Complaints · DISCUSS.

Brownout & Beige Sofas (I’m taking a mini-break)

I’m thinking of taking a holiday. But you already had a giant holiday in Asia, you can’t just live on holiday! Not that sort of holiday (although Southend Airport has announced flights to Malta, so if you hear about me making any bad financial decisions, it will involve a payday loan and a budget flight to Valletta). Since I got home I’ve been on a job-searching-life-affirming-I-will-spend-my-days-doing-things-I-love-let’s-have-a-fresh-start mission, and so far it’s gone pretty well. I have two internships, new hair – well, new colour in my hair – fewer ugly clothes in my wardrobe and a new car. Taking a break from my Etsy really helped me get some perspective and it’s doing better than ever. There’s loads of freshness! New things! New me!

Except this afternoon I trudged back from town wearing a pair of tracksuit bottoms that really should not leave the house, and I felt exactly the same as I did when I was freelancing. I was still worrying about my bank balance, I was still working eleven hour days and sleeping through alarms. I had the precise feeling that made me go to Asia and look for a fresh start in the first place. The only way I can describe it is that it’s the emotional equivalent of a beige sofa. There is nothing wrong with a beige sofa. Plenty of people are very happy with beige sofas. I’m just never going to willingly own a beige sofa. It’s fucking beige.

Now my savings are gone and because I’m refusing to do anything that isn’t relevant to my career interests, the internships are all I’ve got for the moment; I’m earning a lot less than I was before I went travelling. I should mention that the eleven hour days are entirely my own fault – since I still have so much free time I’m putting together a business plan for my shop and swapping banks doing all the behind-the-scenes business shit that I might not have time for in a few months. So although everything is pointing in the right direction, I’m still pressed for cash and stressing out about it. I’ve even started stressing out about stressing out, which is a new low.

I read that there’s a thing people get called ‘brownout’. Unlike burnout, which is a recognised condition, brownout is what they’re calling it when you’re technically fine – you’re putting in the hours, you care, you’re miles away from a breakdown – but you’re overwhelmed and disengaged. Even though you’re checking your email 8000 times a day and #poweringon, you’re not actually getting that much done. Apparently technology and a change in work patterns since the recession is to blame. Wonderful.

I think I’ve got a touch of brownout. In retrospect think I might have had reoccurring bouts of it over the years, but you can’t really beg time off work because you’re feeling a little lethargic. Also, I love to work. I could spend all day working on my Etsy listings or drafting blog posts or whatever. I’ve got an empire to build and a new car to pay for and I will see you tomorrow at 8am!

Back to the holiday. Regardless of whether or not I’ve just diagnosed myself with a problem that may or may not actually exist, I think I need to rethink my working practises. The empire won’t get built if I’m too busy thinking about how I don’t want my life to be a beige sofa. Even with all the free time, I’m not writing that much more than I was before I went away. I’m still struggling for blog ideas and wearing ghastly tracksuit bottoms. This was not part of the plan. So this weekend and next week I’m going to take a mini-holiday. I’m going to turn off my pointless alarms, see my family at my cousin’s 21st and decide how I want to proceed with the empire building. I think I might start with an out-of-hours notice on my email accounts and an app that blocks Twitter after 9pm.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do you have any tips? I’ve never kept hours before. What are normal hours? HELP. I’ll get back to you, um, within two-to-three working days?!


5 thoughts on “Brownout & Beige Sofas (I’m taking a mini-break)

  1. Hi, hon! First of all, let me say that I’ve been following your adventures in Asia – brilliant job on that trip! (Both the blogs and the fact that you went!)
    Now, this brownout thing, huh. I think I’ve experienced something similar in early 2017, when I felt my mental health taking a plunge. Myself, I classified it as a partial burnout – I was fine with some aspects of my life (paid freelance work) and feeling completely done with others (my novel writing career). Now, several months later, I’m feeling a lot more me-shaped again (to the extent that I’ve written what was probably my first fiction this year). So here’s what I can share about my experience.
    – Working hours – you’re definitely on the right track about those. No-one can tell you what ‘normal’ hours are, it’s up to you to decide that. But more importantly, it’s up to you to enforce those hours. I am learning to draw the line with emails. I know that getting any word from clients (even if I don’t need to jump to work right away) will put me back into worry mode, so I’m doing my damnedest to make sure that once I’ve logged off, I’ve logged OFF.
    – Take regular breaks. I’m not a Pomodoro acolyte, but I prefer a 45/15 work mode. Concentration levels drop like a stone if you don’t step away now and again. And I mean STEP away – switching a window to watch youtube barely counts. I like to do small house chores on my breaks, or going to make coffee and stare out of the window.
    – Health stuff (physical) – not to sound like a wellness blog, but exercise / movement of any sort makes a lot of difference. I’ve hated exercise most of my life (thanks, dad and school PE), but I’ve come around recently, once I found a few things I like doing. If there’s any movement you enjoy, try to include that somewhere in your day. If nothing else, it should help you switch focus (see above re breaks)
    – Health stuff (mental) – I’ve done my first ever course of therapy this year, and I can’t over-emphasize how much it has helped me get some control and focus back. No one session was particularly drastic, or made me realize something life-shattering. But it did help to have an impartial person to throw my worries at, and be able to sort through them in a safe environment.

    Now, if I can boil down the above essay to one single conclusion, it would be – the best thing I’ve done to help my own brownout was to become more mindful. I don’t necessarily mean meditation or deliberate midnfulness practice (though they can be fun too). I mean just being… present. Aware. Knowing whether you’re getting tired, or hungry, or losing focus. What is it about a particular task that’s stressing you. Why you’re reluctant to do one thing or another. Etc. If you just feel things are WRONG, but can’t see what and where, you also won’t know where to start making them right.

    Sorry about the huge ramble! I hope at least some of that was helpful. If you ever want to talk about this stuff, hit me up!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Maria!

      It’s so good to hear from you. 🙂 I’m so pleased people other than family have been reading my Asia blogs, I love writing them up.

      I read your comment when it came through at the weekend and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. After I published the blog I signed out of my social media, set my emails to auto-reply and decided enough was enough (I think I had to write the blog to realise how I felt).

      I think you’re right, the key is to be more mindful of… everything. But at the same time, I’m trying to not stress myself out about being mindful enough. I haven’t set any crazy goals, like ‘no Instagram until you’ve written 5000 words!’ but I have broken up my to-do list so it’s actually doable, taken timed breaks and invested in that app (it’s called Freedom, I had a go a few months ago and now I’ve bought it for a month I’m going to see if it helps me focus). It’s only been a few days of mindful-ness, and only one of working, but I already feel a bit less frazzled.

      I haven’t set specific work hours yet – I’m going to try a few different things and see what sticks. I’ve told myself I won’t blog for a bit – and more importantly I won’t feel bad for not blogging – and I’m going to try to pencil in health time and writing time (sometimes they are the same for me!). I’ll take some time to see what works and build up to a specific timetable or schedule. I feel kind of silly for having taken so long to do all those things, but it’s better late than never! I will let you know how I get on. 🙂

      I have to go now because I need to stretch my legs. Argh look at that I’m learning hahaa!

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it – both the comment itself and the advice. I think more people should be talking about brownout. There’s such a lot of kudos for pulling all nighters and working til you’re exhausted, especially amongst freelancers, but it’s counterproductive and unhealthy. Maybe if I get a handle on all this, Indifferent Ignorance could become a really sweary wellness blog…


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