I hadn’t even realized I’d been burnt out for more than two years
I’ve written before about how camping is so good for my divergent brain — for both my physical and mental health. I know being outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise are good for all of us.
Since recovering from our 16-day camping road trip, I feel more than just a little refreshed, I feel completely re-energized. I hadn’t realized how much I was struggling with burnout and Autistic inertia.
My brain feels the need to have something completely planned out, step-by-step, before starting it. The perfectionist in me needs to be able to complete an entire job to the best of my abilities, or not at all.
Being Autistic and ADHD means I can become hyper-focused on a task or activity, losing track of time, and having great difficulty pulling myself away from it to work on something else.
Burnout can sneak up on us
Change tends to happen gradually. It can be subtle, making it difficult to notice when we’re burning out until we’re psychologically in a Very Bad Place.
Like many of us, the pandemic has had a significant impact on my life. Prior to the first covid shut-downs I was walking 8–10 KMs every day, playing soccer or hockey a couple times per week, plus whatever activities we did as a family.
(For reference: 8KMs is about 5 miles, and 10KMs is a little over 6 miles).
Part of what kept me moving every day was the dog walking part of my dog training and pet care business. I’ve run a successful pet-sitting business for more than 12 years, part of which includes walking dogs.
Between 2015–2019, my business had shown very steady growth. Before covid hit, I had my best year since starting my business in 2010.
Like many small business owners, Covid caused significant declines in revenue. For a pet care business like mine, with people unable to travel and many working from home, our services were no longer in high demand.
During the first year of the shut-downs I focused most of my time on homeschooling my son. Despite my initial fears, it was a lot of fun and went surprisingly well.
I also worked briefly as an inclusion specialist at my son’s forest school when he and his classmates were able to return in person.
Then in April 2021, I discovered Medium.
With my son back in school and my employment contract finished, I decided to try to make some money with my writing.
On one hand, I’ve absolutely loved it. Having the time to study, read, research, and write has been a privilege and a joy. I love writing and will continue to do so much as possible.
On the flip side, I didn’t fully realize how much time and energy I’d been dedicating to writing, while neglecting other important aspects of my life.
The best of all worlds
Needing to walk dogs in order to earn a living ensured I got out of the house and was active every single day. When our dog walking services weren’t needed, and team sports were on hold because of the pandemic, I didn’t make the effort to find alternative ways to get out and get moving.
My introverted self has loved spending hours each day reading and writing in quiet solitude, but it’s a little too easy to self-isolate to the point of missing out on things I actually enjoy.
The benefit of camping is that it offers me the best of all worlds. I get to spend time outside in nature and enjoy the peace and quiet, but am also forced to get up and move my butt.
When you’re camping, you have to fetch water or you simply won’t have any. You have to chop wood if you want a fire (and don’t want to freeze or the bugs to swarm you). Often you have to bike or walk a little ways to get to a washroom.
Camping offers the best of all worlds.
Having to put in effort to complete these ordinary tasks forces me to stay active while enjoying my favourite summer activity.
Recuperating from burnout
We got home Saturday evening. We unpacked, showered, and spent Sunday resting. Today we were back to a summer routine. My son is in summer camp, and clients going on summer holidays means an increased need for our pet care and dog walking services.
Today I walked over 8KMs, came home, and continued working on some outdoor chores around our property. I haven’t felt that motivated or energetic in two years.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very much looking forward to curling up with my book this evening, but I actually enjoyed being out and about today (except the driving part, bad drivers will always put me in a bad mood).
My title is, of course, a bit hyperbolic. I don’t actually know that camping “cured” my burnout. I’m sure there were a myriad factors at play. However, for the first time in two years, it wasn’t a massive internal struggle just to leave the house. That’s a pretty big deal.
© Jillian Enright, Neurodiversity MB
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Buckle, K.L., Leadbitter, K., Poliakoff, E., Gowen, E. (2021). “No Way Out Except From External Intervention”: First-Hand Accounts of Autistic Inertia. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.631596