Back to my Burnout journey...
Why did I carry on, even when I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted?
Because I thought that if I wanted to be an equestrian, that’s just what you had to do, regardless of how utterly exhausted or broken I felt. Plus, my mortgage and staff still needed to be paid, and I had probably bought a new vase/carpet/scatter cushion, the price of which would most likely make my partner’s eyes water. I think this cycle was probably on repeat for at least ten years. Maybe more.
But then when I crashed last year, I did something I’d never done before: I let my partner intervene. In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit here that I’m a control freak, and letting him call my lovely secretary and my wonderful mum, to ask them for help with the intervention was MASSIVE for me. The situation was then out of my control, and all my lessons for the next three days were cancelled. I was shipped off to my mum’s house and taken care of. I ate, slept and rested properly because I didn’t have a choice. I’ll skim over the parts when I was spying on the yard CCTV from my phone!
And did the world end? Did I lose all my clients? Did they all feel like I’d let them down? Did taking time off mean I wasn’t passionate about my sport? Was I greeted with scorn and judgement upon my return to work? Would people be put off training
with me because I wasn’t actually that tough? Of course not. But that’s what I thought would happen if I took time out for myself. I know, it sounds really daft when you put it like that, but that was honestly my mindset. I used to think that after crying and listening to Swifty, I had somehow magically renewed my energy (I mean TayTay is good, but she’s not THAT good). What I realised, however, after my enforced 'Time Out at Mum’s', was that previously, I wasn’t returning with renewed energy; it was forced, and fake. I wasn’t being sincere with myself, or my clients. I pride myself on integrity - it’s one of the core values I hold as a coach and professional - but in continually re-starting my Burnout cycle with forced enthusiasm and energy, I was moving further and further away from integrity as one of my main principles.
Six months on, I’m working with my secretary to schedule one quieter week a month, where I only teach a maximum of about 15 hours, rather than the usual 30+. I do things for ME in the time I have left over, like get a haircut, take my horses for lessons, go clothes shopping (then hide the price tags from my partner!) or see friends. I get told off frequently for filling the ‘quiet week’ up with the odd extra lesson, but on the whole I’m sticking to it. I’ve also got a few staycations booked. Old habits do certainly die hard, but I’m trying to put me first, so that I can be more useful to my clients, friends and family in the long term. Work in progress, as they say. The good news is though, that I haven’t crashed since, or even been close. So I must be doing something right. And of course, Taylor is still omnipresent in my life.
Recognising Burnout is tricky, and dealing with it is even trickier. I’d wager that the majority of equestrians, amateur and professional alike, have experienced burnout at one point or another, or are caught in Habitual Burnout (where the cycle just becomes the norm), like I was.
This is just the beginning of my journey into understanding Burnout. It’s a horrible thing to
experience, and my mission is to make it a thing of the past within equestrianism. Together, I think we can end Equestrian Burnout.