words_rootCell_5501Help! I’m Overwhelmed and I Can’t Get Up!
(Feeling like Atlas with the weight of the world? Three ways to prevent, manage, and work through burnout.)

By Axie Barclay


Last month we figured out what burnout looks like and feels like and realized how much we don’t want it. This month, let’s look at ways to recover from and prevent burning out that candle in the first place, even if you are lighting it on both ends.

1.Learn to ask for help.

It’s something we learned in kindergarten: have an adult hold your hand while crossing the street, get someone older to help heat soup on the stove.

One thing that having not only a full-time job or the hourly equivalent, a family farm, not to mention being six months pregnant with twins has taught me is that there’s no shame in asking for help or admitting that you can’t do it all yourself. Asking for help, it seems, is a skill that grows rusty as we grow older and unlike our fractions skills and times tables, it’s a skill that really should be kept better hones. Relearning how to ask for help has taught me how to connect to others, to appreciate my own limitations, and realize that asking help from others isn’t weakness, but an opportunity to learn things from others that I wouldn’t have learned by going it alone.

2.Stop feeling overwhelmed.

Sure, that’s easy for me to say. And at this point, the frazzled among you are probably telling me to get lost (more likely in far less polite terms), but hear me out. Stress begets more stress. That’s the vibe you’re putting out in the universe and that’s the vibe the universe sends back. If you’re intrigued by this phenomenon, check out Rhonda Byrne’s theories in The Secret or check out a positive psychology website. The idea goes as follows. If you’re stressing and feeling overwhelmed, more of that energy is just going to bounce back on you, making you feel more stressed and overwhelmed, which you send back out into the universe, which then rebounds on you…

Stop the cycle! Use whatever stress relief you need, from long walks in the woods to hitting a punching bag. Go out with friends and have a drink (in moderation of course. Ask some of the great writers of the twentieth century how well alcohol and cocaine problems work.) Get your nails done, go to the library, journal, practice folding paper cranes, go plow a field with a stick and an ox. Find whatever makes your shoulders unclench and go with it. Just remember, as my dad always told me, have fun, but don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.

3. Learn to let go.

Let’s face it, as much as we want to, we can’t do it all; read it all, write it all, draw it all, what have you. Without punishing ourselves beyond all reason and eventually failing by some unattainable standard we’ve set for ourselves, we can’t do everything alone. You can’t be everything to everyone, still get the peaches canned, and stay sane. Sometimes you have to let go of your sanity and some years you have to know when to say to hell with the peaches.

So you can’t do everything.

Deal with it.

The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll stop burning out and start enjoying things more. My grandmother, at 89, says that she makes a to-do list every day and some days she gets it all done, and some days she doesn’t. But she doesn’t stress about it. She presents it as a fact instead of a failure. She’s appreciative of the things she does get done, what she’s still able to do. After all, at 89 she can still get down on the floor to play with her great-grandchildren and can get back up again.

Sometimes, that’s good enough for a day.

And other days the batty old woman waves down at me from a ladder propped against the house as she cleans her own gutters.

My point is that our grandmothers were right: eat your vegetables, read under a good light, and count your blessings instead of concentrating on everything that’s wrong. You’ll feel better.


Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth inalternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.