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As an executive with two small kids, I am not overstating things when I say I have virtually no time to myself. I am always doing something for work or home, and I am attempting to do it to the best of my ability. Professionally, I work my hardest to be my most productive self. Then, at home, I feed everyone, help my three-year-old use the potty, keep my one-year-old from catapulting himself off a couch, and referee toddler WrestleMania. It is pure chaos. I am lucky if I get one hour a day to myself to unwind before going to bed to get up and do it all over again.

I cannot count the number of times someone has watched my kids or visited my house and said, “you’re lucky you’re young. At my age, that would be exhausting. I couldn’t do it.”

But truthfully, it doesn’t matter what age you are. A full-time, demanding gig, plus any other major commitment, obligation, or trial life can throw at you, can leave you in a place where even if you put your foot on the gas all day, every day, you will not come close to completing everything you need to do.

Driving to work the other day, I thought, “People don’t even treat cars like this. They don’t make their car run nonstop, without taking breaks or checking in to make sure the car is running as it should. They stop. Fuel up. Schedule maintenance. Identify needed repairs and make them. Why, as humans, do we treat ourselves like we can run nonstop with no personal repercussions?”

Having your foot on a gas pedal 24/7/365 is not sustainable for a person. You’re destined to burn out. And once you are burned out, you do everything worse. You don’t perform your job as you should. You snap at your family. You feel ragged, and you feel exhausted. It’s a terrible place to be.

The key is to recognize that you are in a demanding phase of life and that you have to set up boundaries ahead of time to keep yourself from getting to this burned-out place. Those boundaries might look different to different people, but some suggestions include:

  • Ask for help. If people can take things off your plate and are willing to do it, don’t be afraid to ask them to do so. People who care about you and your success do not want to see you run ragged. Show them how they can help you.
  • Build things into your schedule and life that bring you joy. Even if you “don’t have time,” make the time. Do yoga. Have coffee with a friend. Put your kid to bed a little earlier and watch tv or read a book. It may seem absurd to schedule a time to take these little breaks, but some seasons of life demand it.
  • The reality is that when you get overly busy, things that are not truly urgent will have to wait – and you may have to disappoint people as a result. Get more comfortable with that notion and ask people to give you grace. I really struggle with this as someone who wants to hit all of my deadlines and satisfy expectations. But again, certain seasons of life demand you be candid about what you can get done and when. And once you start having this candor with yourself and others, it will help you stay calm and maintain productivity in an otherwise stressful situation.
  • If you don’t sleep, it will quickly wear you down. Giving up sleep is not a sustainable option.

This list goes on and looks different for everyone. But I challenge you to think about what in your life keeps you in a positive mental place as what’s demanded of you changes. Keep asking: Have you hit the burnout point? Are you still doing well? If you have hit the burnout point, evaluate where you are, set more boundaries, refuel, and begin again.

Hard things don’t have simple answers, and I’m not pretending to have these answers. This process is all a part of finding that ever-elusive “balance” that everyone talks about but is incredibly difficult to attain. I do know that burnout is not sustainable, and you owe it to yourself and those around you to try to keep from getting there.

Katie Treadway is the Head of Regulatory Affairs at One Energy.

Learn more about Katie and the One Energy team.