Beating Burnout in the Horse Industry

Rather than my usual posts filled with helpful, actionable advice and probably a freebie download at the end, I want to touch on something a little bit different today.

If you pay attention to the dates the last few posts went up, you'll see a spike around February to May, a single post at the beginning of August, and a big, fat nothing for June or July.

The truth of it? I got burned out. Bad.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. I love this blog with all my heart. (Do you think I'd have celebrated my 3rd blogiversary in June if I didn't?) 

Sadly, I'm also one of those people who gets burned out easily and often. It's inevitable that I take a one- or two-month break at some point every year. As much as I wish I could be one of those bloggers who's all "I beat burnout! So can you!" and shakes pompoms in your face, I just can't. And not just because pompoms in your face sounds like a sneeze attack waiting to happen. 

I want y'all to come here not just for tips, tricks, and advice for running your equine business, but also because you trust me. I want you to trust me! But you can't do that if all I do is regurgitate the same B.S. advice as everyone else...

One of the most common things I heard from my horse-y friends when we were growing up and trying to settle on a career path was that they were afraid to commit to the horse industry as a career, not because of how hard it was to make money or become a successful trainer or anything, but because they didn't want to wake up one day ten years from now and think "Crap, I really don't want to go to the barn and work today."

That's why today's post is, well, a little different than most other "beat burnout" posts you'll see. Dedicating yourself to this industry means that, yes, you will get burned out. You will wake up someday and the first thing you'll think is how much you really don't want to go to the barn and work. 

You might be better than me and find a way to beat burnout.

Or, you might be just like me. I haven't actually beaten burnout, but I have found a few methods of coping with it that work for me.

My favorite thing to do? Listen to a freakin' ton of music.

Confession: My dad is a musician. (Is that really a confession? I mean, sort of. It's not a secret, though.)

I have a million fond memories of my father's music career when I was growing up, from listening to him doing his vocal warm-ups while he took a shower (man, could his voice carry!) to going to gigs with him, from being his adorable little daughter who could clear a dance floor at 8 years old to being his one-woman road crew at 18. When I say music has always been a major part of my life, I mean it. 

That's why my number one source of inspiration and mental cleansing is music. I listen to a little bit of everything, and it all depends on my mood. It's even better because more often than not, now that he's retired, Dad will pull up YouTube and watch live recordings of all his favorite bands, or we'll have PBS on and they'll be showing one of their performances, or, or or. Best of all, this is something I get to share with my dad, and now my boyfriend, who also has dreams of doing, well, exactly what my dad spent the last 40 years doing: producing & performing.

Listening to music gives me the chance to forget my burnout for a while. Normally, when I listen to music, I'll consider its suitability to being used during lessons or musical freestyles, or I'll indulge in one of my other hobbies. I love to dance and I love watching dance shows, so I'll choreograph dance routines in my head. I also write a little in my spare time, so I might find inspiration for a novel in a song. 

Either way, music helps me redirect my mind in a way that's still constructive and creative.

I also really enjoy exercising.

I know, I know. This one might make me sound like alllllll the other bloggers out there, but hear me out first, please? 

I've always been active, and in high school I took up dance. During one section, we explored various different kinds of lesser-known dances, including belly dance and clogging. I. Was. Hooked!

I don't dance as much as I used to, but I still have my hip scarf and two pairs of clogging shoes, so who knows? Maybe I'll add "pick up dancing again" to my New Year's 2018 resolutions list.

These days, I stick mostly to yoga to help relieve the stiffness and occasional cramps I suffer from thanks to sitting in a chair all damn day.

When the burnout is really bad and I find myself in a funk, I pick up (or order and eagerly anticipate the arrival of) a new book.

Hello, my name is Sara and I'm a book addict. (Y'all reply "Hello, Sara," and are now obligated to sit in a circle and listen to me talk about my addiction.)

Okay, for real though, this is a huge thing. It's like watching TV, but better, and boy do I love TV. The beauty of books is that they take you a while to complete, and you have to concentrate on reading them, unlike TV which is kind of mindless. Books are a satisfying enough distraction that I stop thinking about what was bothering me and instead spend a good few hours thinking about what's bothering the main character or characters.

That, and I always feel refreshed mentally after I finish a book. It's like a palette cleanser that people serve at fancy schmancy ten-course meals, but you don't have to pay $200 a plate.

Occasionally, the burnout will get so bad that nothing above sounds even remotely interesting, so I'll try out something entirely new. This has honestly led to me picking up some of the weirdest skills, too...

In middle school, I taught myself graphic design and coding. High school, it was welding. College was, well, how to cook Ramen in the bathtub. (Just kidding!) Now, I've picked up the violin and started learning to play, and even though mixed media art takes a little too much initial investment for me to fully enjoy it just yet, I really, really like watching Gabrielle Pollaco's videos on YouTube.

And, of course, every day I spend a little time loving all over my handsome horse. I can't go trail riding or hacking around anymore now that Sunny's 24 and navicular, so this is the next best thing. And, since he lives at my house with me, I get to see him every day for breakfast and dinner, and I get to kiss his handsome face.

Granted, this is something I do every day no matter what, but spending a couple extra minutes grooming and petting him while he eats, or taking him to graze on the super tasty grass in the front yard after a bath is a nice way to clear my mind for a few minutes. 

Plus, he needs all the love he can get. Spoiled old man.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I try not to fight my burnout. I usually realize I'm feeling burned out way too late to step back or do anything proactive about it, so when I do realize I'm burned out, it's like realizing you're on a really dull, boring roller coaster after you're already strapped in and headed up the first anticlimactic hill. All you can really do is ride it out.

My only real advice to you is this: if you're feeling burned out, take it as a sign. Don't give up on your blog or your business, but don't be afraid to take some time away from them for your own benefit.

All your burnout really means is that you've been going too hard for too long on something you're passionate about, and your brain needs a rest. How long is different for everyone and coping methods will vary from person to person, but once you learn to recognize it, you can start climbing that first anticlimactic rise on the boring as all get out ride you've been dropped onto and get it over with.

And who knows? Maybe you'll be the next one writing about how you beat burnout. (Let's just not and say we didn't where the pompoms are concerned, 'kay?)