Tuesday, May 13, 2014

3 stages to burnout recovery || What I've learnt so far...

[View the republished version on my new blog]

If you've read my other posts this year, you've probably picked up that life wasn't that easy last year. I'm ok to admit that, in fact, I think we should all talk about our struggles more often. As such, I've been reflecting on the recent months and I felt it might be good to share some of my burnout recovery experience with y'all. 

I'm not a professional in this matter so please read this knowing that I am speaking only from my own personal research and experience. I'm also only about 6 months into my own recovery and therefore fully expect that my thoughts and advice will evolve.]

Stage 1: Know what burnout is.

I have found this handbook very easy to read, informative and therefore incredibly helpful. It describes burnout as: 
"a form of chronic strain that develops over time in response to prolonged periods of high stress."
It also describes three core dimensions of burnout being: 
"emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and reduced personal accomplishment." 

Sounds scary, huh? Yeah. It kinda is. Burnout is basically like stress on steroids. 
It's easy to ignore the signs and it can even happen when you love what you do. In fact, it's more likely to happen in this case cos you are prepared to go the extra mile (the one that kills you) when you are more passionate. 

I discovered I was burnt out in about October 2012, which meant I probably had it for at least a few months prior. Unfortunately it wasn't until October 2013 (a year later) that I was able to step into a space of recovery. I've heard different opinions regarding how long burnout recovery can take but it seems the average is up to 2 years. #yikes 

Stage 2: Prepare yourself for recovery.

- Relationships will change. The difficult times in life are great for revealing the true status of your relationships. Burnout is no different. It's tough. People are in your life for a reason but in reality, very few will contribute to your support and healing. Their silence will hurt. But that's ok. It will feel like they're choosing your 'ex' over you (if burnout was like a bad relationship break up). You just gotta move on because during this early stage, you have to think about your own well-being and not the state of every single friendship in your world.
- Your capacity will disappear. I used to get my kicks out of having multiple priorities and responsibilities, juggling crazy hours, long days, volunteering, public speaking, the works! There came a point where I just couldn't do all of that - I would get really sick, lose focus, feel anxious... I just didn't feel like me anymore. It makes you feel pretty lost and I found it challenged my sense of identity.
- Cut out major responsibilities for the short term, and slowly re-introduce them as you begin to feel better. For me I had to stop working full time, and thanks to the support from my husband, was able to be at home more and take care of life's simple responsibilities. 

Stage 3. Walk the recovery journey. Some tips:

- You have your good days and your bad days. Good days might mean you have the energy for a walk or run, a feeling of general happiness and a desire to be around people you would normally place in the "too draining" category. Bad days might look like staying in bed, unable to leave the house, re-watching a season (or two) of your favourite tv show. FYI - both good and bad days are not just allowed but are to be expected
- Celebrate the small wins. As you rediscover your confidence, slowly, as new adventures entice you out of your cave and back into the land of the living, there will be moments when you achieve something. Even if it's just getting through your emails, or nailing that work presentation, realise that you DO still have something to offer and you ARE a highly skilled individual.  
- Acknowledge how bad it got, and that you have responsibility here, too. Brace yourself though, its hard to look back and you might discover it was a lot worse than you thought and you have more work to do to get better. (As was the case for me...) 
- Evaluate your social media presence. I've found socmed to be pretty unhelpful with my recovery. Unfriend or at least unfollow people that bring up familiar and unwelcome feelings of anxiety. It only drags you back into the place where your head is filled with crap you don't need. 
- Learn from the past. Don't make the same mistakes again. For me, I learned that doing too much, for too long, in an environment that wasn’t healthy for me was the killer combo. From now on I will be more discerning with people and projects I attach myself to, especially knowing now how much I pour myself into the work I do. 

It's not easy but I can honestly say that 6 months on, I am a million times better already. There is still a ways to go but I feel like I'm over the worst of it and I'm just about ready to take on a new adventure

Thanks for listening. Hope this has helped someone. 

JB xo

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Checkpoint: Part two. Post Conference.

[View republished version on my new blog]

Last week I shared this post - part one of this checkpoint which is proving to be quite the turning point for me... 

There are some verses in Psalm 38 that reflect how I was feeling last week. Words like "my heart pounds, my strength fails me, even the light has gone from my eyes" (v10) described what life has often felt like in recent months. Prayers like v22-21, "Lord, don't forsake me; don't be far from me my God. Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour" were similar to what I carried on my heart as I arrived in Sydney for Colour Conference*.  

I can honestly say that there was definitely a specific agenda to my being in Sydney. After months of feeling 'deactivated', with no clarity, living with a posture in my spirit that could only be described as down-trodden, I heard words like "you will rise", "you have permission", "it is personal" and these three words that cut right to the core of me, "GET. BACK. UP."


I was also reminded that one of my strengths is how I pour myself into what I do and that's OK - but - I need to guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23) and be mindful of what I'm pouring myself into. 

God could not have been more specific. 

So, what does that mean for me? Where to now? Naturally I returned home chewing on those questions and keen to debrief with a close friend and mentor. Which I did. (I love a good debrief!)

I believe now, that after a few months of rest and recovery, it's clear the next big adventure is before me, and it's time to get back up and go. Step one involves the launch of a new ministry organisation, "Access The Story" happening next Saturday, to which you are invited, and where you will find out more of the story and adventure ahead. 

My journey up to now hasn't been easy, but it has shaped me, taught me and obviously led me to this point today, so in the end, I am grateful

I am grateful... 
... for the time I could spend in Sydney, with my awesome mum, in an atmosphere of encouragement, love, community and good teaching. 
... for the specific lessons, breaking the hold my past still had over me. 
... for the power in simply choosing to be grateful! (Go on, try it....) 
... for the sale the "Superdry" store had that meant I could come home with an awesome present for my husband, Darren. ;) (Two hoodies for the price of one? Yes please!)
... for fresh revelation that through it all I am called to love relentlessly, just as I am loved first, because darkness trembles at a love like that. (And I wanna be the kind of person that makes darkness tremble.... Don't you?) 

As usual, my weekend at Colour Conference did not disappoint, and I confess - I did buy a conference t-shirt... I will probably wear it twice and then promote it to the pajama's drawer. #sawitcoming

J xx

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Checkpoint: Part one. Pre-conference.

[View the republished version on my new blog]

Here I am again. For about the 6th time, on the eve of another Colour Conference.

I've been known to share a few thoughts at times like these (check links below) so I thought I'd keep with tradition. Only this time, I feel we might have a two-part series on our hands. (If it were a three-part  you could start calling me Pastor Jess... #christianhumour)

So as I sit in the Sydney airport, please indulge me as I take stock of where I'm at today, to be compared with where I will be on Monday.

Since last Colour (in 2012):

Some things have changed.....
1. My marital status. Unlike another pre-Colour post, this time I have bling on my left hand and a new surname. I wonder if this will change the lens I see this weekend through? Probably.
2. My work. Two years ago I was about to go full time in a ministry role I loved. Now, I'm part time in a couple different roles as I recover from burnout caused by the aforementioned role. #irony
3. My priorities. These days I care a lot less about the social aspect of the days before me and instead hope to get some space.
4. My clarity. I have none. Well, maybe a little bit. Certainly much less than I wish I had.

Some things are the same...
1. My pre-conference nerves. You would be the same if you were as introverted as me and were preparing to be in a room with 16,000+ other women. #somuchoestrogen 
2. My anticipation. Every time I've been at Colour I have always come home with greater understanding, clarity (here's hoping!), and passion for what I'm put on this earth to do. 
3. My desire for shoe shopping. Enough said.
4. My mum is by my side. I do love me some quality mumma-daughter time. Will miss my sister though, who I also love doing conference with. 

My hope for the next few days is that I find some space to mentally and spiritually stretch out, work through a few things in my head that are bugging me, eat some yummy Thai food and not buy any of the merchandise that I know deep down I don't need. 

Until Monday....

Jess xx

P.s. I can't do fancy hyperlinks using the blogger app, so if you wanna check out those previous posts go to http://jessicabigg.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/taking-stock-12-month-checkpoint.html or, http://jessicabigg.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/braced-for-battle.html (the second one is interesting to read again.... So much has changed since then!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

7 things I would say to my 20-something single self.

[View the republished version on my new blog]

It's been 6 months since my wedding day and almost 3 years since I was single. In that time I have come to know the sense of RELIEF that I never have to navigate my way through the stormy waters of singledom ever again*. (Hallelujah)

It's no secret that I had my share (and then some) of relationship blunders, some of which were due to my naivety. So, in recent months, (especially since my wedding and my 30th birthday) I've reflected a bit on my twenties and wondered what I would do differently.

Having learnt my lesson the hard way, here's what I wish I could say to my 20-something single self, and what I'll be teaching my daughter one day...

(If you're a fella -- I've translated this for you. See below!)

1. A coffee is not a proposal. 
Neither is a nice conversation after church, or a friendly text message, or a ride home after uni. Australian culture doesn't really do 'dating' well, which means one-on-one hang outs can be complicated. Obviously you need to know someone before you enter into a relationship with them but just because you hang out alone, doesn't mean it's more than just friends.

2. He isn't perfect. Neither are you. 
He will say/do the wrong thing and you will take it the wrong way. To make matters worse, Adelaide is a small town and people talk. (SUCH an unfortunate reality.) Remember that any information you get second or third hand will already be filtered through the person who is giving you that information. Leave it to him to reveal his imperfections, not others. Be gracious here, remember Matthew 7:3-5.

3. You over-think EVERYTHING. He over-thinks NOTHING. 
Picture this: The coffee date is over and I'm walking back to my car texting my bestie "OMG I just had the best coffee date with [insert his name here], he is so cute, I think he is the 1! XD" 
Meanwhile, he is walking back to his car probably thinking "I could so go for a cheeseburger right about now..." 

4. Facebook: The best and worst thing for the dating world
Facebook chat doesn't count as getting to know you time. Social media makes it easy to make that first connection, but if you stay in the space for too long or go back to it too regularly you risk miscommunication, misinterpretation, etc etc... 
Get some perspective people -- He's probably sitting in his trackies on the couch watching his fave TV show or playing x-box with Facebook open next to him, while you are probably perched attentively in front of your computer waiting for him to reply. (Yes, I painted an extreme version of this picture, but you get the idea.) 

5. It's fun to rush, but better to wait. 
The longer you wait to get to know him, the better it will be. The benefits of taking your time FAR outweigh the fun of rushing into something. Seriously

Ladies, please. 'Nuff said. 

7. Forget boys. Enjoy LIFE. 
Don't give in to the pressure you're under by your marital status. It still astonishes me just how much the church celebrates those who marry and how little credit we give those who do not. (I've referred to something similar in a previous blog.) In hindsight, I spent way too much of my twenties fussing over boys - so much time wasted wondering, questioning, crying, etc! 

1. Coffee dates are cool but too many of them can send a certain message. 
2. Previous mistakes can come back to bite you. Be prepared to offer an explanation or show that you've grown since then. 
3. Try to consider how she's seeing things between you two. 
4. Don't hide behind Facebook chat. If you like her, tell her in person, and take her out for coffee. (But don't forget no. 1!)
5. We all have a tendency to rush things. Be the guy that slows the pace down. 
6. Girls are emotional. Deal with it. 
7. Forget girls. Enjoy LIFE. 

Just sayin'
JB :) 

*Disclaimer: I'm not bragging about being married, being single is also awesome. I'm just referring to how difficult it can be sometimes. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Birthday facebook deactivation. Try it.

[View the republished version on my new blog]

It was my birthday yesterday. 
So I turned my Facebook off.

"But Jess! Your birthday is, like, the BEST day to have Facebook!"

Yeah maybe... or maybe not.... And here's why...

Sarah Deutscher recently spoke about "The Great Addiction" we have in this world, aka the "like button culture". The addiction to being liked, flattered, have followers, and in this case the frenzy of birthday posts we expect. So, as a bit of a personal experiment (and because I started to consider the effect social media has on me) I turned my Facebook off yesterday.

About a year ago I started intentionally removing social media from the centre of my closest friendships. These days, the majority of my communication with these people is outside of social media. We talk in real life. (Remember what that was like?) 

In addition to this, I've also started deactivating my facebook whenever I am away, on leave, or just need to switch off and IT IS AWESOME. No notifications... No distractions... No obligation... Just real life, real people and real conversation. 

So when my birthday rolled around this year, I decided I wanted to spend it with my husband, family and friends WITHOUT the subconscious "chatter" of birthday posts. 

I'm sorry if I took away your chance to show me some birthday love, but I much prefer the effort of a birthday card than an overload of notifications. Also, I don't want to feed my addiction to that "like button culture" I mentioned earlier. 

Y'see, here's the other thing - Facebook is not one of my love languages. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's not anyone's love language because it's not actually a love language. (Say what now?)! It's just an internet page that we think is personal but really isn't. Social media is a great tool for communication and connection (that I do really enjoy most days) but for life's important events I find it to be cold, tasteless and can often feel like an obligation. (Be honest, how many "HBD2U" messages have you sent to someone you're not really friends with, wouldn't invite to your own b'day party, and only know it's their birthday because facebook told you?) 

Am I over thinking it? Probably... Am I still happy I did it? You betcha. I love detoxing from the social media world and what better day to be fully present in the real world than my birthday? 

Just sayin'. 

Jess xo

P.s. Yes, I did turn 30 yesterday... No, I'm not upset about that. I'm actually really done with my 20's and very excited to have entered the new decade. 

P.p.s. This was obviously a personal choice and not one I expect anyone to convert to having read this blog. There's no judgement here. Do what you want with your social media. My only encouragement is that you turn it off every once in a while. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Newlywed Realities

[View the republished version on my new blog]

It's been just over two months now and as my Instagram followers would know, I've been making note of a few reality checks you get as a newlywed. It's been a great journey and there's no end to the lessons I am learning, but for now, let me share the first ten:

#1 - You buy bigger jars of stuff.
No longer do I feel like buying the big jar is wasteful. Grocery shopping for two instead of one is easier and more economical.

#2 - I had better things to do than post on Facebook. 
For the first few weeks of married life I pretty much didn't post anything. What's worse is that I actually tried... I even stared at a the blank status update field and tried to think of something worth posting. Truth is, my actual reality was so good I didn't care much for my social media world. 

#3 - Some moments aren't very glamorous. 
This picture is from bed-assembly-day. Darren and I would be AWFUL on one of those reality TV shows. We have A LOT to learn about working together on practical projects... 

#4 - There are some perks. Like a new gigantic bed.
Other perks include: having a team mate for the rest of your life, someone to cuddle on the couch, all the extra 'stuff' you get (furniture, kitchen utensils etc)... 

#5 - You look at your wedding photos ALL the time.
I was ridiculously excited the day we got our professional photos back. Not only did they look amazing, but our incredible photographer managed to tell the story and reflect every feeling of the day - that every time I look through them I get to revisit all of that! 

#6 - You get some very cool presents!
For example, picture here is the Kre-o Transformers set and very cute little teapot we got from one of our good friends - awesome!! 

#7 - You count your time married like a newborn baby - in weeks and months til you hit one year. 
So until we reach the first of our yearly anniversaries, I will probably post overly romantic status tributes to my husband of 'x' months. (Sorry...) 

#8 - You get very excited over a piece of paper. 
For an administratively minded person like me, receiving this in the mail felt amazing. Finally  I could legally change my name on stuff and sort out my personal administration! 

#9 - You develop new skills. 
I am now the resident scorer at my husbands social basketball. (Yes, I know it won't last... In fact, I think it's already fading out...) 

#10 - Changing your name is both exciting and challenging.
For 29 years I was a Blesing. Now I'm a Bigg. It's weird. Don't get me wrong, I love it, but I never knew how much of my identity I had wrapped up in my name until now. They say it takes some adjusting. This is definitely true! 

Phewf! And all of that just in the first couple of months! Perhaps I should keep taking notes and post progress reports along the way? 

Much love, 
Jess (aka Mrs Bigg) xo

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

6 months on... How knee surgery changed my life.

[View the republished version on my new blog]

Today marks 6 months since my knee reconstruction. The day that changed my life as I know it. The day I realised just how important a knee is and what it's like when it doesn't work properly. A part of me wishes it hadn't happened (I'm only human), but most of me is grateful for what I've learnt. Let me share some thoughts... 

It changed my capacity.
Obviously I was physically limited (I couldn't weight bear for a month and I didn't drive for 6 weeks) but to my surprise (and occasional frustration!) my mental capacity was drastically reduced also. Recovering from surgery, relying on others, remembering to do your rehab, rethinking how you move/walk/sit/stand up is mentally EXHAUSTING. So when it came to other areas in my life, I had much less to give. And since I am not yet fully recovered, there is still an element of this today. But you know what? I'm actually ok about that. Being forced to slow down isn't all bad... 

It changed my Christmas. 
My surgery was 6 days before Christmas. I spent the day sitting down with my leg elevated in a large brace - just a little bit different to what I was expecting. It was weird, not a whole lot of fun, but my family were amazing and I actually appreciated just sitting back and watching it all go by. 

It changed my understanding of 'health'. 
I used to think that stress, tiredness, sickness, injury etc, weren't that connected. But now it makes more sense to me that when one part of my being suffers, so will others. For example, after my surgery I noticed my eczema flared up and took longer to heal. If I only have one body, one mind, one heart, then I only have so much energy to keep them all running well. So these days I take a more wholesome approach to self care and take cues from my body and my mind when I'm not doing so well. 

If pictures are your thing, here's a snapshot of my journey... 

I ruptured my ACL playing Netball, Tuesday 27th November. 
(5 months to the day before my wedding.)

Celebrating one of the first times I got up and about.

Early rehab exercises. Leg raises were hard work! 

Speaking of rehab... I had a method. Whiteboards rule! 

I also had some little rehab helpers. 

... and some entertainment. Tommy liked my "scrunches"...

You celebrate the little things - like doing a full rotation on a bike.
(I still can't jog yet - hopefully soon.)  

Christmas Day view. 

My special rehab helper was also my buddy on Christmas Day. 

I couldn't wear heels, but at least I walked down the aisle! 

I owe a lot to my family and friends, my (now) husband, and my Physio, Jonno, without whom the last 6 months would have been unbearable. Here's to an even better 6 months and my triumphant return to netball (hopefully!) and the first day when I don't think about my knee at all! 

Jess xo