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I think it’s safe to say that I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been through a period of burnout.
Some temporary burnout is normal, especially after you’ve expended a big surge of energy. I remember feeling exhausted and lethargic for a couple of days after finals in college or after completing a big project at work.
Temporary burnout is bound to happen from time to time, and as long as you give yourself some recovery time after a particularly busy or stressful period, you’ll recalibrate pretty quickly.
Long-term burnout, however, is becoming more and more common, and it’s extremely hard on the body and mind. It comes from having too many expectations and putting forth a huge effort over a long span of time.
I had never experienced long-term burnout until I started a business, which is a huge effort and takes years of intense commitment. I love what I do and I’m grateful for this business every day, but that doesn’t negate the fact that building a business from the ground up is a massive undertaking and has the potential to lead to serious burnout.
A while back, I told Rachel, “I feel like we burnt ourselves out during the first few years of getting a business off the ground, and I never fully recovered.”
My clients tell me a version of the same thing. Whether they’ve been raising kids for years, putting in long hours to get that promotion, having the life drained out of them at a job they hate, or feeling lost and confused for longer than they care to remember … the threat of burnout is real. And far too many of us are being weighed down by the pressure.
It’s freaking exhausting.
MY NEW FAVORITE THING: NO EXPECTATIONS DAY
If you think of your energy like a big bucket of water, then imagine that each task you perform or responsibility you have scoops out a bit of water. Some small things, like washing the dishes, might just remove a teaspoon of water … while bigger things, like meeting a massive client deadline, might scoop out a gallon of water. No matter what, they all add up.
Feeling burnout means your water bucket is all dried up. You still have all of the same responsibilities and your to-do list is as long as ever, except now your energy reserves are gone, so everything feels immensely harder.
Sure there are things that add water back into your bucket, like getting plenty of sleep, eating quality food, making fun plans with friends, etc. (Rachel gave some great examples of these water-bucket-filling things in her post about Rules for Sane Living.)
But sometimes it feels like the water you’re putting back in can’t keep up with the demand.
The most valuable, restorative thing you can do to relieve burnout is to periodically release the pressure, stress, and heavy responsibility that’s causing it in the first place.
Enter No Expectations Days.
WHAT IS “NO EXPECTATIONS DAY”?
No Expectations Day is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a day where you give yourself permission to just LIVE for a little while, without expecting yourself to accomplish, produce, or do anything in particular.
It’s about freedom, space, recharging your battery, fun, and lightheartedness.
It’s about setting aside your to-do list for a day and taking a temporary break from the exhausting pressure we all feel to constantly be productive.
It’s about letting your inspiration, curiosity, and intuition guide your plans for a day, instead of your mental checklist.
It’s about not feeling an ounce of guilt at the end of the day about whether you did (or didn’t do) anything “valuable” because there were no expectations on the day.
The value of “No Expectations Day” is to …
- Relieve pressure,
- Open up space for creativity and deep connection,
- Pull you out of the day-to-day stressors so you can see the bigger picture of your life,
- Release the burden of constant, heavy responsibility,
- Recover from burnout,
- Remember how to have fun again,
- And mentally reset to feel more clear-minded and inspired.
I’ve had clients tell me that this is better for them than meditation! (One client told me, “Even during meditation I feel an expectation to release my thoughts and have a blank mind.”)
No Expectations Day, when incorporated regularly (preferably at least twice a month!), turns your water bucket into a self-replenishing fountain.
BUT WHAT IF I’M TOO BUSY FOR THIS?
When I’ve shared this idea with my clients, I usually hear some kind of hesitation or disbelief that this could be possible for them. Which makes sense. We live in a world that largely believes that, if you’re not doing something productive, you’re wasting time.
It takes a lot of courage and a big mindset shift to give yourself permission to temporarily remove the heavy expectations you’ve put on yourself.
Plus, many of us have heaped so many responsibilities on ourselves (and other people have added to the pile) that it feels impossible to extricate ourselves from them for an entire day.
If that sounds like you and you’re feeling over-responsible and too busy to try this … well, first of all, you probably need it more than most right now. But also, don’t feel like you have to start with a full day. Try it for just one evening a couple of times a month. The point here is to give yourself little pockets of regular space where you can simply enjoy life without feeling pressure to achieve something.
You’ll be amazed at how restorative this is.
And for all of the parents out there … I recently shared this with a client of mine who’s a mom of two. Her immediate response was, “I’d love to do this, but I have kids! I can’t just let go of my expectations when I’m responsible for taking care of them.”
I told her, “Are you kidding, kids are the BEST at this! Include your kids in your No Expectations Day (or afternoon, or whatever), and you’ll learn a ton from them about what it means to enjoy life without a care in the world (at least for a few hours). Just let the day take you where it’s going to take you without putting any expectations on how it’s going to turn out. Let your kids lead the way.”
So tell me … have you been feeling burnt out lately? Are you willing to try a No Expectations Day of your own? Share your thoughts, in the comments!
Kristen (& Rachel)
I try to have a ‘no expectation day’ once a week ! I seem to ALWAYS be stressed and worrying about my future, bills and whatever else comes up that I have to take one day a week to really do nothing and eat whatever I want without checking the calories etc. I’ve noticed that it makes me feel a lot more relieved and chipper when I stick to doing this.
I agree! I also try to do this once a week, whenever possible, and it makes a huge difference! I love that you’ve already been implementing this! 🙂 Thanks for sharing how much it’s helped you.
The timing of this blog post is so perfect, it’s scary. As a high school senior, I’ve been spending loads of time writing, editing, and polishing my essays for college applications. As the end of the semester approaches, it feels as if my creativity and energy has been whittling away as well. I think I’ve relied too much on weekends and holidays to let loose–we need to have a healthy balance of rest and work on the weekdays, too! Thank you for this post, I’m going to go and take a chill pill right now. 🙂
College essay time can definitely get a bit stressful! When things are normal and you don’t have extra responsibilities on your plate (like college applications and upcoming midterms), then weekends and holiday may be enough to recharge. But right now, adding in some “no expectations time” during the week might be necessary so you don’t burn out!
Glad this post showed up at the perfect time for you! 🙂
I have been scheduling “Nicole Time” on Monday evenings recently and not letting anything interfere with it. It’s been hard to decline invites, especially ones I really want to accept, but last night it felt great to be home and relaxing. Today I heard the event last night was really fun, but it was worth missing to me for my sanity. Next up is working on “Nicole Weekends” where I don’t make plans with anyone but myself. Thanks for your awesome work, ladies! I just love learning from you. xoxo
I’m SO with you — I definitely need my “Kristen Time,” too! But you’re right, it can be tough to stick to it and not let other invites/obligations spill over into that time. You really have to set up some clear boundaries with yourself. But the recharging you get when you stick to it is SO worth it.
About to go look at my calendar to see when I might be able to schedule a “Kristen Weekend” coming up … 😉
This is suuuuuch a helpful concept! The last time I had a day like this was… so long ago I don’t remember. Wow!
It’s so easy to let weeks or months (or years!) go by without giving yourself a day like this. But No Expectations Days make such a huge difference! Hopefully you can schedule one for yourself soon! 🙂
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