Hey hello everyone, intern Connie here again! Since I recently finished up my 2.5 years of classes in my masters program, I thought it might be nice to share something that helped me get through one of my biggest stumbling blocks… burnout.
Through my grad school career I’ve read a lot. Mainly journal articles and text books, but also some awesome books. I’ve read some that were purely for fun like murder mysteries or thrillers to lull me to sleep, but also some to help me learn things about myself and about things I’m genuinely interested in. I heard many of my fellow interns in the intuitive eating space as well as other RDs counseling from the same lens speak about this book by Rebecca Scritchfield called Body Kindness and I was intrigued. Upon reading it I fell in love with this concept of “big fun” and “little fun” and realized it was one of the things I had finally incorporated into my life in my second half of grad school. Big fun is the stuff you put off like that beach or European vacation you’ve had on your bucket list for months or years. Little fun is taking yourself out to a manicure just because you feel like pampering yourself or blocking off one hour to meet a girlfriend for a glass of wine or a walk together so you can catch up. Little fun is also just enjoying the little mundane things in life. Although big fun and little fun are different, they are rooted in the same thing; you time.
You time is one of the things that can help prevent burnout- something I think so many people face, myself included. In college I was quite bad at big fun and honestly, little fun too. I was always thinking about my next big exam and never letting myself embrace college life without feeling guilty for it. It took me until senior year to take a breather and allow myself fun like Cubs games, going out, or walks to ice cream with friends without the guilt. This was also around the same time I fully embraced intuitive eating and living out my values more. Funny how changing the way you think about food can change the way you think about life! I started getting better at little fun towards the end of college but bigger fun that I planned myself was still pretty foreign to me.
In grad school I was lucky enough to meet some amazing women who seemed to always have the next big fun thing planned. For example, this past year someone suggested we take a trip to Zion National Park and I was like ok is this actually going to happen? Sounds SUPER fun! We created a google doc, assigned meals, found a glamping site, picked a few days and road tripped the 7 hour drive from LA. I can wholeheartley say it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. A trip filled with nights laughing so hard I cried and making it to the top of Angels Landing, one of the scariest hikes I’ve ever done, but I felt super accomplished at the top. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have made the time for that big fun and I certainly wouldn’t have returned to school as rejuvenated.
I think we don’t make time for big fun for a few reasons. Some might be financial – doing certain “big fun” things is a total privilege. Any fellow students out there along with me I’m sure are familiar with the financial constraints of student life, I totally get it. Another reason though, might be because it’s scary. It’s scary to plan something big to have it potentially not go as planned or to make the move to do something out of the norm when the norm is so friendly and inviting. The thing is though, that when you step out of that comfort zone it can help take your head out of that hamster stress wheel inside and allow you to return refreshed and renewed to willingly hop back on that wheel and run super fast!
Rest brings good, deep work. Personally, when I’m burned out my work is less than A+ work. It’s B+ at best, be that school work, how I work on my relationships with friends and family, how I speak and care for myself or all kinds of other things. My thinking is clouded and things look a bit more grim than they do when I’m rested and have a fresh headspace. Carving out time for big fun or little fun is a big aspect of self care. For those of you who might be like me before I found my friends who helped me step outside the box, I hope I can be that little push you need to hit confirm on that airline ticket (if it’s financially responsible of course!) or send that text to a friend to invite them to that new dinner place or cooking class on Groupon you found.
Sometimes I think we don’t allow ourselves big or little fun because we feel as though we aren’t good enough or doing enough right now. We aren’t pretty enough, we aren’t in the right emotional place, or we are waiting for a sign from the universe. These thoughts certainly aren’t rooted in being kind to ourselves. I’ve been there and that only made me prolong things further. I don’t think there’s a “right” time, maybe there are “better” times but don’t let that be the only thing that holds you back. I wish I would have told my junior in college self to put the darn book DOWN and get to that party with your friends! I’m eternally grateful for the women I’ve met and that little, yet powerful chapter in Body Kindness for inspiring me to make big and little fun a regular part of my life!
Some “little fun” things I do often to give myself some mental space and clarity include: scheduling one long distance friend call a week or every 2 weeks, making sure I have a really thrilling book on my kindle or ordered from Amazon so I get my mind wrapped up in an awesome story line every night before bed, and setting aside some cash for a mani every few weeks. Big fun is usually plane tickets. Since my friends are all over the country because I went college in Chicago and am now in LA, I try and to see them every now and again because that makes me feel good and exploring new cities is one of my favorite things to do – like ever! I also have been making less excuses for things I’m calling medium fun. These are things that are more time consuming or take more cash than a coffee date but way less time and cash than a plane ticket- like trying the rental boats on this lake in Echo Park or taking a long drive to the beach andtaking along a book and leaving your phone in your bag. Sometimes I think it seems like more work and stress in our heads than when we actually make the move to do the darn thing.
So if you are feeling burned out, I know it’s not fun and I hope thinking about adding a little bit more fun into your life might help open up some mental space. When we are burned out it’s like we have a million internet tabs open and we are forgetting which tab is which and none of them are really doing anything for us. I hope closing the tabs and immersing yourself in some fun can help you come back to just a few select tabs! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!