Career life

3 Things I Learned on my Burnout Break

Piedras de primavera, spring stones
Credit: flickr / Vicente Villamón

I can live with less internet.

Note – this is no no internet (although I survived my 6 days in NK), but less. Most of the time when traveling I’ve had some connection, but there has usually been a limit. Maybe it’s not on my primary (favorite) phone, or it’s really slow/intermittent (Bali! Portugal), or I have 15mb limit (Europe, O2 roaming data is 1.99 GBP for 15MB daily).

It’s annoying, but I just drafted blog posts in the notes in the notes app instead. This was actually helpful, as I would not do any research or fact-checking as I went along (can be distracting) but later. As a result, I think I wrote more, and faster unplugged. It did put me off coding things though, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to look anything up or download anything. The other major annoyance is that most of the time over October and November, I have been unable to watch video – not great, but not the end of the world, either.

I take for granted a constant and fast connection, and yes sometimes I don’t have it, but this is the longest period in a while where I’ve been internet deprived in some sense. It’s a helpful reminder, as an engineer, how important it is that the things we build function with poor, intermittent, or no internet. Twitter’s addition of photos to the stream annoys me for this reason. When I’m limited to 15MB, an image-heavy webpage will significantly deplete my internet reserves. Engineers could do a better job, in general, of handling this.
The worst part of this was that sometimes “just this one thing” on the internet would take an hour or more. Because I often deal with poor internet by opening MOAR tabs… I don’t know why I do this. It is basically the opposite of what I should be doing if I really want to just do that one thing and go to sleep.

Relaxing is not the same as Being Relaxed.

This idea has it’s own blogpost, but essentially – once I had chilled out, I didn’t need the things I normally do to “relax”. I survived No-Novel November, for example.

The things that made me want a break, were not the same as what made me afraid to go back.

Obviously, no-one takes an extended break and moves to another country because they are completely happy with how things are.

If you’d asked me what I was needing a break from at the end of September, and what I was worrying about going back a week ago, I would have given you a different set of things. And then, what actually made me excited to go back was something else again.

I guess we don’t always know exactly why we need a break, and it can take time to process the things that are the most stressful – especially those things that we try so very hard to tell ourselves are fine. But I think it’s helpful to honor the feeling of needing one. I’ll do this again, should the need or occasion arise. And I understand better now, my friend who when I asked her how she had survived and got so far in this industry, told me she had burnt out and taken a break multiple times. I’m so grateful to her for admitting that, and making me feel that I could make the same call.

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