Burnout recovery tip 9: Money and the lack thereof

This post was written by Megan on November 16, 2010
Posted Under: burnout and recovery

Elusive money and burnout cartoon

What do you do if you are too tired to work and you don't have a sugar daddy?

It's a damn shame that many those in our society who suffer from chronic illnesses also have the additional worry of "How the hell am I going to pay my bills??" This nagging question seems to raspberry recovery right in the face.

Everyone has different circumstances. I was single without savings when I started feeling 'poorly'. Lucky for me, two miracles occurred.


Miracle #1

The gods decided that I should meet the love of my life just when my conversation proved as engaging as a dysfunctional lawnmower. Why this wonderful man decided to hang around is anyone's guess. But he did, and still does. 

We rushed into things. Much of the rushing was to do with being forced to reduce my job to 2-3 days a week due to ill health. I couldn't pay my rent. So within a month of meeting, Jeff (Miracle #1) moved in to help ease the burden. Miracle #1b: Jeff is a trained massage therapist and acupuncturist. I don't need to explain to you the bonus there.


Miracle # 2

A life-long friend died. This is not the kind of miracle one hopes for. Naturally, I'd have my buddy back any day of the week in exchange for the generous gift she left in her will. But this was what happened. My friend died and left me $80,000.


Combine two miracles and do something really stupid 

Jeff and I used the money as a deposit for a block of land in the country. It made sense at the time. Buying in the city was too expensive. We always wanted to live in nature. Surely, this would be the perfect remedy for my recovery?

Surrounded by the lush sub-tropical rainforest, we woke to the call of the whip birds. Kangaroos and goannas found their homes our abundant foliage. The air was fresh and the night sky boasted a million blinking stars. We almost died from the stress of the place.

The process of moving an old three-bedroom weatherboard house onto the land was traumatic enough. The building and renovation project that followed would fry the nerve-endings of Conan the Barbarian.

It's fair to say that the natural sanctuary we had created for my recovery had the inverse effect. My health buckled further – as did Jeff's.


The money problem

After sinking the inheritance into a mortgage, our living expenses remained a challenge. So certain strategies had to be put into place. The first thing we asked ourselves was "What do we REALLY need?". Answer: Less financial stress and more time to rest.

Jeff's business in the city was still booming. He had kept it going throughout the crazy 'sanctuary project'. So the first thing we did was sell the country abode and move back to the city. We rented in a cottage (read: 'cupboard') until we found a 'ready-made' house in a boring suburb that we could afford.

With a marketing background and a nous for writing, I became a freelance copywriter. It's a cheap business to start. All you need is a computer, the internet and a phone. Only taking on work I could manage – and naps available 'on call' – meant I had a shot at recovery while still earning money.


Tip #1: Look at money straight in the eye

Jeff and I had to take a deep breath and write out our budget. Our financial reality. There's nothing more stressful than nasty surprises. And there are plenty of those when you have no idea of your budget – that is: what's going in and what's going out.

Are you living a life you can afford? To find out, write down everything you need to spend money on (rent, electricity, insurance, etc.) and work out what you need to earn to meet those needs – and then some, if you can. We all need reserves for when the car breaks down or you break down. That kind of thing. 


Tip #2: Less can be more

We like having nice things. We just can't afford to buy them right now. We would also like to travel more. We just can't afford it right now. And that's okay. 

In these situations you become more appreciative and creative with what you do have. Jeff took up carpentry and made us five beautiful tables. We go for walks in nature –  not far away, but it feels like a world away when we do it.

You would have seen these tips before:

  • Sell what you don't need (garage sale, EBay, etc.)
  • Let friends do things for you if they offer (drive you somewhere, make a casserole, etc.)
  • Tap into opportunities to win free tickets to movies and events (I have won a few, it lifts my spirits and gets me out of the house)
  • Find a way to be in nature for free (or the cheap cost of a bus ride)
  • Seek any financial/health government assistance you can lay your hands on


Tip # 3: Beware of the scarcity mentality 

Important note: the deprivation gig doesn't feel virtuous for long. 

You do need to treat yourself from time to time. Just be smart about how you go about treating yourself so you don't feel pain afterwards.

My mother has never seen the value in eating out. She spends all her spare cash on her garden. Personally, I'd rather eat out at a really good restaurant once in a blue moon and visit the Botanical Gardens for free. The secret is knowing what experience is valuable to you – what is going to feed your soul. It's different for everyone. 


Tip # 4: Time to embrace imperfection

People with burnout often have an idea of perfection to strive towards. We do everything we can so things are just as they should be. Of course, this idea of perfection can be big a reason why we are burnt out.

So not having money as a resource (to have life just the way we want it) can be a huge psychological challenge. For instance, I have a stained, shabby couch which I cringe at on a daily basis. While looking out for a nice, cheap cover I am telling myself that the coach deserves some love and respect. Just the way it is.

Kinda symbolic, don't you think? In my shabby, stained state of health, I also deserve some love and respect. Just the way I am. 

And you do too – just the way you are.


This is the ninth post from my series: '13 things towards recovery from burnout'.

And the premise remains the same: what works for me might not work for you.

This post was written by Megan Hills. Megan is a writer and cartoonist who says 'potato' not 'pot-arrr-doh'.  Find out more about Megan

Reader Comments

Thanks for sharing your story Megan. I like your idea that there can be respect – and importantly dignity – in our lives, no matter what our financial circumstances. Actually, I've witnessed more dignity in some mud huts than in some designer homes full of mod cons. I sometimes feel frustrated too and wonder what it must be like to be Nicole Kidman and be able to buy a Collette Dinnigan dress in every shade (yes, I am basically shallow); but then I go for a walk in the fresh air, and marvel that I can walk on my own safely, wearing what I want, listening to what I want and it costs me nothing!

Written By Monique on November 16th, 2010 @ 11:04 am

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