Last spring I was getting really burned out with taekwondo. I think it had less to do with the pressure I was under to test for bo dan (and later that year black belt) and more to do with crippling depression and anxiety that set in during a particularly nasty and icy February and lasted through…hmm…May. I also went through a very painful break up a week after I tested for bo dan, I was in a lull at work, and was becoming increasingly isolated at home.
Everything kinda sucked, and it followed me to the dojang. I was unmotivated, cranky, disappointed in my performance, and tired of dragging myself to class. I needed a break. I took a little time off, although I didn’t feel much better. Life in general started to improve in June, and by the time my black belt test rolled around in October, I was a much happier and more confident version of myself. I never told anyone how bad things were in the early part of last year. As I always do, I kept the worst parts to myself and dealt with my pain privately and independently. That’s how I prefer to handle things.
This time I’m taking a break so I don’t…well…break. Things are actually pretty good at the dojang. I’m having fun, being challenged, and love helping other students….buuuuttttt…..weeeeeelllllll….I need a break. I’ve sensed the tiniest hint of burnout over the past few weeks, not too dissimilar from what I feel at work if I’ve gone for a very long time without a day off. I’m tired of my routine and of being held to a rigid schedule most of my evenings. I’m hovering around a plateau. My favorite training partners have disappeared, and I haven’t quite gelled with my new ones. Most recently, to my dismay and confusion, I had a very distinct thought the last time I was in class:
“I don’t want to be here.”
Note that I didn’t say, “I don’t want to be here ever again,” or “I don’t want to do this any more.” I just didn’t want to be there in that particular moment. I was dreading the nights I had class rather than looking forward to them. I was ready to go home the moment I got to the dojang and changed into my uniform and wrapped my treasured black belt around my waist. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t burned out, but I am. I’m burned out. It’s a disheartening feeling, but at least this time I caught it early.
Add to the mix that I have a lot of work events this week, including speaking in front of large groups, a conference, coaching meetings, and meetings with company executives. It’s only Tuesday and I already feel the need for a lot of introvert decompression time. My short term memory is shot. As much as I love my job and am incredibly fulfilled by the work I get to do, I’m feeling more and more drained. Sometimes I secretly hope for a bout of summer bronchitis or strep throat to knock me out and take me out of commission for a little while.
Taekwondo, which is also highly interactive and requires me to be “on” 100% of the time, has also felt draining as of late, and that’s a new sensation. Usually it lifts me up and invigorates my spirit. Not so much right now. Being an introvert who happens to love interacting with and helping people is exhausting.
So, yeah, I’m taking a little time off and hoarding all the alone time I get when I’m not at work. I need to recharge and refresh. If I’m worn out and disengaged then I don’t really need to be bringing that energy around the dojang anyway. I’d like to think I’m doing myself and everyone else a favor by removing myself from an increasingly unhappy situation.
The only true “breaks” I’ve had from taekwondo since last year’s very unpleasant spring were when I took about a week off due to my hamstring injury and the two weeks the dojang was closed over the Christmas holidays. They were forced breaks. This time, I’m being proactively lazy and proud of it. Maybe I’ll take an extra barre or yoga class, go out to dinner or the movies, or maybe just enjoy the extra time at home in my Fortress of Solitude. I’ll definitely be watching the taekwondo Olympic finals later this week.
Taking a break can be a very healthy thing for an athlete, hobbyist, artist, or employee. It can be just what we need to recharge our batteries and help us come back to what we love fresh, strong, excited, and ready to work. I have a feeling absence will make my heart grow fonder. They’re still my tribe and my second family. I miss my taekwondo instructors and classmates when I’ve been away for a while (and sometimes even when I’m only absent for one or two classes). Too much time in my Fortress of Solitude gives me tunnel vision after a while…but for now it’s exactly where I need to be. The ice will melt eventually, and I’ll bloom once again.