Plus a few thoughts on one month of FAT TALK, and a few people to be furious with.
It is 100% a thing! It has taken me 30+ years to accept my introversion and realize my very real limits and am still working on not comparing myself to others who have different limits. Like, that day you mentioned, with all those things? That would take me out for a couple of days!! Right now I’m proud of myself because my mom is visiting, and even though she’s my mom, it still takes a real output of energy to just be with her and make conversation. Today, the plan was to work in the morning, take the kids and my mom to a local activity in the afternoon, and then take my mom to a dance performance. Last night I realized I’d be hating life if I did all that so am cutting out the kids activity. They’ll be fine and I’ll have more energy to be with my mom at the performance. I just want to do it all and it’s so frustrating when I feel limited.
Introvert burnout is definitely a thing! We had family visiting last week and I've only just recovered. And yes, hello, oldest daughter here - being excellent as a survival strategy is just perfectly stated and I'm definitely going to borrow that phrasing!
I've thought about all of this A LOT in the past few years because my creativity/productivity has basically been non-existent as I've dealt with mental health issues (thanks, pandemic anxiety!) and then physical health issues (thanks, cancer!) that I'm still coming to terms with. I've finished with chemo and I'm feeling much better, but yeah, I'm exhausted and very much still in reactive mode. I felt this way when my daughter was little, too (see: introvert; also oldest daughter) and honestly what helped was time. She got older and went to school and that finally gave me enough white space in my days to start writing again. I know that I'm very lucky to be in a position where no one is depending on me for income, and that "wait it out" is not a strategy that will work for most situations. But I guess I just want to confirm that yes, it takes time to recover from big things, and that that's okay! I hope you get the time you need to read and nap and restore your energy for the good stuff.
Also: I had a dream last night where I was at the dinner table arguing with extended family about whether people should have to finish their meal in order to get dessert, and I referenced your book! Evangelizing for the indulgence gospel even when I'm unconscious, ha!
I’m an autistic disabled extrovert, which can seem like a cruel joke at times because all I want to be doing is connecting with people and “out there” and between my physical energy and neurotypical expectations that is not an option! It really helps if people with more privilege in these areas recognize that hustle culture doesn’t hurt everyone equally. I know for myself as a white person hustle culture is in many ways just a new name for white supremacy culture and capitalist exploitation and that I have more access to thrive in that toxic environment than my autistic disabled Black colleagues and other peers. So naming what it means to not participate in it is naming that I’m trying not to participate in my own or other people’s exploitation.
One thing for me is rejecting urgency culture at work. I’ve historically been someone who always wanted to deliver by the due date (trying not to use deadline anymore because of the history of that word). I still want to do this but I recognize that this pressure can be artificial and harmful. And it’s always been important to me to not put the same pressure I feel on other people. But now I’m learning to extend that to myself. And this makes me better at not putting this pressure on others too.
I also try to focus on both smaller interpersonal impacts like the good feeling of a conversation and the long-term impact of deliberate work and improved outcomes rather than checking off to do list items. This helps me avoid productivity culture. At the end of the work day, I’ve been trying to focus on why I am satisfied with the day and not why I’m stressed and unsatisfied because I didn’t do “enough.” I recently learned this technique from someone who said that we can choose to be satisfied. The point being that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, often as a carryover from pressures that are there from other people and systems, but we can work to not internalize them as part of our character.
It totally makes sense that you feel burnt out. Whether or not it starts from being an introvert, it could also be that it takes a lot of energy writing and promoting a book while continuing your newsletter and podcast, also parenting, and then all of the work of book promotion and interviews. Maybe not everyone would feel exhausted after doing all that, but I think many of us would. Hustle culture says you should celebrate what you are doing, feel great about it, and start the next big thing (I think, I don’t live a hustle culture life, though I usually feel the pressure to do better and more). But whether or not you are burnt out, it sounds like you’ve done a huge amazing thing and you might some time to do other things or nothing at all. Even though “it’s bad for the algorithm” or whatever to take a break, it’s good for you to get the rest you need and as much as I tell myself it’s ok to rest and go slower, it’s great to see other people trying this approach too!
I was just thinking wow. there is at minimum one activity per day, several children's sports competitions, numerous critical work tasks, all the school end of year stuff for 4 kids, and 3 intl work trips over the 6 weeks until we leave for summer holidays (my kids don't finish school until July 7th). It's interesting because for me, I tend to enter a 'zen state' when I am this busy - my mind works better, i'm able to prioritize, strategize, and execute so much better then in less busy periods where i tend to grow frustrated with myself because i waste time and create busy work. there is zero time for regrets or do overs in busy season, which is what i like about it. But there will come a period when i will need to shut down for about 2-3 days to recuperate. For me that generally looks like baking, reading almost nonstop, and feeding my children donuts and pizza.
I am so sorry, this is hugely off everybody else's comments but I wanted to post and I didn't know where, and this seems the most appropriate place so I'm hijacking this thread and now everyone will hate me, I am really very sorry but here we are. OK, so I just did a thing after reading your book and it was (I think) the right thing to do and it also made me feel so, so sick and terrified and ashamed, because it was such a little thing and you guys are out there fighting the good fight all day every day and I pretty much agree with everything you say but I just don't say it to all the (many, many, many) people who say casually vile, fatphobic things to me and around me day in and day out because I am a fat person and I don't want to attract the vitriol of saying 'but what if - it's ok to be fat?'. Because it's something I believe but no one else seems to and if I can't change minds of people who love and care about me, what is the point of even trying with anyone else? But of course, that is not the point, the point is to stand up for things and I am a big fat (ha!) coward. So, I follow Dr Jen Gunter for various things gynecological, I think she's really interesting, she's very good at parsing the science and she has a ripe vein of anger that keep me very entertained. And I have noticed that she is just a leetle bit fatphobic on a lightly constant basis, but she's a medical practitioner and she says useful stuff and I don't like to comment (because my comments just grow like Topsy, exactly like THIS comment, and who wants to read that? Never learn to touch-type, it's a gateway drug to loggorhea). But this week, in a letter titled 'Menopause and Weight: There is No Code to Crack' - kind of a promising title, no? - she basically says that there is no observable connection between onset of menopause and weight gain, ok, cool cool, so far so neutral, and then she goes on to say that the weight you do gain in menopause (which I thought you didn't gain? OK) goes on your waist and as we all know, that's THE WORST KIND OF WEIGHT GAIN. HERE BE BELLY DRAGONS. As an avid always-haver of the belly, it's very interesting how that is the most demonised body part I can think of. (As an aside to all the other asides, I always used to love how my teeny, tiny cow of a mother-in-law used to visibly wince whenever I said the word 'belly'. How I love the word 'belly'. BELLY BELLY BELLY. Ahem) Anyway, with this menopausal hell-belly that doesn't exist looming over all our collective existences (I am 47 - I assume I'm about to get a new belly, maybe slightly off to the side from my current belly - maybe like a third boob from Total Recall? But it also won't exist so there's that), we had better do what she does - oh yeah, sing it with me, DIET and EXERCISE. And she goes on to detail exhaustively her own struggles with weight gain, weight loss (she talks about this exactly, with precise numbers, and then has the gall to say that her improvement has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with health, mentioning triglycerides and cholestorol and LDL, for which she DOES NOT give numbers, interesting no?) and how during COVID she 'gained weight because I stopped doing the things that worked'. And I just finished your book last night. And I became angry. Really, very angry. Genuinely quite cross, and I'm English, so that's saying something. And - I posted a comment. And it was very cross. In a polite way, I like to think, because ranting doesn't help anyone (this might qualify as a rant, I know, but it is more of a tirade I like to think, and really only that because of the extreme and fantastical length). And - that's the point of the comment actually. This is me taking action. I read your book, then read something horribly fatphobic by someone I generally like, and instead of zipping my lip as per usual, I responded. And I think that yes, it really doesn't mean very much in the great grand scheme of things and who cares but I also think - well, you have to start somewhere. Plus, I hated, really really hated doing it and I still feel pretty wobbly and worried about consequences (yes, I know that there are very few possible significant consequences from a comment on a substack letter, but this is not about logic, OBVIOUSLY) but, and this is important, I did not die. And so, maybe, next time somebody SAYS something horribly fatphobic to me, I will also respond to that. And I will not die. And then, maybe I'll be able to say something BEFORE the fatphobia presents itself (I am having thoughts about getting on the parental advisory committee at my kids' school. I do not like these thoughts, they might described as intrusive, but it might actually be the rare instance of the good kind of intrusive). And - you know - so snowballs become avalanches. Anyway, that is my teeny tiny instance of trying to do something right and probably ballsing it up and it being utterly nil in the great grand scheme of things but you never know. What I mean is, your book is really good and so are you and also I really like your glasses. The End, I am sorry.
I’m at the other end of the career stuff retired during Covid and ovarian cancer stage three. Just finished my treatment and am thankfully stable. I’m finding I have a lot of “should do” lists now that I’m out of treatment and want to simply rest. Thankful for your column. I’m needing introvert time 🤗
I appreciate the mention and I actually have been eating so much pasta salad that I offered the one I made yesterday to my sister...so maybe you make it after I leave, ha! I am also terrible at sitting still and being less busy, so I love hearing your thoughts on it.
My introvert burnout feels more tied to social activities. As it warms up, we’re seeing friends more which I love. But we had a week where we did a concert on Wednesday, hang with friends on Friday, long FaceTime with my family on Sunday afternoon, game night with friends on Sunday, and I entered the new work week not feeling rested at all. I need long periods of time at home to feel restored. The only human being who doesn’t take my energy is my husband.
I also don’t have a super social job but I do work in a hospital and sometimes you just don’t want to go talk to patients that day. It can be a lot to interact with so many people and put yourself in customer service mode (you have to stay friendly and polite no matter how grouchy people are or how much they swear at you). I can tell I lose steam occasionally when I’m low energy.
And a hallmark of this burnout phase is that I’m unable to engage in hobbies because those require creative energy. When I’m really worn down, my options are basically nap and veg until I regain my strength, haha.
Ohhhhhhh yes. I just finished my doctorate - graduated last week. I am so grateful for everything that happened and how much I learned and so so proud of myself and all the good things. But I too am napping on the porch (daily! Do it more!) and want to pretty much hide from the world for a while. Everyone wants to know “what’s next” and I’m thinking- idk retirement? In my 40s? Im a solid extrovert but burnout is burnout— the emails about the kids end of year stuff is so hard because while now I technically DO have time to volunteer the idea of not being on the porch sleeping is overwhelming me at the moment to the point where I ignore most requests and then hang out in that guilt and shame a bit. But. Rest we must. Rest rest rest.
This thread is timely for me. Over the past 2 years, I’ve been trying to decouple my sense of well being to having done all the things on the list, and I still have a long daily list (full time job, 3 kids, probably have adhd.) I’ve been actively not working when not at work and spending more time relaxing and doing things I enjoy. This week I had to have my appendix out, and I’m recovering fine but really do need to rest and it is not easy! There are feelings of guilt for having to cancel my super busy work schedule, and I’m looking around my very messy house, wishing it were not messy. When the kids were at school yesterday, I was able to lean into rest and read and watch hbo in my bed, but it’s surprising to me how hard it is to be ok with resting right now.
One thing that the pandemic gave me, was a space to work WITHOUT burnout.
I'm a technical writer, usually involved with documentation for developers. I used to get a lot of information from spontaneous conversations, but working in an open-plan office all day was draining, and hard on my productivity. The office culture forced me to hide my increasing grouchiness about the arrangement, so I got around it (somewhat) by arriving insanely early at the office. That way I got at least two quiet hours a day to grind.
My introvert burnout came from that intrusive environment, and the combined, hyped-up urgency of my coworkers. All of that noise went away once I had the privilege of working from home 100% of the time.
I'm at a 100% remote company now, and you'll have to pry my keyboard away from my cold, dead fingers.
The brownie photo IS EVERYTHING
Ooooh, paused ambition is so good. What a great time to try it! 💕
I’m in SC and the local paper included this detail in its news - the house democrats submitted 500 pieces of legislation to halt the passing of the new abortion ban. One of which was to change our border welcome signs to say something like “Welcome to SC! We don’t support women!” Several were just flippant things but I appreciate how they tried.
The thing I am struggling most with is how are doctors going along with this? How can that be anything but violating their Hippocratic oath? While I “get” intellectually that their licensing would be a risk or whatever I cannot wrap my head around a health care provider NOT providing care for someone in the midst of needing a life saving procedure like an abortion can absolutely be. If there’s any doctors who can enlighten me please do
Yes, it's 100% a thing for sure!! I will go in waves of being social, and then waves of isolating and not going out or even talking on the phone. I am actually in that stage right now, feeling depleted as my energy as all been given to learning my new job with extended hours and taking on the greater load of parenting for her increasing needs (20 page intake packets, appointments, emails to my daughter's therapists, doctors, teachers, etc). I also am a person that has recurrent major depression, so when I noticed I wasn't taking any pleasure in doing anything and not interested in making plans ever again, I did say something to my PCP at my annual and increased one of my medications. However, I have always known I'm an introvert and needed recovery time from time with people (part of why I have only ever worked part time in the counseling field), and if you are an introvert as well then it's no wonder you are exhausted and actually napping. As an eldest daughter as well, I get that drive to always be come off as successful (hey, I went to Harvard for graduate school), but at this point in my life, quality of life and surviving for my daughter has become more of a priority and I've let my brothers take that torch.