become crushing if you allow it trample over all of your other projects.
Or maybe you’ve been on a learning kick, embracing all of these new “HELL YEAH!” projects, and you suddenly look up and realize that you have a million new commitments in your life. Wuh oh…
The saddest part about hitting burnout, is that the same projects that fired you up days earlier, are now a source of pain.
When burnout happens, you are no longer able to harness and use your multipotentiality as fuel for brilliant work. It sort of runs wild, unrestrained, and begins controlling you instead.
The Burnout Cycle
The good news is that, if you’re looking out for it, you can spot burnout coming and prevent it before it arrives. Lets take a look at the typical multipotentialite creative cycle:
- Excitement over a new interest, or several new interests: It feels like falling in looove!
- You begin spending more and more time on your projects because it’s just so damn fun.
- You’ve built up momentum, and the work feels like it’s happening on it’s own. You’ve gotten past the initial resistance, and you’re making amazing progress. Up until this point, it’s all totally healthy. (In other words, stop here!)
- You begin pushing even harder, riding that momentum unconsciously, and you start forgetting about your other priorities and values (like your relationships, health, or even other multipotentialite projects).
- And then it hits… Overwhelm. Panic. Suddenly, you realize that you’ve taken on too much, too quickly. (For some reason, this tends to hit at the three week mark for me.)
- Burnout: you can’t move, you can’t think, all you want to do is curl up and sob.
The key is to recognize when you get to stage 3, and not push yourself any further, no matter how much that voice inside is cheering you on (or telling you that you should be getting more done).
Unfortunately, we sometimes get so wrapped up in that momentum, that we don’t stop. Everything feels right, and so we keep our heads down, and continue pushing harder until…
How to Get Back Up after Hitting Burnout
Here are some tips for recovering from burnout and jumping back in the game:
- Take some time to cry it out, metaphorically or otherwise.
- Take a break. It could be a day, a week, or longer. My burnout rebound time is usually 1-3 days. During your break, be good to yourself. Try setting a rule that you will not think about your project(s). It’s just off the table for now. Do something physical, sleep for a while, or use Michelle‘s approach and go read some fiction. The key is to get out of your head.
- Once you’re done escaping, get back in touch with your priorities, goals, and values. Hopefully you wrote these down a long time ago, and you can pull out that sheet of paper (or glance up at your wall). But even if you didn’t, it’s never too late to start delineating what matters to you and where you want to go in life. Disconnect from other peoples’ opinions, go for a walk, pull out a notebook, and reflect on what truly matters.
- Once you’ve come out of burnout hibernation and you’re feeling purged, it’s time to regroup. Draw up with a plan and go slowly this time. Slow and steady.