Mia Freedman: "There are two types of burnout. And I've had both."

2020 kicked my arse in so many ways and I know I’m not the lone ranger there.

By the time December came around, I really crawled to the finish line. Did you?

I can’t ever recall being so burnt out physically, emotionally, and mentally. Also spiritually. Are there any other ways to be burnt out? I was them too.

Watch: A 2020 Zoom call from the future. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

The rule of 2020 though, is that if you complain about anything in your life, you have to make a Complaint Sandwich. First, you have to say "I am so lucky and grateful that I have a job/didn’t get COVID/my family didn’t get COVID" (all true) and then you insert your complaint but sort of dismissively, and then you finish with "but so many people had it much worse so I really can’t complain".

That’s the 2020 Complaint Sandwich.

Please consume it in a defensive crouch lest anyone call you out for being ungrateful.

I know there is an entire movement dedicated to gratitude and I understand its place but my God, it can also be exhausting to have to be thankful about everything always.

It can also be painfully undermining when you legitimately feel shit about something. Or several things.

Like so many, I had a lot of loss in 2020. Big and small. 

I had pneumonia during lockdown. I had a frightening incident where I had to involve the police. I lost my dog (he died after a long and happy life but it was still gutting). As with everyone, all holidays were cancelled. My firstborn moved out of home (stoked for him but still miss him massively). My sister-in-law passed away after a long illness and we grew unspeakably close in her last few months. I had other members of my extended family go through a number of other crises. Christmas was pretty much cancelled.


Now, I already feel self-conscious about laying all that out because I also know I am incredibly privileged (insert defensive crouch). I’m not separated from my family by border closures. In 2020, I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I’m sure everyone I work with would say the same, but at the start of COVID like most businesses, we genuinely didn’t know if we would make it through or what the future held.

What is my point? Do I have a point?

Well, I felt more drained and depleted at the end of last year than I can possibly articulate. So I took a break. 

This year has started hard and fast back at work over the last couple of weeks but I feel so much better.

Because my burnout was the kind that a holiday and a break could fix.

There’s a second type of burnout though and this is the time of year when most people who have it, really notice it.

I call it Groundhog Burnout. 

The first type of burnout is really simple. It’s exhaustion from working too hard for too long without a break. The fix for that type of burnout is a break. A holiday. Time away from work.

But the second more insidious type of burnout can be harder to recognise.

Groundhog Burnout comes from being dissatisfied with your life. It might be your job. It might be taking care of kids or being a carer for someone else. This type of burnout is about being underwhelmed. Sick of your day-to-day. The monotony. Waking up and living the same way, over and over again. 

And it doesn’t mean you’re not busy. 

Underwhelmed AND overwhelmed at the same time. Does that resonate?

You can be flat out but it’s not the kind of busy or tired that is fixed by a holiday or self care (which can look like anything from doing a puzzle to binging a TV show).

A lot of people make changes in their lives in February.

It’s when resignations tend to peak.

People have finished the year feeling bleurgh and then they have some time off but when they resume their regular lives properly  - usually after the January 26th long weekend - they STILL feel burnt out. 


Can you relate? Now or a time in the past?

I can. Hard.

I thought about this a lot in January.

Listen to No Filter, Mamamia's podcast where Mia Freedman hosts candid conversations that count with incredible people. In this episode, she speaks to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Post continues below.

For a lot of women I've spoken to, the motivation for wanting to make a change in their lives or start a business or a side-hustle isn't as simple as "to make a shit ton of money". 

Not that money is bad. Or wanting to make lots of it is something to be ashamed of. NOT AT ALL. Money is great.

Just that for a lot of women, it’s not their main motivation. Boredom, burnout, identity, meaning, purpose, something to do, fun, control, financial independence, loneliness, wanting to be part of a community, creativity... These are all the things I hear when women tell me why they want to start a business. 

And I reckon all of those things applied to me when I started Mamamia too.

Sometimes the idea for a business comes first but just as often, it’s the desire to DO SOMETHING and start a business or side-hustle that comes before the idea itself.

I reckon of the 2000+ women I’ve taught in the Lady Start Up Activation course, it splits about 50/50.

So, if you're suffering from the second type of burnout, as counterintuitive as it might sound, maybe you need to add something new to your life that lights a fire in your belly. 

A hobby. A business. Doing something creative. Finding a new challenge.

I know that's what I needed. 

If you want to find out more about starting your own business, check out the Lady Start Up Activation Plan, a short course run by me.

It’s the fast-track to launching your Lady Startup the right way the first time.

Feature image: Instagram/@miafreedman